Arkadelphia Promise announced

ARKADELPHIA, Arkansas— Arkadelphia High School graduates starting with the Class of 2011 will be eligible for a new scholarship program announced Tuesday.

The Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship program will pay the difference between what the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship pays toward college and the total mandatory tuition and fees at any public Arkansas college or university accredited by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

The Arkadelphia Promise was formally announced by Dr. Wesley Kluck, Co-Chairman of the Clark County Strategic Plan, during a communitywide education pep rally at Arkadelphia High School attended by hundreds of local students and parents. Governor Mike Beebe was the keynote speaker.

“Educational success requires more than student success; it requires opportunity, and that is what Arkadelphia, The Ross Foundation, and Southern Bancorp are stepping up to provide,” Governor Beebe said.  “These students will pursue their college degree without tuition concerns hanging over them. Students who never considered college an option will now be free to achieve success that will better their future, their community, and our state.”

A congratulatory video message from the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was played for the crowd during Tuesday’s celebration. Duncan said in the video that the Arkadelphia Promise represents just the latest chapter in the city’s history of accomplishment and perseverance.

“You are the Mighty Badgers,” Duncan said. “More than a decade ago, you not only rebuilt Arkadelphia after a devastating tornado, you built it stronger.  Today, you have been given another chance to get smarter, to prepare yourself to succeed, to pursue your dreams.  I don’t think we celebrate success enough in education—and today is a day to celebrate.”

Funding for the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship will be provided by the Ross Foundation and Southern Bancorp, both based in Arkadelphia. The Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship was conceived and developed by the Clark County Strategic Plan, a public-private planning initiative to address the future development of Arkadelphia and Clark County in the next 10 years.

Arkadelphia Public School District Superintendent Donnie Whitten noted that the Arkadelphia Promise will be a key milestone for Arkadelphia’s future.

“Today’s announcement is the most significant event in the history of our school district,” Whitten said. “Our community has always been committed to the education of our young people and the Arkadelphia Promise demonstrates that commitment.  We are deeply grateful to the Ross Foundation,Southern Bancorp and the Clark County Strategic Plan for their vision and partnership. This is a great day for Arkadelphia.”

To be eligible for the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship, Arkadelphia High School graduates must be Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship recipients and plan to immediately attend college after graduation. The Arkadelphia Promise will have a maximum value equal to the highest tuition and mandatory fees at an Arkansas public college or university.

The Academic Challenge Scholarship, funded by proceeds from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery approved by Arkansas voters in 2008, provides annual scholarships of $5,000 for students to attend four-year universities and $2,500 to attend two-year colleges. Depending on families’ financial circumstances, even with the Academic Challenge Scholarship, there still may be a gap between the total college price and ability to pay. That’s where the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship comes in, said Ross Whipple, Chairman and Trustee of the Ross Foundation, and Phil Baldwin, President and CEO of Southern Bancorp.

Baldwin said the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship exemplifies one of Southern’s long-term transformational goals—to reduce the high school dropout rate and increase college attendance in the communities served by Southern.

“The Arkadelphia Promise is truly a game-changing initiative,” Baldwin said. “It sends the message that every child in Arkadelphia willing to work hard and succeed academically can attend college. A college degree is a passport to future prosperity for individuals and a more college-educated workforce makes Arkadelphia a more attractive community in which to locate a business. Southern is proud to help make this promise to Arkadelphia students and parents.”

Whipple said the Ross Foundation Board felt that the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship spoke to the heart of the Ross Foundation’s mission by boosting both Arkadelphia’s economy and individual students’ educational success.

“The Arkadelphia Promise is one of the best economic events that has ever happened to Arkadelphia, as well as being a tremendous educational benefit for every graduate of Arkadelphia High School, who just by meeting minimal requirements can now go to college.”

All students enrolled in the Arkadelphia Public School district in kindergarten through 12th grade as of Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010, and who graduate from Arkadelphia High School will receive 100 percent of the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship, regardless of the date of original enrollment in the District.

For students who enroll in the Arkadelphia Public School District after Nov. 16, 2010, scholarship amounts will be paid based on length of attendance in the district. For example, students who enroll in the school district in grades 1 through 3 and graduate from Arkadelphia High Schoolwill receive 95 percent of the maximum Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship. Students who enroll in fourth grade and graduate from Arkadelphia High School will receive 90 percent.

The benefit level is 85 percent for students who enroll in fifth grade; 80 percent for students who enroll in sixth grade; 75 percent for those who enroll in seventh grade; 70 percent for those who enroll in eighth grade; and 65 percent for those who enroll in ninth grade.

Full details on the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship dollar amounts and eligibility criteria are available at www.arkadelphiapromise.com.

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