By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – A Mississippi company that has been a founding supporter of Base Camp Coding Academy (BCCA) pledged continued funding to help educate software programmers at the new Water Valley campus.
The commitment came as top C Spire executives and former BCCA graduates employed at the technology and telecommunications firm traveled to Water Valley last Friday for a tour and ceremonial check passing. The visit marked the first for C Spire executives since BCCA moved into the new Central Street building, Everest, following the $4.6 million renovation to transform the long abandoned textile mill into the state’s first Rural Education and Innovation Hub.
C Spire CEO Hu Meena had strong words of praise for the education provided at BCCA as well as the vision to expand the program with the new location.
“Educationality, that is education with intentionality. That is what is going on here at Base Camp. Intention to develop a work force that can make a huge difference in the State of Mississippi and really beyond,” Meena stressed. “The future of Mississippi companies depends on training the work force in technology, software development and other technological related fields.”
Meena and Beth Pickering, executive director of the C Spire Foundation, posed for a picture with the $75,000 check with BCCA co-founders Kagan Coughlin and Glen Evans following his comments.
“This is a great day, Kagan and Glen, I was absolutely amazed with the vision y’all had and then to be able to execute the vision,” Meena added.
C Spire’s annual contribution provides 20 percent BCAA’s annual budget, a contribution that is used for scholarships as all students receive free tuition.
“This day means a lot to us,” C Spire Chief Technology Officer Carla Lewis added. “The C Spire Foundation has been involved from day one at Base Camp. Every year we see the program go higher and higher, this is a huge next step for Base Camp and Everest, for what it means for this community and the state,” she said about the new location.
Lewis, who also serves on the BCCA Board of Directors, explained the larger space will allow larger class sizes, which will help fill the void for software developers needed in the work force.
Lewis also said her company has hired 15 graduates from BCCA.
“These students have come into C Spire and contributed just like any other software developer. They are on a career path, not only do they come in and get a job, these students have a career,” Lewis explained. “They have been a great resource for C Spire, delivering on some of the largest projects and the largest products that we deliver to our customers. These students are the real deal,” Lewis added.
Over half of the 15 BCCA hires were included in the C Spire entourage, a group that included hires from the inaugural Class of 2017 to the most recent class.
“I would strongly encourage attending this program, not only because I went through it and was successful, but it is an opportunity you rarely get, especially in Water Valley, Mississippi,” Keegan Faustin explained. Faustin was a graduate of the BCCA Class of 2017 and admitted his decision to enroll was difficult. He graduated from Water Valley High School in 2016, the first year BCCA launched.
“I am pretty sure you remember my story, I had a scholarship to play football. I had to call and withdraw from class,” Faustin explained about changing his enrollment from a junior college to BCCA.
Faustin said he made the decision after several nights of discussion with his mother.
“She said, ‘where do you see yourself 10 years after football?’” Faustin recalled.
His start with C Spire included a three-month internship before a full-time position was offered.
“I accepted immediately, I said I can start today,” Faustin said about the job offer that launched his career with C Spire where he currently works as a developer with the corporate applications team.
“I keep up with the commissions that the sales reps get paid, I promote the sales rep offering you a phone in the store when you really just to buy a phone case,” Faustin explained.
As for advice for current or future BCCA students, Faustin also shared a little input.
“I just went in with an open mind and a positive attitude. It got really stressful, but advice I can give a Base Camp student is to stick with it and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Faustin explained.