Arkadelphia Promise’s fourth senior class heads to college

By Wayne Bryan Published May 29, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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James K. Joslin

Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, addresses the fourth class of seniors at Arkadelphia High School who will receive the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship. Behind him are, from left, AHS Principal David Maxwell; Jason Jones, executive director of the Promise; and Ross Whipple, chairman of the Ross Foundation.

What better way for today’s high school students to celebrate the end of school and a scholarship to college than through the world’s social media?

As 134 students in the senior class of Arkadelphia High School prepared to sign a letter of acceptance of the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship, which will help pay for their college education, Promise Executive Director Jason Jones asked all the students to post pictures of themselves through Twitter to the Arkadelphia Promise account, and to friend the Promise Facebook page.

“Connection to this page will be important for you during the next three or four years,” Jones told the students. “And during your first day in college, you send us another tweet of yourself on campus.”

The students are the fourth senior class to receive the Promise, established by Southern Bancorp and the Ross Foundation in November 2010.

Jones said the students who go to college with help from the Promise Scholarship are much more likely to stay in school than their fellow students. Jones announced that Arkansas Promise graduates who entered college as freshmen in fall 2012 returned to college in fall 2013 at a rate of 82 percent, a 20 percent higher retention rate than other Arkansas college students and more than the national average.

“The rate for Arkansas sophomores is 61.4 percent, and on the national level, it is 66.5 percent,” Jones announced in October 2013. “The retention rate of freshmen to sophomore students is a common way to determine student success in college.”

Jones further said students who receive the Promise Scholarship also go to college at a much higher rate than the regular student population.

For the class of 2014, Arkadelphia High School Principal David Maxwell said 134 qualified for the scholarship, and most are planning to go to college.

“Several are going to the Army,” he said. “Some more are going to work with companies that will also help them with college. The important thing is they have a plan for after high school and continuing their education.”

Speaking to the assembly in the Arkadelphia High School gym, Maxwell recounted some of the accomplishments of the class of 2014.

“You are, at this moment, the reigning state baseball champions, you are the state Quiz Bowl champions, you are the state diving champs, and you have the No. 1 science student in the state,” Maxwell said to the cheering assembly. “You seniors have been excellent. We are proud of you, and it is a great day to be a Badger.”

On Saturday, the Badgers defended their Class 4A baseball championship in Fayetteville with a victory over Ashdown High School.

The keynote speaker for the event was Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He said the chance to go to college was a special opportunity in his own life, and it should be one in the lives of today’s students.

“I was the only graduate of Arkansas State University to start school on probation and end as president of the student body,” Broadway told the seniors. “I stayed in college and changed some things in my life.”

He said adjusting to college life will be an important step to success on campus.

“Go to orientation,” Broadway said. “It will be one of the most important things you ever do. It introduces you to campus. College is different. You are prepared academically, but you will face so many differences.”

The state official said there will be days when it looks easy to leave school and go home, but staying will be the best decision they can make.

“Over the course of your life, the greatest investment in your life you will ever make is in your education,” Broadway said. “It will give you the opportunity to do everything else.”

Receiving the Promise Scholarship to go to college comes with obligations, Broadway said.

“I know you may be saying that you will be blowing this town, come Saturday morning,”

he told the students. “Always remember Arkadelphia and the two organizations that gave you this opportunity. You are an ambassador of this community. Always speak highly of the town you came from, and come back if you can.”

Ross Whipple, chairman of the Ross Foundation, also talked about the students’ obligation to Arkadelphia.

“The Promise didn’t just happen,” he said. “Your obligation doesn’t end with getting your diploma. It is only the beginning. You are doing this not only for yourselves but for your parents, your teachers and your community. Pay it forward with your performance.”

Of those signing to accept their scholarships, 63 will attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. Those students were welcomed by HSU President Glen Jones as they handed in their applications. Fourteen students committed to attend Ouachita Baptist University, also in Arkadelphia, and OBU President Rex Horne shook the hands of his incoming freshmen from Arkadelphia High School. Eight students committed to the University of Central Arkansas, six said they would attend Arkansas State University, and five expressed their choice of attending the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

One student, David A. Cervantes, said he plans to attend Arizona State University.

“I picked it because my family said they would like to live there,” he said. “I have not decided on a major, but I want to study science and chemistry.”

Cervantes was an Advanced Placement student in mathematics and a member of the Badger varsity soccer team.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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