Hollingsworth announces youth task force at town hall

The Mayor’s Youth Task Force Committee will provide scholarships and other incentives for academic growth in all three Pine Bluff school districts, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Monday while unveiling the program.

“This committee is an important aspect of our plan to develop incentives for students in our city who are having trouble academically,” Hollingsworth said. “All proceeds from the 175th Anniversary Gala are going into a nonprofit organization that will push our students to succeed. These funds will be used to benefit academically challenged students by providing them with incentives to earn better grades. We want them to know that the city cares about them.”

The committee will include the ninth-, 10th and 11th-grade class presidents from each school district, Hollingsworth said while announcing the task force at the monthly town hall meeting Monday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. While mainly consisting of students, the committee will also likely include retired teachers and counselors, Hollingsworth said, adding that details are still being worked out.

Hollingsworth said the gala raised roughly $50,000, with a final tally not yet determined.

“The foundation will target children who are at risk academically in grades K-11 to show them that we care and that we want to support and empower them,” Hollingsworth said.

Seniors will be eligible for scholarships for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas College.

“If we can put the spotlight on our children and motivate them, that is what we will do, because they are the future of our city,” Hollingsworth said. “It is critical for our economic development that we train our children so that they can find their niche.”

The 175th Anniversary Essay Contest Chairwoman Ethel Cogshell announced the winners.

“The subject was the city of Pine Bluff,” Cogshell said. “We made it broad so that they could make the topic their own. We had winners at the high school, junior high school and elementary school level.”

The elementary school winner was Sah’Myah Holloway, a student at Coleman Intermediate School in the Watson Chapel district. The other participants from Coleman were Diamond Barnes, Nekiyah Williams and Danile Moore.

Watson Chapel Junior High School ninth-grader Austin McDonald won the junior high level, with Theophilus Smith Jr. and Hannah Hadley also participating.

The high school winner was Pine Bluff High School junior Tamia Thomas, with juniors Kentorius White and Tyran Simmons also participating.

Hollingsworth thanked all of the participants in the 175th anniversary weekend.

“Pine Bluff’s birthday celebration was absolutely phenomenal,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said that the town hall meetings will shift to a quarterly schedule so the next meeting will not be until September.

“Attendance has not been as much recently, in part I believe because more information is being provided to residents,” Hollingsworth said. “So there haven’t been as many questions.”