Saturday, November 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> Gift helps JHS students

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville Promise, a new cooperative program announced on Wednesday between the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, aims to make college affordable to qualifying students, perhaps free to some.

Basically, it’s an early- admissions program that will help students and their parents navigate federal student loans and also scholarships, including those from UALR.

In addition, the Wilson Charitable Trust of Jacksonville will provide $25,000 worth of $500 to $1,000 grants to help with books or other things in the program’s first year.

The average cost of tuition for an in-state student with a 15-hour semester would be $8,633 per year, according to Angie Faller, a UALR spokesman.

Those in the 2017-2020 classes who qualify and are eligible will be guaranteed admission along with help applying for and getting financial aid to pay the bill.

The program was announced at an assembly in the school gym Wednesday morning —an assembly that included addresses by UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson, Principal LaGail Biggs and Jacksonville banker Larry Wilson.

The student must satisfy admissions criteria to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, must submit a complete application package to UALR and must have made acceptable financial arrangements to attend the university.

Satisfactory completion of all three provisions guarantees the student a seat at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus for the fall semester following high school graduation, according to the contract.

Wilson said Jacksonville Promise grew out of a meeting he had with Rogerson in September.

“I suggested they look at seeing what could be done to attract Jacksonville students,” he said. “We felt the foundation could put up some money to make it absolutely free for students with the grades.”

Wilson said his family foundation could help 25 to 50 students. “We have committed for the first year,” he said.


The $25,000 gift to Jacksonville Promise was some of the money from Wilson’s father, a successful businessman. “My father talked his dad into selling a Jersey cow to help pay his tuition,” Wilson said.

“This program makes it possible for you to go to college,” he said. “We’re providing you the cow.”

“It can be a difference maker. Don’t let this go by without giving it your best shot,” Wilson added.

Precious Scott, a Jacksonville High School senior last year and now a second semester freshman at UALR, got started last year as part of the Donaldson Scholars program.

She told students Wed-nesday that she had struggled with the ACT test, but now feels more confident and feels like she belongs at the college.

“I did Saturday classes and avoided the remedial program. I’m part of a community of people I believe in,” Scott said.

“We are offering a future that could be a game changer,” Principal Biggs said. “This is a ready opportunity to go to college, to get early credit, start early the process of getting scholarships and to graduate with minimal or no debt.”

“When you apply, we will make it easy for you,” said Chancellor Rogerson. “We will guide you through the application process. We are committed to your success.”

“We will offer personalized support to students as part of the Jacksonville Promise to ensure students take advantage of all existing financial aid and scholarship programs,” UALR’s Faller said.

A team of financial aid professionals will visit the high school from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday to provide hands-on assistance to students as they complete the free application for federal student aid.

“This will be followed with a series of scholarship workshops as we help students identify and apply for scholarships. Included will be scholarships offered by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as well as privately funded scholarships,” according to Faller.

Assistance will be offered in various aspects of scholarship application, including writing effective essays and ACT preparation.


“It is our goal to maximize the aid students receive from all sources by timely and accurate applications using the generous gift from the Wilson Charitable Trust to provide gap funding when needed,” she said.

Admissions criteria are:

Completion of the college preparatory core at the time of graduation from high school.

Achieve an ACT composite score of at least 19 or a combined critical reading/math SAT score of at least 910.

A cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

Completion of the free application for the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the YOUniversal application for state funded financial aid programs and other financial aid applications and forms is increasingly essential to college financing in today’s economic climate.

The FAFSA remains the gateway document for students to receive low-interest federal loans, federal work-study and grants, including the federal Pell Grant.

By signing the contract, a student can gain access to university advisers to explain acceptance criteria, guidance through the application process and completing the forms for financial aid, according to an information sheet available with the contract.

The university will provide assistance and information regarding other financial aid programs, including in-house scholarship, private aid and state grants and scholarships, including the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship funded by the lottery.

“Access and opportunity to postsecondary education will allow our students to realize their hopes and dreams,” said JNPSD Superintendent Tony Wood.

Students and parents who sign the simple one-page contract may participate in services including:

Group and personalized workshops to help complete the FAFSA application, learn about financial aid options and scholarships;

Student experience and orientation days at UALR to make transition to college easier;

ACT preparation;

Placement tests;

Hotline to UALR;

Concurrent academic enrollment to receive college credit while in high school;

Participation in the Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy or the TRIO talent search program if eligible;

Job mentoring with UALR alumni;

Recognition as a Jacksonville Promise graduate.

Thursday morning, Darryl Kimble Brooks, a senior, was the first to return his completed contract to the district.

Juan Amaya, an 18-year-old senior, said after the announcement that he thinks the program will be helpful. “I want to try for a four-year degree in chemistry,” he said.

Christen White, a 17-year old junior, says the program will be beneficial to him.

He wants to get a degree from UALR and then join the military.

“I think this about the future, putting things in action and do something about life,” said Kelly White, his mother.

School Board President Daniel Gray, said, “Our kids have opportunities. It’s cool to be part of a community that wants to take care of kids. We are blessed with high expectations.”