(Photo: Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts)
From Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts:
HOT SPRINGS - Members of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Leadership Arkansas Class VII recently visited the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts for a firsthand look at the educational opportunities the school provides students from across the state.
Leadership Arkansas is a program designed to take a statewide view of the economic and political challenges that the state faces. The program offers community leaders from across Arkansas an opportunity to have a greater impact in and for their communities.
Class VII has 42 members who represent 18 communities from around the state, said Susie P. Marks, senior vice president of programs for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Marks and several class members visited ASMSA on April 12.
Class members visited with Director Corey Alderdice; Gregory Reed, director of the Office of Institutional Advancement; and several ASMSA students.
During his visit with the Leadership Arkansas class, Alderdice spoke about the vital role ASMSA plays in preparing its students for their future educational careers.
He said that the school's residential environment offers the students some unique opportunities to be in a community "not just of age peers, but intellectual peers; students who get just as excited talking about science and math and art as most students do talking about Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and the NCAA basketball tournament.
"Especially if you're coming from a rural area where you don't have a lot of people who kind of share those similar interests; it can be a bit isolating. So to finally be in a vibrant community of over 200 other talented and motivated young people like yourself makes a difference on your outlook of things."
To give the members of the leadership class an idea of how well ASMSA's students perform, Alderdice spoke about the Governor's Distinguished Scholarship. The scholarship provides up to $10,000 per year to cover tuition, mandatory fees and room and board to 300 students from Arkansas.
To qualify for the scholarship, students must have a 3.5 grade point average and a 32 composite score on the ACT. A maximum of 300 scholarships are awarded. Alderdice said there are about 380 students a year who qualify for the scholarship. This year, ASMSA has 32 students who will qualify for the scholarship.
"If we estimate that the total number of applicants go up to 400, that's 8 percent of the eligible students for the top scholarship award in the state come from one institution alone," Alderdice said.
He said it is important that the state address the needs of these academically talented students because Arkansas does not need to experience a "brain drain of these young people leaving to go elsewhere. We want them to find the right fit for their college education, but certainly Arkansas public and private universities want to draw on the talents of these young people as well."
Leadership Arkansas class members took a student-led tour of the school, visiting the academic building and the Student Center.
"I was extremely impressed with what I learned about ASMSA," Marks said via email after the visit. "The diversity in the educational programming can certainly serve as an educational model for other Arkansas schools. Meeting students from a wide array of school districts was also refreshing. This helps us understand that true learning can come from any economic situation through dedication."
Chris Calvin, a cold mill project supervisor for Nucor Steel-Arkansas in northeast Arkansas and a member of the class, said he also was impressed with the school.
"The new dormitory building was especially nice, providing a safe, structured environment conducive to learning," Calvin said. "Most of all, our tour guides were students who raved about their experiences at ASMSA. The curriculum is both challenging and rewarding, preparing the students for success at the university level and beyond."
Marks said ASMSA also serves to meet the needs for science, technology, engineering and math education to build a better business environment in the state.
"An educated workforce is one of the cornerstones of any community's success," she said. "STEM education brings innovation and fresh thinking to a new kind of highly skilled and educated workforce. A type of workforce most of our current employer base seeks.
"Entrepreneurs also grow out of STEM education to support our local economy. Innovative thinking, a willingness to reinvest locally, and a calculated risk to link business with education are the key to success in our local communities."