The corridor between Arkansas Tech University and Russellville Downtown has a new high-tech resource due to the philanthropy of Russellville Regional Leadership Academy Class 32.
Two new, solar-powered benches were dedicated during a ceremony attended by ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen, Russellville Mayor Richard Harris, representatives from Russellville Regional Leadership Academy Class 32 and members of the ATU community on Wednesday, June 5.
The benches, which are located at 404 N. El Paso Ave. and 1122 N. El Paso Ave., take power from the sun and convert it into energy that individuals may use to charge their mobile phones and other electronic devices. A wireless internet hotspot and lighting are also included in the units.
"The graduates from the 2017-2018 Russellville Regional Leadership Academy have achieved something special,” said Bowen. “By envisioning and executing their plan to install two solar-powered smart benches here along North El Paso Avenue, they have left a lasting legacy indicative of their commitment to improve our community. These graduates from Russellville Regional Leadership Academy have made this important corridor between our beautiful downtown and Arkansas Tech University better. My challenge to each of them, to each of you and to myself is this: keep pushing forward. Be courageous, be skillful and seize the opportunities to change our community for the better."
Russellville Regional Leadership Academy participants who completed the program in 2018 envisioned the solar-powered benches project, organized the fund-raising effort to make them possible and saw the project through to its completion.
Heather Southard, program coordinator for the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, spoke on behalf of her fellow academy participants during the dedication ceremony.
“I know my classmates agree that the Russellville Regional Leadership Academy helped us make connections we would not have otherwise made on our own,” said Southard. “Leadership Russellville Class 32 decided that we wanted to do a project that would help our community make more environmentally-friendly decisions.”
Southard explained that upon discovering the solar-powered benches, the group began actively searching for an appropriate location to make them available to the community.
“We noticed something we hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was a synergy between the City of Russellville and Arkansas Tech University…a bridging of the town and gown,” said Southard. “It became apparent to us that our benches would be the first step in a long process of creating the bridge between downtown Russellville and Arkansas Tech University that North El Paso Avenue will one day become.
“We believe that having a university located in our community is an incredible asset…an asset that will act as a magnet for diversity and talent, and the unique innovators that we wish to attract to Russellville,” continued Southard. “The El Paso project is a physical representation of our hope and desire to see Arkansas Tech University and the community of Russellville continue to cultivate a stronger relationship, not only to drive economic development, but to also elevate the level of both learning and living in our community. We can think of no better home for our solar-powered benches than Arkansas Tech University and North El Paso Avenue.”