ARKADELPHIA, AR – More than 100 Arkadelphia High seniors will have college tuition paid for next year. It's called the Arkadelphia Promise, a scholarship program to offset the rising costs of higher education.
It's a day Matt McClenahan was not sure would come.
"Unbelievable, words can't capture, it finally hit me today. It's been hard to hold back the tears and the excitement," McClenahan says.
His daughter Katie, one of 110 seniors part of the inaugural Arkadelphia Promise, that combined with the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, fully covers college tuition.
"We've all worried about how I'm going to be able to go to college,” Katie McClenahan says. “So being able to get the Arkadelphia Promise, the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship, and I also got another scholarship today, it's really amazing and it's a big burden taken off of me."
Wednesday marked a signing ceremony symbolizing the commitment from each student to higher education but it sounded a lot more like a graduation day.
"Don’t be lazy, work hard," Rep. Mike Ross (D)-Arkansas says.
"Remember this day in the next four or five years when life gets hard and things look bleak,” Arkadelphia High principal David Maxwell added. “You are the promise, stay the course."
Of the more than 100 seniors getting an Arkadelphia Promise scholarship, 60 are going to stay right here and go to Henderson State University.
“It's helping everybody, not just the kids and that's better growth for all," McClenahan says.
Because Dad knows what college would look like without it.
"Scholarships, work hard, debt. Plain & simple," McClenahan says.
College debt, one less burden Katie will have to face.
The academic requirements for the Arkadelphia Promise are in line with the Academic Challenge Scholarship, a 19 on the ACT or a 2.5 GPA.
The Arkadelphia Promise pays tuition and fees to any accredited 2 or 4-year university in the United States.
The scholarship is funded by Southern Bancorp and Ross Foundation of Arkadelphia and is available only to graduates of Arkadelphia High School.
This will be the first class of students to take advantage of the scholarship program, which was announced last November
Both Governor Mike Beebe and Congressman Mike Ross were in attendance at the ceremony.