The UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law has received a $25,000 grant from the Building Black Communities Fund, coordinated by the Arkansas Community Foundation and the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative.
The law school’s Center for Racial Justice and Criminal Justice Reform (the Center) will use the grant to fund its law school admissions test (LSAT) prep course as part of the law school’s Minority Student Law School Pipeline Program.
“The legal field needs more diverse attorneys, judges, and leaders,” said Theresa Beiner, dean of the law school. “There are many talented students from underrepresented groups. Many are first-generation college students who want to come to law school but are not sure how to get here. This prep course will provide them with an important tool to start them on that career path.”
Past experience with LSAT prep classes shows students can improve their scores by as much as 20 points with guided practice. This helps students improve their chances of admission to accredited law schools nationwide.
The grant allows the Center to expand on Bowen’s existing partnerships with Arkansas’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Currently, students graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Philander Smith College with at least a 3.5 GPA who score 154 or higher on the LSAT are automatically accepted to and receive a scholarship from Bowen as long as they satisfy character and fitness requirements for admission.
“In 2020, Black students represented 7.79 percent of total incoming law students. Since 2011, the percentage of Black active attorneys in the United States has remained at five percent. This underrepresentation makes the journey for true justice for all a difficult one,” said Tamika Edwards, a member of the Building Black Communities Fund committee and a Bowen alumna. “I’m hopeful that intentional efforts like the Minority Student Law School Pipeline Program at the Bowen School of Law will eliminate these dire statistics. I’m proud that the Building Black Communities Fund is playing a pivotal role in supporting aspiring Black law students and positively impacting the legal profession overall.”
Participants in the program will receive 12 weeks of rigorous exam preparation, sit-in access to Bowen classes, and meetings with admissions staff to help with the admissions process. In addition, Bowen’s student organizations, including its chapters of the Black Law Students Association and the Latin American Law Students Association, will provide participants with mentors.
“This grant is about access to law school and, ultimately, the entire legal industry,” said Professor Anastasia Boles, a law professor at Bowen and the Center’s co-director. “It allows the Center to assist many more students to prepare for and enter law school. Consistent with the Center’s focus, this program will create a generation of Arkansas lawyers to engage in criminal justice system reform and further racial justice.”
The Arkansas Community Foundation is one of 20 community foundations in the U.S. selected to receive funding from Facebook, Inc. to manage grant making to support Black communities and Black-led nonprofits. This commitment is part of Facebook’s broader $1.1 billion investment in Black and diverse suppliers and communities in the U.S.
“Facebook, Inc. provided the funding, the Community Foundation provided the infrastructure to make the grants, and Black leaders in Central Arkansas determined which nonprofits received them,” said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of Arkansas Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation, in partnership with the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative, provided grants of up to $25,000 to support programs and initiatives specifically designed to impact Black people and communities in the Little Rock metropolitan statistical area, which includes Pulaski, Saline, Perry, Grant, Faulkner, and Lonoke Counties.
Grants are awarded to nonprofits serving in small business support and economic development, community improvement, human services and basic needs, civil rights, social action, leadership development and capacity building, education, health, and arts/culture/humanities.
“This significant grant funding will empower Black-led organizations to amplify their voice in the giving space,” said Derek Lewis of the Black Philanthropy Collaborative. “All 40 grant recipients were able to demonstrate established relationships and a good track record of working on activities that impact Black communities.”
The Building Black Communities Fund Advisory Committee members include: Kandice Bell, Office of the Governor Asa Hutchinson; Joyvin Benton, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute; Alyson Bradford, State Farm; Tamika Edwards, Central Arkansas Water; Charlotte Green, Arkansas Imagination Library; Rev. Shantell Hill, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation; Derek Lewis II, Derek Lewis Foundation and Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative; Kendra Pruitt, Office of Mayor Frank Scott; Charles Stewart, Arkansas Black Hall of Fame; Kara Wilkins, Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative; and Darrin Williams, Southern Bancorp.