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The superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District in Mississippi, Dr. Phillip W. Van Hickman, draws on nearly 30 years of experience in education. Under his leadership, the district has received national recognition by the U.S. Department of Education for its use of educational technology. Dr. Phillip W. Van Hickman also helped establish the Mississippi Coding Academies in response to a growing need for skilled workers in the technology field.

Together with Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority launched the Mississippi Coding Academies to provide motivated students with the coding skills they need to succeed in high-tech companies. The tuition-free program is an 11-month commitment for post-secondary students who do not plan on attending college.

Students at the Jackson- and Columbus-based academies learn full-stack computer programming, which enables them to write front-end code for application interfaces as well as back-end code to make applications run. In addition to developing coding skills, students also learn about entrepreneurship and communication skills and how to give a successful presentation.

Upon completion of the program, students receive a certificate from either Hinds Community College or East Mississippi Community College.