Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prep Academy begins fourth year with 184 students

Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University will host 184 high school students from local school districts as the fourth year of an innovative educational opportunity in Clark County begins. The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy is scheduled to resume classes on October 15th.

The program was designed as part of the High School Redesign Initiative of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone at HSU and the Arkansas Department of Education. Leaders from Arkadelphia Public Schools, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, College of the Ouachitas, Dawson Educational Cooperative, Southern Bancorp, Ross Foundation, Clark County Strategic Plan, local business and community representatives and elected officials participated in the development of the Academy in 2009. The project was expanded to include the Centerpoint and Gurdon School Districts for the Academy’s second year with the Cabe Foundation and Olds Foundation joining the partnership.

The purpose of the Academy is to provide additional academic opportunities for students to ensure that they are ready for postsecondary studies upon completion of high school. Students were selected based on their interest in attending a four-year postsecondary institution and an application process. Information from the EXPLORE test administered in the eighth grade will be used to help students prepare for the ACT they will take as juniors.

“Our ongoing commitment to this project has been a true collaborative effort and we are grateful to all of our partners. With the success of the first three classes, we are pleased to continue the program with other area districts in Clark County. We are fortunate to have the support of our community and universities,” said Donnie Whitten, superintendent of the Arkadelphia School District.

The Academy will focus on the areas of reading, English, mathematics, and career planning. The program will pair a public school teacher with university professors from HSU and OBU, resulting in a faculty-student ratio of 1:6. The Academy will hold classes on selected Saturdays from October through May and two weeks in June. Activities will take place at Henderson and Ouachita with plans to expose students to additional university experiences through field trips and off-campus activities. Funded by local school districts and grants from private foundations, all classes and activities will be offered at no cost to the students.

Bobby Jones, interim president of Henderson State University, said “The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy is one of the most progressive and innovative P-12/higher education collaborative projects in the entire state of Arkansas, and I am excited about this new class of Academy students. This Academy is having a tremendous impact on our schools, our students, and our communities. The partnerships between our universities, our public schools, other educational entities, and our private supporters are a model for the power of collaboration.”

“We are so proud of these students and the commitment they have made. We look forward to the return of our current students and to meeting our ninth graders on October 11. Our faculty and staff are planning many exciting activities preparing for their return,” said Paulette Blacknall, director of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone at Henderson State University.

The opening celebration for the Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy will be held on Tuesday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the Garrison Center Lecture Hall. State Representative Johnnie J. Roebuck is scheduled to address the audience and provide the “charge” to this year’s students.    For more information on the Academy, please contact Paulette Blacknall at 870-230-5476.

The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy and Arkadelphia’s efforts to improve its college-going rate will be highlighted in an upcoming October issue of Arkansas Business Magazine as a 2011 “City of Distinction” program award winner.

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