Bank of America Donation Supports UA Little Rock Summer Bridge Academy

Bank of America has donated $20,000 to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to support the Donaldson Summer Bridge Academy, a three-week residential program aimed at preparing incoming freshmen for college-level work that eliminates the need for these students to take remedial math and English courses. 

The gift from Bank of America is part of a collaborative effort with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which was awarded $24,000 to fund workforce education and skills training for minorities from across Arkansas to enter healthcare professions.

“This donation will allow us to continue our efforts in developing students’ academic and socio-emotional needs,” said Amber Smith, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. “Engaging curriculum, motivated staff, as well as in-class and out-of-class experiential learning, can now be supported and offered to students.”

Since the Summer Bridge Academy began in 2013, 135 students have passed 238 courses, which saved students and their families more than $179,000 in tuition, non-credit course fees, and book costs.

Bank of America President Donnie Cook, who is celebrating his 45th year of a successful career in banking, said he loved being a part of a program that “gives the gift of higher education.”

“I’m certainly proud of where I am, but I do have some regrets that I never went back and finished my college education,” Cook said during a Sept. 8  lunch with Summer Bridge Academy students in the Bailey Alumni and Friends Center on the UA Little Rock campus. “The single greatest pleasure of what I do, outside of work, is giving money to great programs like this.”

The Summer Bridge Academy is open to all high school seniors who have been accepted into UA Little Rock and who show a need for remedial coursework based on their test scores. These courses are designed to teach students strategies for success, including critical thinking, study skills, time management, test-taking strategies, reading comprehension, mathematical skills, and financial wellness.

Support from the Bank of America Foundation has provided proven results for students attending the Summer Bridge Program. Engaging in intense academic curriculum that consists of at least four hours of math and four hours of reading and writing per day has shown positive results.

Last year, 96 percent of Summer Bridge Academy participants bypassed developmental math, 100 percent bypassed developmental writing, and 92 percent bypassed developmental reading.

“This program is important because it allows students to strengthen their academics, potentially bypass remediation, which saves time and money toward graduation, in addition to building relationships within the higher education environment,” Smith said. “Students tend to leave much more confident and with a more open mindset. Entering college can be an intimidating process, and we have watched students not only take on the challenge, but persist and succeed to completion of a degree.”

Xenia Cooley, a senior psychology major who plans to become a social worker, said participating in the Summer Bridge Academy in 2014 gave her the opportunity to see that she was ready to get a college education.

“The program gave me a sense of what college is like, so it was easier to transition from high school to college,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus, and the staff was so helpful. When I started college, I already had a support system in place.”

In the upper photo, UA Little Rock celebrates a donation from Bank of America to help the Summer Bridge Academy. Pictured in the front row (L to R) are Chris Foy, Laura Montalvan, Eva Legg, Bank of America President Donnie Cook, Sharice Hollister, Xenia Cooley, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amber Smith. Back row (L to R) are Senior Director of Development Kristi Smith, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mark Allen Poisel, Bank of America Senior Vice President John Dominick, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Christian O’Neal, and Jonathan Bobo, recruitment and enrollment manager. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.

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