More than 200 incoming freshmen were welcomed this past weekend to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to begin the Learning Institute and Opportunities for New Students (LIONS) program. They have been arriving since the last of June and were officially welcomed to campus with an opening assembly. Now in its eighth year, the students participating in the program are some of the most diverse yet. According LIONS program director Carolyn Mills, participants represent 18 states around the U.S. Regardless of background, her hope is that each student gains more academic preparedness.
“The LIONS program has a retention rate twice that of the general student body,” Mills said. “In addition to getting ahead on their studies, we hope they will have 200 best friends by the end of the program.”
Rosilyn Robinson came to Arkansas five years ago from Las Vegas with her son, Dartanian. She was interested in the program because it offers academic help for her son and helps him get a head start.
“I really appreciate the program,” she said. “We’re excited to see what comes out of this.”
Aaron Smith, a sophomore industrial technology major with an emphasis in manufacturing, is a 2013 LIONS alum and is working in the program this year as a residential assistant.
“The LIONS program gave me an extra nudge in every aspect to become a better person,” Smith said. “I became involved with community service, learned to focus on my studies, network with others and communicate with different kinds of people.”
Ben and Rose McGee traveled from Magnolia, Arkansas to bring their great-granddaughter Arianna Reed to the program. Rose McGee said Arianna had offers from six other schools but wanted to come to UAPB because her great-grandparents were graduates of the institution.
“We’ve been bringing her to homecoming festivities since she was able to walk,” Ben McGee quipped. It was at last year’s homecoming alumni assembly that Arianna’s mother heard about the program and immediately wanted her to get involved.
“Coming to UAPB has always been a dream of mine,” Arianna Reed said. “The campus is beautiful and full of life. I am blessed beyond compare that this school offers my major, is not far from home, and has a summer program that sets my peers and myself up for success. Coming to UAPB means that you get a safe and friendly environment to learn. As a student, you can make long lasting friends and connections for your future endeavors.”
Reed also said that she feels like she has become a part of a family at UAPB and liked that everyone knows her name.
“It feels good knowing that when you walk into the classroom that your teacher knows you. You are not a number,” Reed said.
Now that the program has begun, students will be able to take six hours of courses, enjoy social and entertainment activities, attend tutoring sessions and engage in “College Knowledge” enrichment courses that discuss everything from time management to career planning. The program will end August 5th.
LIONS is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Post-Secondary Education, Strengthening Institutions, Title III, Part B, Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program. For more information, contact Carolyn Mills at 870.575.8362.