EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — According to the Executive Director of the El Dorado Education Foundation (EDEF) Lila Phillips, the El Dorado Promise scholarship will hold the 2022 Academic Signing Day (ASD) on Wednesday, April 20, at 1:00 p.m., in the El Dorado High School (EHS) Wildcat Arena.

Academic Signing Day will recognize the 15th anniversary of the El Dorado Promise scholarship, celebrating around 300 graduating seniors receiving the Promise scholarship. Begun by Murphy Oil Corporation, the full scholarship covers tuition and mandatory fees at any accredited two or four-year post-secondary institution, up to the cost at the most expensive public university in Arkansas.

“Fifteen years ago, we had the opportunity to impact a whole region in an extraordinarily constructive and positive way. What’s better than to help send someone to college who otherwise couldn’t afford it?” Chairman of the Board of Directors for Murphy Oil Corporation Claiborne Deming stated.

Through the years, more than 3,000 Promise Scholars have attended 157 colleges and universities in 35 different states, he added.

“The scholarship program greatly enhances our town. It’s a positive addition to the area and to the many efforts being made here,” Deming said. “The Promise has improved college enrollment rates, revitalized schools, and is a catalyst for additional economic development. As more students graduate and go on to find fulfillment in their lives, the Promise has a greater affect each year.”

The keynote speaker for the 2022 Academic Signing Day will be Destinee Rogers, head coach of the Arkansas State University (ASU) women’s basketball program. The event also will be a homecoming for Rogers. Almost four years ago, she was former head women’s basketball coach for the El Dorado Wildcats, and taught some EHS students who are now seniors.

Head Coach of the Arkansas State University (ASU) women’s basketball program, Destinee Rodgers

“In our celebration of Academic Signing Day, we greatly appreciate Murphy Oil Corporation and the El Dorado Promise, which mean so much to us,” El Dorado School District (ESD) Superintendent Jim Tucker said. “We welcome Destinee Rogers back to campus, as she also provides forward-thinking postsecondary and life achievement advice for our students.”

The district continuously works to add to a college-going culture.

“This year, Hugh Goodwin Elementary was recognized as a national Blue Ribbon School, for overall academic performance by the United States Department of Education,” Tucker said.

According to EHS Principal Sherry Hill, in overall academic performance, in 2021, EHS received a prestigious award as one of the Best High Schools in the United States, from U.S. News and World Report.

“These are among the most important of the school and district’s many educational achievements,” Hill said. “While in El Dorado, Coach Rogers also always emphasized the importance of academics, and that athletes were student athletes. I enjoyed working with her when she was the Lady Cats Head Coach and I was principal at Barton, and I am excited to see her bring this message to our students at EHS.”

According to Phillips, at ASU, Rogers is the first African-American woman head coach in the university’s athletics history, being named head coach in March. A native of Strong, her father is a basketball coach, as was her grandfather. Under Rogers’ leadership, the ASU Red Wolves had a successful season, closing with an 82-75 road victory at eventual Sun Belt Conference tournament champion University of Texas (UT) at Arlington. She joined the program in 2019 as an assistant coach, before being elevated to associate head coach, then interim head coach.

For El Dorado, Rogers served as women’s head basketball coach from 2016 until 2019. During those three seasons, she guided the Wildcats to a 52-28 record, including a state semifinal finish. Rogers’ first coaching assignment came at her alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). Rogers earned both a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences there.

“Destinee is a longtime friend and a coach I look up to,” EHS Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Ashlee Curtis said. “She will always be a big part of the Lady Cats. It says a lot that she can take time from her history-making schedule to come back and speak to our kids at EHS.”

According to El Dorado Promise Director Sylvia Thompson, after graduation, Promise Scholars from EHS have completed studies from most Arkansas public and private universities, as well as 39 out-of-state institutions. Currently, they are attending 70 post-secondary institutions.

“75 percent of last year’s Promise graduates have been accepted to college, which is higher than both state and national averages,” Thompson said.

Alice Mahony is the vice-president and co-founder of the El Dorado Education Foundation (EDEF).

“The Promise has positively affected students’ college attainment goals,” Mahony said.

According to Phillips, El Dorado High School offers 20 AP (Advanced Placement) and seven concurrent credit courses, with a 1:1 technology-to-student ratio. The El Dorado School District also includes 70 AP/Pre-AP teachers.

“With the endowed chair program, a partnership with the foundation, pre-AP courses for math, science, and literacy currently begin at the fifth-grade level,” Mahony said.

El Dorado Promise Scholars can attend any accredited two or four-year college or university in the United States. As a universal, place-based scholarship, any EHS graduate enrolled since at least the ninth grade can receive a college scholarship, with no high school GPA, income limit, or competitive application required. Graduates joining the military begin scholarships after completing one enlistment period.

For 2022, students will sign academic letters of intent to attend 26 separate institutions. They have been accepted at the following in-state colleges and universities:

  • Arkansas State University.
  • Arkansas Tech University.
  • Harding University.
  • Henderson State University.
  • National Park Community College.
  • South Arkansas Community College.
  • Southern Arkansas University.
  • Southern Arkansas University Tech.
  • 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.

Out-of-state colleges and universities acceptances are:

  • California Polytechnic University.
  • Crowder College.
  • Grambling State University.
  • Lamar University.
  • Louisiana Tech University.
  • Mississippi State University.
  • Oklahoma State University.
  • Prairie View A & M University.
  • Texas A &M University.
  • Tufts University.
  • University of Georgia.
  • University of Tulsa.
  • Vanderbilt University.

Academic Signing Day’s title sponsor is First Financial Bank. The event is a partnership of EDEF, ESD, Murphy Oil Corporation, and the El Dorado Promise.

Other partners are:

  • South Arkansas Community College (SACC).
  • El Dorado News-Times.
  • Southern Sass Image and Design.
  • Purely Creative.
  • Art Attack.

Academic Signing Day committee members are:

  • Chair Alice Mahony.
  • Jim Tucker.
  • Sherry Hill.
  • Beth Weldon.
  • Sylvia Thompson.
  • Steven Jones.
  • Lila Phillips.
  • Michael Brooks.
  • DeAnthony Curtis.
  • Ashlee Curtis.

For further information about Academic Signing Day, please contact EDEF by sending an email to edef@arkansas.net.