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GCSD partners with WCU and other public school districts on “Grow Your Own”

The Greene County School District has joined a “Grow Your Own” partnership with William Carey University and seven other public school districts to help fight Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage through.

“Grow Your Own” is a program to aid K-12 public school districts to select students for a fast-track program at William Carey that will enable them to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in three years through a combination of dual enrollment classes, an accelerated schedule and tuition waivers.

“Most school districts, with only a few exceptions, have vacancies for teachers they were unable to fill. We’re trying to give school districts and students the resources and support they need to bridge the gap,” said WCU President Dr. Tommy King.

Greene County Supt. of Education Charles L. Breland said the partnership is a great opportunity for Greene County and potential future educators.

“We are very excited about this opportunity not only for our students, but for our district,” Breland said. “This partnership will William Carey will allow our high school graduates to complete a degree within three years of graduation. They will complete their first 12 hours in dual credit while in high school, then do one year at a community college or elsewhere. They will then complete their last two years with William Carey while working as an assistant.”

Here’s how the program works.

WCU advisors help “Grow Your Own” students register for dual enrollment classes during high school. As a result, at the point they collect high school diplomas, they’ve also earned 12 dual enrollment credits.

Next, students begin a demanding first-year schedule with William Carey that satisfies all the university’s core requirements. During this time, K-12 partner districts make arrangements for the students they’re sponsoring to work as K-3 teacher assistants in district schools during their second and third years of college.

In the second and third years, students take classes and work as teacher assistants. This has several benefits: 1) they enter the state retirement system early; 2) they earn an income while working on their degrees; and 3) they qualify for 50 percent tuition waivers from WCU.

At the end of their third year, students graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Participating school districts agree to give hiring preference for teaching positions, when possible, to WCU graduates of the “Grow Your Own” program.

“This provides so many benefits for the student, including a shorter time to a degree, an income with benefites while they are in college, years vested in retirement while they are still college students, half cost tuition for William Carey and paid dual credit tuition by the county,” Breland said. “The benefit for the district is that we get to take part in growing and training our own teachers which will in turn help with the statewide teacher shortage.”

“Current juniors and seniors can participate.”

The K-12 school superintendents who joined the partnership on Dec. 2 are Charles Breland, Greene County; Dr. Scott Dearman, Perry County; Babette Duty, Covington County; Brian Freeman, Forrest County; Dr. Titus Hines, Lawrence County; Dr. Donna Scott, South Pike; Dr. Toy Watts, Laurel; and Dr. Robert Williams, Hattiesburg.

“William Carey has really worked hard to help local districts find solutions to the teacher shortage, and they have hit a homerun with this partnership,” Breland said. “We appreciate their efforts and help in addressing this issue.”

“Any student who wants to be a teacher can now obtain a degree in a short time and almost fully paid for through employment, tuition assistance and discounts offered by the agreement. While we will prioritize teacher assistant openings for those in the program, openings cannot always be guaranteed.”

Dr. Ben Burnett, WCU’s executive vice president, said the university will continue its “Grow Your Own” outreach to K-12 school superintendents all over the state.

For more information, contact the WCU School of Education at (601) 318-6600 or

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