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The Delta Bridge Project announced today $400,000 in grants for KIPP Delta College Preparatory School in Helena-West Helena. These funds will provide space to accommodate classes for the next two years while KIPP Delta expands its program to serve students in grades 5 through 12.

Dr. Steven Murray, Chairman of the Delta Bridge Project Steering Committee and Chancellor of the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, stated “As a participant in the Delta Bridge project, I am encouraged by the community’s continued success in implementing the county-wide strategic plan. As chancellor of Phillips Community College, I look forward to seeing the first high-school students graduate from the KIPP Delta College Preparatory School. Its success proves that our children thrive in the classroom when parents, students, and community work together.”

The Delta Bridge Project is a comprehensive community development initiative in Phillips County. The goals of the Delta Bridge Project are outlined in the Phillips County Strategic Community Plan, which was developed by more than 300 Phillips County residents during an 18-month strategic planning process.

A key goal of the Delta Bridge Project is to improve student achievement, which is critical to the success or failure of all other community development programs. Only 62 percent of Phillips County residents age 25 and over are high school graduates, while only 12 percent of the same population hold bachelors degrees or higher. KIPP Delta was started to address this need and has already shown substantial progress.

KIPP Delta opened in 2002 with a first class of 5th graders, and has added a grade each year to serve grades 5 though 9. Over 90 percent of students are African American, and 86 percent qualify for the federal free and reduced-price meals program. KIPP students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, on Saturdays for four hours, and for one month in the summer, spending about 60 percent more time in the classroom than their traditional public school counterparts.

In their four years at KIPP Delta, the current ninth grade class jumped from the 29th to the 91st percentile in mathematics and from the 30th to the 65th percentile in reading, as measured by the nationally norm-referenced Stanford 10 exam.

KIPP Delta is part of a national network of 52 KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools across the country. KIPP schools are free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities that prepare students for college through hard work and high expectations. Nationally, 80 percent of students who graduated the eighth grade at KIPP schools have matriculated to college.

“At KIPP, we are focused on doing whatever it takes to help our kids climb the mountain to college,” said Scott Shirey, principal of KIPP Delta. “The classroom space provided by this grant will help us fulfill our mission of making sure that students in Helena-West Helena have access to a high-quality education, and that is the first step in a larger capital campaign to build a new campus.”

The Delta Bridge Project is spearheaded by Southern Financial Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit lender and community development organization founded in 1986. Southern Good Faith Fund, Southern Financial Partners, and Southern Property Corporation are affiliates of Southern Bancorp, a $500 million rural development bank holding company working to transform rural economies by stimulating investments in people, jobs, businesses, and property with banking operations in Arkansas and Mississippi.