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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Kimberly Ramirez (left), 16, and Zamir Matar, 15, select items to wear Wednesday while they represent the Orange Team during the Northwest Arkansas Community College's summer LIFE Program on the campus in Bentonville. The program brings high school students from the region together for days of learning, forming friendships and envisioning college as part of their futures.

BENTONVILLE -- Successful people find a way to live beyond their limitations, Todd Kitchen, Northwest Arkansas Community College vice president for student services, told nearly 200 area high school students Wednesday.

Everyone is born with unrealized potential but then is placed in a world full of limitation, he said. A car, for example, may be able to go 160 mph but rarely reaches that potential because of traffic laws, he said.


This year’s LIFE program will conclude with an awards ceremony from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food.

Source: Staff Report

By the Numbers

The LIFE program launched in 2012 with 87 participants. There were 304 applicants in 2017. Of that, 223 confirmed attendance and 187 actually attended.

There were 332 applicants this year and 244 confirmations. Officials didn’t have the actual attendance number available Wednesday but anticipated it to be a record high.

Source: Staff Report

Kitchen was the keynote speaker at the LIFE program. LIFE stands for learning, improvement, fun and empowerment. It started Tuesday and ends today.

This is the seventh summer the college has hosted the program, which seeks to show students how it's possible for them to pursue higher education.

The program attempts to reach students who would be first-generation college attendees, said Juanita Franklin, LIFE program director.

"Many times they don't have support at home, or they have support but they don't have the knowledge of what to do next," she said.

Students come from high schools throughout Northwest Arkansas. Ethnicity isn't a consideration for participation, but the majority of students who participate are Hispanic, she said.

College staff and community members share stories of overcoming adversities and who helped them succeed in reaching goals.

"We want our students to relate,"Franklin said. "We want them to see themselves in our speakers."

Kitchen shared his experience growing up in a poor neighborhood. The first person he spoke to about wanting to attend college told him to consider something else, that he wasn't the college type.

Disregarding the advice, Kitchen served in the Army to earn money for college. He failed an Army training class while stationed in Germany. He was reassigned as a recruitment officer in the United States when he took the training again and passed top of his class.

"Your experience doesn't cancel your ability or potential," he said.

Kitchen encouraged students to discover places that will allow them to move beyond limits to reach their real potential.

The students were divided into eight teams, each led by a college student volunteering as mentor.

New this year was a mentor panel as well as scheduled time for students to talk more about what they learned from the speakers.

Most mentors were program participants in prior years, but Carlos Moreno was an exception. He just finished his first year studying mechanical engineering at the college, and was motivated to be a mentor as a way to beef-up his resume.

The opportunity has been much more rewarding than that, he said.

Mentors work year-round, traveling to high schools, connecting and recruiting students for the LIFE program. They act as translators at college informational events for teens and their families, Franklin said.

They also raise money for scholarships through community service projects, which Moreno highlighted about his role as a mentor.

"Doing that community service opened my eyes to seeing that I'm trying to give back, but at the same time, these people are giving back to me," he said.

Moreno said he's hoping to impart what college is like to his team members.

Ruby Vega, recent graduate of New Technology High School in Rogers, has participated in the program three summers and said the relationships she's developed with mentors is a large reason she keeps coming back. She hopes to serve as a mentor next summer.

She learned through the program she could take college courses while still in high school, which she did her senior year.

"I always thought I was never going to go to college," Vega said. "Really, it's the LIFE program that made me want to come to college."

She's planning to study at the community college for two years before transfering to the University of Central Arkansas to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Many LIFE participants end up attending the community college, but the program encourages students to consider acquiring higher education in general, Franklin said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Michael Dewberry (right), with building sciences and workforce development, speaks to members of the Orange Team about the construction technology.

NW News on 06/14/2018

Print Headline: Teen program preaches college potential

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