Story & Photo by Rebekah M. Yearout/ The Clarksdale Press Register
The Mississippi Delta Council for Farmworkers Opportunities Inc. hosted a graduation ceremony, celebrating the students, teachers and supports of the eight-week Delta Southern/Coahoma Community College UAS Training and Safety Course. Pictured are graduates Michael Hissong and Mark Keys, both deputies with the Tunica County Sheriff’s Office, Tunica County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Cedric Davis, Coahoma Community College executive director of workforce development Steve Jossell, Delta Southern UAS president Bill Blackwelder, Mississippi Delta Council director Don Green, Nick Schmidt, Ted Winters, Michael Whitfield and course instructor Preston White.
CLARKSDALE—Five area students graduated from the Delta Southern/Coahoma Community College UAS Training and Safety Course Aug. 25, helping to deepen Mississippi’s footprint in the world of technology.
The course focused on drone operation, management and maintenance, and Delta Southern UAS president Bill Blackwelder said this course was the second of two in partnership with CCC.
“The first one was … a program that two of the graduates tonight from the Tunica County Sheriff’s Department also graduated from, in accident reconstruction,” Blackwelder said.“Deputy (Mark) Keys and Deputy (Michael) Hissong took it upon themselves to come down and personally take their own time and get trained in UAS safety and operations. This will allow them to operate drones and rover-type aircraft safely in the future.”
Mississippi Delta Council for Farmworkers Opportunities Inc., which also partnered with Delta Southern and CCC for the program, hosted the graduation.
MDCFOI executive director Don Green said he’s seen the potential benefits drones can have for law enforcement personally, besides offering investigators the chance to “help find criminals in the bushes.”
“The accident reconstruction is a major tool for law enforcement. I ran into an accident out on Highway 61, and they were trying to figure out what happened,” Green said. “…They can do it, but it just takes so much time.”
Besides aiding law enforcement, Blackwelder said the drones can help Delta Southern secure state contracts with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to assist with inspection of roads of bridges and with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) following any natural disaster.
“There will be many, many more coming in behind them,” Blackwelder said.
The course through Delta Southern is a certificate program, Blackwelder said. However, in the long term, one goal is to get a two-year program going at CCC and, possibly, a four-year program at Delta State University, where the course’s instructor, Preston White, came
“This will be a certificate program that will expand into other areas. … Coahoma Community College is interested in pursuing all this UAS technology,” Blackwelder said.
CCC Workforce Development Executive Director Steve Jossell said that while Mississippi has long been seen as a good source of manual labor, he envisions a future where Coahoma County could be the nation’s newest resource for technology.
“We’ve evolved, because Mississippi is being courted for strong minds. Mississippi is arriving and will continue to arrive with you. You are to be commended for taking the plunge,” Jossell said, noting most of the graduates have full-time jobs, families and other commitments.
“Many of you all have busy schedules, but you made the sacrifice. Right now, this is the beginning of no end,” Jossell said. “Mississippi’s evolving to a technological state, Nissan, Toyota, General Electric…and I’m grateful to Bill and Don for being a part of that evolution.”
CCC started partnering with Delta Southern last November in order to map agricultural land, and since then, Jossell said they entered into other partnerships with health care agencies and the law enforcement sector, as well.
“This is the second partnership we’ve ventured into now, so there are myriad opportunities. This right here could put Clarksdale on the map. Coahoma County has a lot of wonderful resources, and you guys are resources,” Jossell said.
*This article was originally printed in the Aug. 31st edition of the Clarksdale Press Register. Rebekah Yearout is the managing editor of the Clarksdale Press Register and can be reached at (662) 627-2201 or email@example.com .