Jefferson County high school students are vying to become Arkansas Scholars as well as learning some technical skills.
The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce wants students throughout Jefferson County to become scholars – Arkansas Scholars that is.
The chamber is a big supporter of the statewide program and actively recruits eighth-grade students at Dollarway, Pine Bluff, Ridgeway Christian, Watson Chapel and White Hall schools to participate. Local students are asked to sign pledges agreeing to complete the program. Criteria includes finishing high school in eight consecutive semesters, achieving a 95 percent or better average attendance record over four years, and completing four units of English and math, plus three units of science and social studies. Students must also earn semester grades of C or above in all courses.
Students who finish the program are eligible for scholarships, and the designation also helps them when applying to college and technical schools or for a job immediately after graduation.
Each year, the chamber also selects 25 sophomores from local schools to participate in its Junior Leadership Pine Bluff program, which hosts five monthly sessions designed to broaden their perspective on community issues and build their leadership skills.
Building Technical Skills
Also helping students better prepare for life after high school is the Jefferson Area Technical Career Center in Pine Bluff. The center supplements students’ regular classroom work with hands-on training in technical areas.
“We offer five programs: banking and finance, clinical nursing, computer-aided design, criminal justice, and welding, and if a student successfully completes three courses in any of those areas, we certify the student as ready to be hired by a company,” says Johnny Handley, Jefferson Area Technical Career Center director.
“Some of the overall courses also provide students with credits for college as well as toward their high school diploma,” he continues. “By the time they finish high school, students are actually equipped with the necessary technical skills to continue on to college or immediately enter the workforce to pursue a variety of career paths.”