Northwest joins in Base Camp Coding Academy groundbreakingBy NATALIE EHRHARDT,
WATER VALLEY — Northwest Mississippi Community College is celebrating the recent groundbreaking for a sprawling new home for Water Valley’s nonprofit Base Camp Coding Academy (BCCA), which will also provide space to be used by the college.
Representatives from Northwest, a founding partner of BCCA, were on hand for the Jan. 23 groundbreaking ceremony at the new site, a former garment factory in the heart of downtown Water Valley. The 64,000-square-foot facility, named Everest by BCCA leaders, will be Mississippi’s first Rural Education and Innovation Hub.
According to its website, BCCA is a hands-on, challenging and fun program designed to train students to be software developers in 12 months. Students work with real world technologies to learn the fundamentals of coding, app development and the life leadership skills needed to be successful in their careers and competitive in the job market. For the past several years, the nonprofit has been located in a small space in downtown Water Valley.
In the new hub setup, BCCA will allot Northwest an area of just over 18,000-square-feet for classroom and office space. There will also be space allotted for corporate BCCA sponsors and other groups that wish to co-locate in the building. Renovations to the facility, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, are expected to take eight to 10 months.
“I work for the county board of supervisors, and we are extremely excited about this project and the distance it has come to be a reality,” said Bob Tyler, director of Yalobusha County Economic Development District. “It is economic development, and the culmination of what will be happening here is jobs.”
According to Dr. Matthew Domas, Northwest’s vice president of Instruction, there are several ideas in the works for how to best use the space reserved for the college, including classes for adult education, a healthcare assistant program, workforce training, and potentially other career-tech programs.
“Since 2016, we have been part of a very fruitful relationship with Water Valley, Yalobusha County and the region in this partnership,” Domas said. “The opportunity is gigantic for us and for the county and the region. We’re excited about the future.”
As a founding partner, Northwest has lent its support to the nonprofit by assisting with curriculum development and funding the salary of a BCCA instructor. Students in the program have also visited Northwest’s Senatobia campus to learn about computer hardware through the college’s Information Systems Technology program.
“We can’t say enough about Northwest and their support,” said Glen Evans, BCCA co-founder. “Northwest, let’s face it, could’ve viewed Base Camp as a competitor, but they didn’t. As a matter of fact, Northwest reached out to us.”
Kagan Coughlin, BCCA’s other co-founder, echoed Evans’ statement.
“Northwest has been incredibly supportive and so easy to work with,” Coughlin said. “In our infancy, they allowed us the strength of their brand to build confidence in the early adopters, the first students who took a leap of faith with us. They have insulated us from the complexities of the accreditation process and allowed us the freedom to build and stress test a different way of achieving the skills required to start a career in technology.”
Coughlin specifically thanked Dr. David Campbell, now-retired vice president of Workforce Solutions and Career-Technical Education at Northwest, and Dwayne Casey, district dean of Workforce Solutions and Community Services, for their assistance over the last four years.
In the future, Northwest hopes to make BCCA a for-credit Northwest program.
“As a board member, I am very excited to see Northwest play a part in something that’s going to be so great for our state,” said Sammy Higdon, Northwest Board of Trustees member and Water Valley resident. “It says a lot about Northwest and the leadership of (Northwest President) Dr. Michael Heindl.”
The BCCA program was formed in 2015, with its first class taking place in June of 2016. Any Mississippi student in their senior year of high school can be nominated for the program by a teaching professional. Every student accepted into the program receives a 100 percent scholarship.
According to Coughlin, the long-term goal for the new technology hub is to create a facility where students can complete their education and training and meet their future employer all under one roof.
“The founders of Base Camp want to create an elevator for any Mississippian to rise through all the social and economic barriers and achieve to their highest potential based on their merits,” Coughlin said. “We hope that other rural towns across America who have the same opportunity barriers see a model that they can duplicate in their communities.”
For more information about BCCA, visit basecampcodingacademy.org. For more information about Northwest’s pathways and programs, visit northwestms.edu.