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In response to a downward trend of non-traditional enrollment, specifically with African American females, South Arkansas Community College recruiter Irene Porchia has teamed up with women from area churches.

The enrollment percentage of African Americans increased slightly from spring 2017 to fall 2017. Though the numbers of African American and Hispanic females enrolled went up, the number of non-traditionally aged African American females went down, according to a board report by Provost Jim Bullock.

“The best way to get into the African American community is through our African American churches … We know that right now the ladies are the majority in the church. So we knew the ladies would make a great impact in our community,” Porchia said. “We chose mission presidents, first ladies, any lady that was over a women’s organization in the church so we could get into the church that would be our liaisons.”

Porchia said she complied a list of churches in town and sent out invitations so female church leaders could meet with the college president, division deans and program heads to inform them about opportunities SouthArk has. Churches involved so far include Zion Watch Baptist Church, St. James Baptist Church and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Strong, she said.

According to Bullock’s board report, 30 distinguished women attended the first meeting in August, with many others sending their support.

After touring the campuses and getting information from the college at two meetings, the distinguished ladies take on the task of coordinating with their pastors to plan events where SouthArk representatives and corporate partners like Arkansas Rehab and state WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) staff can host college fairs and question-answer sessions, she said.

“As we go out to these churches we want to present SouthArk as a team. West Campus, East Campus, we’re one big team … People in our community they don’t know they suffer with high blood pressure, with other illnesses, WIOA or Arkansas Rehab will pay for that. They have a youth program where 16-24 (year olds) if they didn’t finish school, they pay them to come back to SouthArk to go to school.”

The first event, SouthArk on Tour event was held last week at St. James Baptist Church. Parents learned about concurrent credit and prospective students received information about the college’s different programs. Porchia said she looks forward to hosting more events.

“SouthArk has done something similar as far as going into the schools. Since they had, I thought I would pull from that and do ‘SouthArk on Tour’ into the churches,” Porchia said. “Pastor (George) Calloway welcomed us in his church. His church family was awesome. We had it set up like a college fair where they would introduced themselves and I would talk a little bit about what I do as a non-traditional student recruiter, we would disperse and they would go to their tables.”

Ultimately, the Distinguished Ladies Group’s goals align with Porchia’s — to inform church members about the college and encourage the community to enroll in classes, she said.

“We want to motivate our people so that we can educate them and then we can celebrate what’s being done in their lives,” Porchia said. “Me, as a non-traditional student recruiter, that’s my job to get out there, get our non-traditional students and say to them ‘We’re here for you. We’re not just a school. We’re part of this community and we want you all to realize that we’re in this together.’”

Porchia said the program is open to all distinguished church women, not just African Americans. For more information about the group or SouthArk On Tour, contact her at 870-864-7113 or

Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.

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