Arkansas Scholars Program honors graduating seniors

With graduation ceremonies quickly approaching, a large number of Jefferson County high school seniors who made good on their Arkansas Scholars Program pledges were recognized Monday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center and rewarded for their dedication.

With siblings, parents and grandparents accompanying them, the young achievers from Dollarway, Pine Bluff, St. Joseph, Watson Chapel and White Hall high schools drew their salutes in an ASP awards presentation supported by the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Business and Education Alliance.

The program requires a four-year commitment by eighth-graders to make certain that they adhere to criteria designed to enrich their lives as adults, whether they attend college or a technical school, work part or full time or join a branch of the military. The students were told that their level of education will have a direct impact on their level of income potential as education provides a “return-on-investment” throughout an individual’s life.

To become an Arkansas Scholar, the students — during their freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years — are required do the following:

• Take the Smart Core curriculum;

• Make a semester grade of “C’ of better in all academic courses;

• Attend school at least 95 percent of the time; and

• Complete high school in eight consecutive semesters.

The promised returns for those who honor their pledge are:

• More choices for education after high school;

• More opportunities for good jobs;

• More money to buy the things they desire; and

• More control over their futures.

The scholars become eligible for academic challenge scholarships, if they have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 with Smart Core or have a minimum ACT score of 19.

Chamber Director Ann Williams distributed awards to the students. Regina Montgomery of Entergy Arkansas chairs the county’s ASP Committee.

Among the honorees was White Hall’s Landen Walker, who is looking at earning a college degree and then following his father, Russell Walker, and grandfather, George Burckhalter, in a career at Entergy Arkansas. The younger Walker wants to be an electrical engineer. His father and grandfather are linemen.

Also at the event was Anna Newcomb, a 23-year-old WHHS graduate who is now an elementary school teacher in Sheridan. Newcomb, a University of Arkansas cum laude graduate, is Landen Walker’s sister. Their mother is Whitney White.

“Good study habits run in our family,” Newcomb said. “Our parents and grandparents raised us to realize that a good education is not an option.”

Newcomb’s and Landen Walker’s grandmother, Carol Burckhalter, said she and her husband have “put out a lot of money” on the family’s education.

“It’s all worth it,” she said. “It feels good to know that Landen fulfilled all the criteria for this program.”