El Dorado celebrates second anniversary of Promise scholarship program


January 18, 2009

The meaning of the word “promise” has been redefined for students in El Dorado since an incredible scholarship program was announced in the gymnasium of the El Dorado High School two years ago this week, according to Cindy Langston, marketing director for the El Dorado Promise and El Dorado Forward. 

When asked what a “promise” means, El Dorado kindergartners have said that it means they get to go to college for free. Because of the El Dorado Promise, students enrolled in the El Dorado School District now have hope that college is an option. 

Announced Jan. 22, 2007, the $50 million scholarship program funded by Murphy Oil Corp. pays tuition and mandatory fees for graduates of El Dorado public schools. The Promise is available to all students who graduate from El Dorado High School, reside in the district and have been an El Dorado Public School student since at least the ninth grade. 

The inseparable link between quality education and the economic vitality of a community was underscored during Governor Mike Beebe’s recent Arkansas Works Summit. “We have to raise expectations – to demand more of our schools, our students ourselves,” he said. Looking back over the last two years, strides have been made in getting our students ready to compete in the 21st century workforce. While it will take years to fully realize the true impact of the Promise in our community, the most immediate effects of the El Dorado Promise are evident in the El Dorado Public Schools and for its graduates, Langston said. 

This school year brought more growth throughout the district. After more than a decade of declining enrollment, the district has grown over 4 percent since the Promise was announced. The kindergarten and first grade classes have been the largest ever recorded in the El Dorado School District, two years in a row. That growth can be felt at the local community college also. 

South Arkansas Community College’s enrollment grew 16 percent in Fall 2008 due in large part to the El Dorado Promise. Families from more than 28 states and 10 foreign countries have made El Dorado home and enrolled in El Dorado Public Schools since the Promise’s inception. 

But perhaps the most telling number comes from school choice. More than three dozen new students have decided to attend El Dorado schools from outside the district boundaries, Langston said. 

These “school choice” students will not be eligible for the Promise without moving into the district; however the quality of education available to students in the El Dorado Public Schools is exemplified in their choice. A growing number of El Dorado graduates are taking advantage of the Promise scholarship. Eighty-two percent of 2008 El Dorado graduates have taken advantage of the Promise scholarship and chosen to attend college. That surpasses the state (64.7 percent) and the national (66 percent) rates. Additionally, 67 percent of 2007 El Dorado graduates who began college returned for their second year, compared to the Arkansas one-year return rate of 48 percent for community colleges and 68 percent for universities. 

From Sewanee, to Auburn, to Emory, to the University of Texas, and in nearly every university here in Arkansas, Promise students are working toward reaching their fullest potential with the help of the El Dorado Promise, according to Langston. 

A full 29 percent of the 2008 graduating class chose to attend El Dorado’s own South Arkansas Community College, while another 17 percent took advantage of Henderson State University’s Promise matching scholarship. 

 

For more information about the El Dorado Promise, our schools and our community, visit these websites www.ElDoradoPromise.com; www.GoElDorado.com; www.ElDoradoPublicSchools.com


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