U.S. Senator Mark Pryor to Speak at Academic Signing Day 2011

April 20, 2011

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor will be the keynote speaker for Academic Signing Day, which will feature recipients of the El Dorado Promise scholarship program. 

The fifth annual Academic Signing Day will be held at 1:30 p.m. on April 28 inthe El Dorado High School gymnasium. The event will celebrate more than 260 graduating seniors who will be receiving El Dorado Promise scholarships, as well as others. 

The Promise, announced in January of 2007, is a $50 million scholarship programfunded entirely by Murphy Oil Corp. 

Pryor serves on six Senate committees, including the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls how taxpayer dollars are spent. He also is a memberof the Commerce, Science and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Rules and Ethics Senatecommittees. Named as one of three Washington “movers and shakers” by Parents Magazine, Pryor is in his second term in the U.S. Senate. Previously, he served as attorney general for Arkansas and before that time, he was a member of the Arkansas State House of Representatives. 

To date, the El Dorado Promise has given more than $5,000,000 in funding to 780 EHS graduates, attending 54 colleges and universities, according to a news release from the El Dorado Education Foundation. 

El Dorado Promise students can attend any accredited two- or four-year college or university in the U.S. The Class of 2011 will sign EHS letters of intent for at least 28 separate colleges or universities. 

“It is heartening to see record numbers of students enter college, and to begin a new, promising path in their lives. Enrollment in El Dorado schools has increased 5 percent,” said David Wood, Murphy president and chief executive officer. 

“Our success in El Dorado shows how the direct involvement of business can deliver results when combined collaboratively with school and community. Thefuture is bright for our students. We look forward to seeing the full impact ofthe Promise’s long-term strategy years from now,” Wood said. 

Alice Mahony, a member of the Arkansas Board of Education and co-chair of the event, said, “Academic Signing Day is intended to be similar to a sports signing day, but to help promote and recognize the excellence of students in ElDorado Public Schools, especially those receiving the El Dorado Promise.” 

El Dorado Public Schools Superintendent Bob Watson added, “Academic Signing Day was designed to celebrate our graduates and their educational achievements.” 

Sylvia Thompson, director of the El Dorado Promise, said that around 80 percent of Promise-eligible graduates have gone on to attend college, a rate significantly higher than both state (63 percent) and national (67 percent)averages. “Moreover, about a quarter of 2010 El Dorado Promise recipients enrolled in college were first-generation higher education students.” Additionally, since the Promise was announced, students have relocated from 31 states and 13 countries, according to Bonnie Haynie, El Dorado Schools director of professional development and co-chair of the Academic Signing Day event. 

The El Dorado Promise provides qualifying students with up to 100 percent of tuition and mandatory college fees. The Promise can be combined with the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship or others to pay for additional college expenses,such as room and board. 

First Financial Bank is title sponsor for the Academic Signing Day, which is a partnership of the El Dorado Education Foundation, the El Dorado Public Schools, Murphy Oil and the El Dorado Promise. Other sponsors are the El Dorado News-Times, the College Avenue Church of Christ and W.I. Bell Photographer. 

The El Dorado Promise scholarship maximum is based upon the highest in-state tuition payable at an Arkansas public university. The El Dorado Promise is available to all students who graduate from EHS, reside in the district and have been El Dorado Public School students since at least the ninth grade. Scholarship amounts are determined by length of attendance, with graduates who have attended since kindergarten receiving 100 percent. More details about the Promise are available at www.eldoradopromise.com. 

Promise graduates from the Class of 2011 will be attending the following out-of-state colleges and universities: Notre Dame, Purdue, Brigham Young, Grambling, Louisiana College, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Prairie View A&M, Panola Community College, Southwest Baptist, University of Memphis,University of Mississippi, University of Nebraska and the University of Tennessee. 

In-state colleges and universities will include Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University, John Brown University, Ouachita Baptist University, Pulaski Tech, South Arkansas Community College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Monticello, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Central Arkansas and Williams Baptist.  Graduates joining the military will begin scholarships after completing tours of duty. 

Pryor was born in Fayetteville and grew up in both Arkansas and the Washington, D.C. area. He received a bachelor’s degree in history and his law degree from the University of Arkansas and worked in private legal practice for more than 10 years. He and his wife, Jill, have a son and a daughter, Adams and Porter.

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