Anonymous donor gifts UALR with $300,000 for student success initiatives

Students from the College of Education and Health Professions work in Dickinson Hall.

An anonymous donor has given the University of Arkansas at Little Rock a $300,000 contribution toward student success initiatives in the College of Education and Health Professions.

The college’s Student Success Center will receive $100,000 a year for the next three years. Established in 2015, the center provides services for prospective and current students within the College of Education and Health Professions to help them achieve academic and professional success.

“On behalf of the students and faculty of the College of Education and Health Professions, I would like to commend the donor for this commitment to enhance the support we offer students to reach their educational and professional goals,” said Zulma Toro, UALR executive vice chancellor and provost.

One of the many students who has received assistance from the Student Success Center is Kenneth Edwards, a 25-year-old senior majoring in K through 12 special education. After the center staff helped him transfer from a mathematics program to special education, Edwards also utilized their services when he found himself struggling academically.

“I thought about dropping out, but the center connected me with people in counseling services,” Edwards said. “They also told me about scholarships, tutoring sessions, and volunteer opportunities. Without their support, I wouldn’t be in college, and I wouldn’t have the grade point average necessary to have my scholarships and continue my education.”

Thanks to this help, Edwards is on track to graduate in May 2017. He is a substitute teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School in Little Rock and also works for Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids (P.A.R.K.), a nonprofit organization established by former NFL player Keith Jackson that provides afterschool and summer programs for students in eighth grade and on to help ensure they graduate from high school.

Leah Thorvilson, director of development and external relations for the College of Education and Health Professions, said the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was motivated by a desire to help UALR students succeed.

“The donor came to us and said, ‘I want to help,’” Thorvilson said. “The donor was really drawn toward the Student Success Center because the donor saw it as an investment in students.”

The gift will be used to establish a student emergency support fund and to support the funding of a master’s level social worker responsible for implementing academic success initiatives.

The social worker will monitor the academic progress of students utilizing the center by developing an early alert and warning system that will notify the social worker if a student’s grades are falling so intervention measures can be taken.

Other duties of the social worker will include developing additional student success initiatives, applying for grants to support the center, and developing community relations to facilitate support services for students. In addition, the social worker will establish a referral system for students services, including tutoring, mentoring, counseling, health services, and financial management.

The gift will also be used to establish a support fund for students who have emergency situations, which include having funds to purchase necessities such as food and clothing and paying unexpected bills – emergencies that often cause a student to drop out of school.

“Students will be able to request support ranging from being able to purchase a tank of gas or help them pay tuition costs,” Thorvilson said. “If a student’s car breaks down, that may be the tipping point of whether they can continue in college or not.”

In the upper right photo, UALR students from the College of Education and Health Professions work in Dickinson Hall. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III. 

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