~ Searcy school marks 50 years as launch point

Searcy school marks 50 years as launch point

By Syd Hayman Published October 13, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Syd Hayman

Gov. Asa Hutchinson provides the keynote address at the 50th anniversary of Arkansas State University-Beebe at Searcy on Oct. 6. Hutchinson said two-year colleges such as ASU-Beebe at Searcy provide an affordable way to receive workforce education.

— Dignitaries, alumni, faculty and more gathered at Arkansas State University-Beebe at Searcy on Oct. 6 in celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary.

Formerly Foothills Vocational Technical School, ASU-Beebe at Searcy offers technical and occupational programs such as computerized machining, auto body technology and practical nursing. In 1991, the school was renamed Foothills Technical Institute and merged with ASU-Beebe in 2003.

“If it had not been for Foothills, I’d have never gone to college,” Cheryl Cherry said. “This is my way of realizing I could do it and I was college material. I could go on to college. This was a great stepping stone for me.”

Cherry, a Searcy native, is the special-needs coordinator at ASU-Beebe at Searcy. She said that after high school, she did not want to go to college and was even told she wasn’t college material. But attending Foothills Vocational Technical School led to her earning a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas, and she plans to receive her master’s in administration and vocation technical education from Arkansas State University in December.

Cherry said the 2003 merger has been a benefit to the school.

“We’ve been able to grow more collaboratively and ensure that we offer the best of the best and try to keep up to date on technology. With the merging of ASU and Foothills, and now we’re the ASU-Beebe Searcy campus, it has just been a good collaboration to be able to meet the needs of the community, and business and industry.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state legislators — including Speaker f the House Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia; Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe; and Rep. Les Eaves, R-Searcy — attended the celebration.

Hutchinson, the event’s keynote speaker, said his daughter, Sarah, went to a two-year college and received an associate degree. He said the experience was a great option for her.

“Two-year colleges do an incredible role in Arkansas in providing an affordable education,” he said. “Whenever people come up to me and say, ‘I can’t afford college,’ or, ‘It’s just too expensive,’ I say, ‘Have you looked at your two-year colleges? Have you looked at the opportunities that are there?’ It is affordable for everyone. It might be at night, it might be working on the side, it might be utilizing our scholarship programs that are available, but it can be done.”

Hutchinson said he’s also a fan of two-year colleges because of the opportunity for concurrent credit for high school students.

He also said workforce education programs can help strengthen industries, such as steel, in the state.

“You are producing a quality of workforce that people in industry want,” he said to the crowd.

Judy Epperson, who majored in business administration at the school, now works at Rush Lawn Care in Searcy, where she is the office manager.

“My employment with Rush Lawn Care would never have been possible if it had not been for my education at ASU-Searcy,” she said.

Also in attendance at the anniversary was Don Harlan, former president of Foothills Technical Institute.

“I’m a vocational educator by heart,” Harlan said. “It was a meaningful life experience. I feel very fortunate to have been chosen to be in the places that I’ve been in the time that I was there.”

Cherry said she’s seen many students have successful entry-level job placement and access to opportunities after attending ASU-Beebe at Searcy.

“I have seen such an impact on student lives, and that makes my job worth it all,” she said. “We touch so many lives in education, but here, it’s that skill to get them to work quickly.”

Staff writer Syd Hayman can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or shayman@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Syd Hayman can be reached at 501-244-4342 or shayman@arkansasonline.com.

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