The Arkansas Department of Higher Education has announced the selection of three Arkansas communities as pilot sites in its Sustainable Communities through Community College Leadership initiative. The initiative will be locally based and will build upon partnerships that currently exist between the community college and the communities it serves. Community colleges chosen are Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas in Helena, Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus in Ozark, and Ozarka College in Melbourne. The chosen locations represent diverse community and college cultures and have the leadership to implement change based upon the special needs of students from poverty and to effect positive community change.
Dr. Jim Purcell, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, made the announcement during a meeting of the Sustainable Communities Steering Committee, an advisory group of statewide state agencies, businesses, non-profits and community based organizations who either provide resources needed by college students to be successful or have an interest in poverty related issues. “The concept of sustainable communities is important because the solutions to reducing the consequences of poverty are not short term and require effort sustained over the course of time. The same is true for the effort required to realize higher levels of educational attainment in Arkansas and to successfully achieve the Governor’s economic development goals of the state. We recognize that the resources needed by traditional and nontraditional age college students cannot be provided solely by or through the college. It takes the broader community working in tandem to address the very complex issues of poverty and resources,” said Purcell. He added that the initiative will raise awareness about causes of poverty and the need to provide resources other than just money to help students again needed college training and to create community based partnerships that will leverage state and local resources.
Personnel from the three colleges serve as steering committee members along with representatives from the Arkansas Department of Career Education, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Workforce Investment Board, the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, the Community Development Institute, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Southern Good Faith Fund, the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence, the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Southern Bancorp.
Training for the steering committee and college and community representatives was lead by nationally known authors Dr. Phil DeVol, Karla Krodel, and Dr. Bethanie Tucker of Sustainable Communities, Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students and Investigations into Economic Class in America.
The Arkansas Department of Higher Education will lead this initiative with staff members of its Career Pathways and Carl D. Perkins programs. Dr. Karon Rosa and Monieca West of ADHE will assist pilot campuses in activities that will identify and chart a course for leveraging resources, improving linkages among public systems, and complementing existing services with new ones in the three pilot communities. Poverty simulation activities will be made available to assist community leaders in better understanding the nature of poverty and the barriers it imposes on people attempting to attain increased education and a higher standard of living.]]>