Henderson State University and Arkadelphia Public Schools have partnered to create a new educational opportunity for Arkadelphia High School freshmen.

The Arkadelphia College Preparatory Academy is scheduled to begin classes on Saturday, April 18.

The pilot program was designed as part of the High School Redesign Initiative of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone and the Arkansas Department of Education. Leaders from Arkadelphia Public Schools, HSU, Ouachita Baptist University, Ouachita Technical College, Dawson Educational Cooperative, Clark County Strategic Plan, local business and community representatives and elected officials participated in the development of the Academy.

The purpose of the Prep Academy is to provide additional academic opportunities for students to ensure that they are ready for postsecondary studies upon completion of high school.

Students were selected based on their interest in attending a four-year postsecondary institution and an application process. Information from the EXPLORE test administered in the eighth grade will be used to help students prepare for the ACT they will take as juniors at Arkadelphia High School.

The academy will focus on the areas of reading, English, mathematics and career planning.

The program will pair a teacher from Arkadelphia Public Schools with university professors from HSU and OBU, resulting in a teacher-student ratio of 1:5. The academy will hold classes on four Saturdays in April and May and two weeks in June. Activities will take place on the HSU campus with plans to expose students to other areas of the college experience through field trips and campus activities.

Funded by a grant from The Ross Foundation and Southern Bancorp, all classes and activities will be offered at no cost to the students.

“The development of this project has been a true collaborative effort and we are grateful to all of our partners,” said Arkadelphia Superintendent Donnie Whitten. “This is a unique opportunity for our students and we know it is only the beginning of what we can do in Clark County to better prepare our students for college. We are so fortunate to have the support of our community and universities.”

After a successful pilot, plans for expansion of the program include involving students from other area high schools, sophomores, juniors, and creating other sites throughout the state.

HSU President Dr. Charles Welch said, “We are so proud of this Academy and what it will mean to the future of education in Clark County. This is a very progressive initiative, unlike any other in our state and the educators responsible for developing this program are to be commended. I look forward to working alongside the students and faculty to further develop this exciting program, which will change lives and improve our communities.”

State Rep. Johnnie Roebuck said, “When the report from the Task Force on Higher Education Remediation, Retention and Graduation Rates was released, the Arkadelphia School District and Henderson State University stepped up with solutions and began a strategic planning process to address these concerns. I commend them, as well as the The Ross Foundation and Southern Bancorp, for thinking outside the box to address the needs of our students regarding college and career preparation.”

The opening celebration for the Arkadelphia College Preparatory Academy will be held Monday at 6 p.m. in the Garrison Center Banquet Room. For more information on the Academy, contact Paulette Blacknall, director of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone, at 230-5476.