HomePlace-Based ForumValley Springs, Arkansas Goes the Extra Mile

Valley Springs, Arkansas Goes the Extra Mile

Editor’s Note:  This film and related essay are the fourth installment in the Rural Community Alliance’s “Youth Lens” series, a collaborative effort between the Arkansas-based community development organization and The Rural School and Community Trust’s Center for Midwestern Initiatives.  Nine Youth Empowerment Network communities have made student-produced films; the Youth Empowerment Network is a project of the Rural Community Alliance.

What is the value of a college education in today’s world?  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, college graduates over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree earn 65% more than those without a college education.   Obviously, education pays, so it is to every young person’s advantage to obtain as much education as possible.  In addition, this country needs willing and able young people to serve as leaders in the fields of science, technology, education, government, business, and the arts in the years to come; and everyone is happier in a rewarding and fulfilling profession. 

However, simply resolving to get a good education is not enough in this day and age.  Students must take very definite steps early in high school to meet their career goals.  Planning is the key to success.  In recent years, college entrance requirements have continued to rise.  At the same time, the possibility of getting good scholarships has become more competitive.  Students who decide early and plan ahead usually can meet those requirements, but statistics show that those who wait until their junior or senior year to make preparations for college often find themselves lacking. 

Arkansas’ Valley Springs High School offers the Senior Scholars program to help our students prepare for college by starting in the ninth grade and taking them through a four-year regimen of academic preparation and counseling and citizenship building through community service. 

The overall goal of the Senior Scholars Program is to take students in their ninth through twelfth grade years and expose them to a variety of experiences which will encourage and enable them to perceive themselves as an academic achiever and potential college student, and eventually, college graduate.  Specifically, for students who successfully complete the Senior Scholars Program, it should support students in the following ways:

  1.  Provide motivation and counseling in a variety of areas – such as curriculum, college choices, finance options, etc. – that are important to the college-bound student.
  2. Help students improve scores on college entrance exams such as the ACT and PSAT/SAT for the purposes of both passing the ACT cut-off scores and improving their chances of getting scholarships.
  3. Give students a competitive edge for college scholarships by building up their academic resumes, participating in and creating their own community service project, and sharpening their interview skills.
  4. Prepare students to do college-level work.

The Senior Scholars Program requires extra work outside of the academic school day for both academic requirements and community service projects.  However, the results are worth the effort.  This program has been netting benefits for students since 1994.  Former Senior Scholars are now working in the fields of public administration, education, business management, banking, accounting, agribusiness, engineering, computer science, law, journalism, and medicine.  Several have studied and traveled extensively abroad with the benefits of scholarships, one is finishing medical school, and two have taught in China.  In addition to those accomplishments, consider the following more recent comparisons of ACT averages:

                                                         ENGLISH          MATH          READING          SCIENCE          COMPOSITE

2006 Senior Scholars                          28.2             25.0                26.6                25.0                  25.1

2006 Other College Bound                 20.6             19.5                19.8                19.1                 19.5

2006 State Average                             20.7              19.9                20.9                20.3                 20.6

2006 National Average                       20.6              20.8                21.4                20.9                 21.1

2007 Senior Scholars                          28.0              25.5                29.6                26.7                 25.8

2007 Other College Bound                20.5               19.3                21.3                20.5                 20.1

2007 State Average                             20.5               19.9                20.9                20.2                 20.5

2007 National Average                       20.7               21.0                21.5                21.0                 21.2

2008 Senior Scholars                          26.8               24.2                26.4                25.2                 25.8

2008 School Average                          21.9               20.7                 22.1                20.8                 21.5

2008 State Average                             20.7               20.1                 21                   20.3                 20.6

2008 National Average                       20.6               21.0                 21.4                20.8                 21.1

2009 Senior Scholars                          30.2               25.3                 27.7                26.3                 27.5

2009 School Average                          22.5                20.1                22                    21.2                 21.5

2009 State Average                            20.6                 20.1                21.                   20.2                 20.6

2009 National Average                      20.6                 21.0                21.4                 20.9                 21.1

2010 Senior Scholars                         28                    24.9                28.1                 25.9                 26.9

2010 School Average                         20.7                 20                   20.9                  20.2                20.6

2010 State Average                            20.1                 19.9                20.6                  20.2                20.3

2010 National Average                      20.5                 21.0                21.3                  20.9                21.0

(Averages are based on highest score of each student in each subject area.)

Students who participate in the Senior Scholars Program take their participation seriously and discuss their decision with parents or guardians.  The decision is then shared with the student’s faculty advisor.  In the end, this collaborative decision-making ensures that all participants are stakeholders in the program.

For more information on Valley Springs’ Senior Scholars Program or to get connected with folks in the program, please contact the Center for Midwestern Initiatives at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .