School Counts Initiative Officially Kicks Off

School Counts! Steering Committee member Patty
Shipp addresses the crowd
There’s something growing in Conway County. Representatives from the local secondary schools in Conway County, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and the local business community announced the Conway County School Counts! initiative at a news conference on Tuesday. The initiative promotes the value of education and gives every student in Conway County the opportunity to continue his or her education beyond high school. The School Counts! initiative will provide financial support to local high school graduates, resulting in a better-prepared workforce that will make Conway County more attractive to companies looking to expand or move into the area.

For the past several years, students in grades nine through twelve in the county’s secondary schools have had the opportunity to participate in the Arkansas Scholars program. The School Counts! initiative is similar to the Arkansas Scholars 
Promotional materials designed and donated
by the Allison Agency were displayed during
the press conference
program and emphasizes the importance of developing the skills and attitudes needed to be competitive in today’s workforce. Developing an adequately trained local workforce will help Conway County be competitive for higher paying jobs in the future.

In order for students to be designated a School Counts! completer, they must demonstrate quality in their academic work in grades nine through twelve by not making any transcript grade lower than a “C," achieving a 95% attendance record each year of high school, completing high school in four consecutive years, and taking more than the minimum number of credits required by the state for graduation. These criteria correlate with the skills needed in today’s workforce of quality (“not having to repeat work”), attendance (“showing up for work”), persistence (“finishing what they start”) and goal setting (“going the extra mile”).

One goal of the School Counts! initiative is to endow a scholarship fund for students who meet the criteria and who do not have other scholarships or grants. This fund would guarantee those students a minimum $1,000 scholarship per semester for four semesters to attend UACCM. Each School Counts! student from Conway County would have up to $4,000 to complete an associate degree at UACCM. An endowment fund has been established with the Conway County Community Foundation/Arkansas Community Foundation for investments in the School Counts! initiative.

One of the highlights of the press conference was the presentation of a $100,000 donation to the School Counts! endowment fund by Petit Jean State Bank. The announcement was made by Petit Jean State Bank President Charles Penick.
UACCM Chancellor Nathan Crook said, “To help meet the goal of the School Counts! initiative, the UACCM Board of Visitors has approved a $250 scholarship to be awarded for up to four semesters to students who meet the scholarship criteria.”  He went on to say, “UACCM looks forward to continuing to partner with the community to improve the educational opportunities available to students in Conway County.”
Charles Penick presents a $100,000 check
 from Petit Jean State Bank to the School
 Counts! fund
Bryce Mobley, co-chair of the Education Committee of the Conway County Economic Development Corporation, said, “In the last several years, Conway County has made tremendous strides in addressing the many issues of its economic and community development. In today’s global economy, the success of any local economy is determined by its ability to provide employers with infrastructure, raw materials and a qualified, productive workforce. The School Counts! initiative provides the residents of this county with the opportunity to improve their education and gain the skills needed to be competitive in today’s workforce.” 

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