College Access Initiative Reaching More Students
Program helps Arkansas students prepare for and attend collegeTuesday, January 22, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – More Arkansas high schools with student populations that are underrepresented at the University of Arkansas are taking advantage of the resources of the university’s College Access Initiative. The College Access Initiative, an academic outreach effort established by the University of Arkansas in 2010, has grown quickly and now has established partnerships with key high schools in every region of the state.
“One of our most popular programs is the annual ACT Academy, a one-week summer program designed to improve participants’ ACT scores and college readiness while exposing them to college academics and campus life,” said Leslie Yingling, director of the College Access Initiative and diversity affairs outreach. “In addition to ACT and college readiness instruction, students have opportunities to engage with faculty and staff and U of A students serving as mentors, attend academic lectures and cultural activities, and use our recreation, dining and housing facilities while on our campus.”
Two separate sessions of the ACT Academy were held this year because the number of participants has quadrupled in the last three years, increasing from 54 students in 2010 to more than 200 in 2012.
“Fifty high schools and all four corners of the state were represented in our 2012 ACT Academies,” Yingling said. “We drew students from Ashdown to Siloam Springs, from Helena-West Helena to Blytheville, and dozens of other schools across Arkansas.”
The College Access Initiative also provides ACT training and counseling, academic enrichment, and assistance with admissions and financial aid processes – all designed to improve college readiness and college access to Arkansas students, especially underrepresented populations.
“We’re reinforcing the importance of pursuing higher education, but we’re also focusing on the process with these students so that they can start thinking about college and hopefully begin to understand that earning a college degree is a realistic goal,” said Charles Robinson, vice provost for diversity. “With programs like the College Access Initiative, we want to eliminate as many roadblocks as possible so that a higher number of underrepresented students will apply, enroll and succeed in college.”
The College Access Initiative has strong partnerships with dozens of high schools, most located in the east, central, and northwest regions of the state. These relationships include the University of Arkansas/Delta Schools College Completion Consortium, a collaboration between the university’s office of diversity affairs, the College Access Initiative, other U of A partners and high schools throughout the Arkansas Delta.
The College Access Initiative is working to expand its reach in southern Arkansas and in 2012 started new partnerships with Pine Bluff and Ashdown high schools. The program is also developing a partnership with the Cherokee Nation Foundation to serve Oklahoma high schools within the Cherokee Nation.
“The demand for our programming and for the University of Arkansas’ presence is strong, and we are committed to extending our reach to meet it,” said Yingling.
In Northwest Arkansas, a growing partnership with ALPFA, the largest Latino association for business professionals and students, is now serving five area high schools.
Bryan Hembree, who leads College Access Initiative’s ACT program in Northwest Arkansas, continues to work with Springdale Public Schools and the grant-funded College Readiness Program funded by the Arkansas Department of Education. He also assisted Fayetteville Public Schools in a successful grant application for a new college readiness program. Hembree facilitates the campus-based ACT course series and serves a growing number of Northwest Arkansas area schools with ACT and college preparatory programs for teachers, students and parents.
Leslie Yingling, director
College Access Initiative
Mark Rushing, director of strategic communications
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