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Featured | NewsFebruary 21, 2023

UAFS Offers Unique Summer Program for High School Juniors

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High school juniors considering a career in early childhood education have a new opportunity to learn, earn college credits, and receive a stipend thanks to an innovative program at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.

Students who attend the CDA Summer Academy will spend five weeks living on campus, working in local early childhood centers, and attending classes. Up to 25 students can participate at no cost to them or their families. Each student will receive a $1,500 stipend each summer.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our high school students all over the state,” said Dr. Shelli Henehan, professor, coordinator of assessment, and director of Early Childhood Development at UAFS. “We are the only institution in the state offering this.”

During the five-week term, students will spend their mornings at local early childhood centers and afternoons in classes.

A grant for more than $574,000 from the Arkansas Early Childhood Association’s T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program means the program is free to students.

Students who attend the academy for two summers will earn a Certificate of Proficiency in Early Childhood Education from UAFS. By the end of the second summer, they will have met the course requirement of a Childhood Development Associate credential from the national CDA credentialing program, and they will have 200 hours in child center experience.

“We hope they will continue pursuing hours in their hometown centers to reach the 480 hours of experience needed to complete the credential,” Henehan said.

Students will live on campus, with meals, snacks, and swag bags provided. In addition to taking part in fun outings in the evenings, students will receive a mileage stipend for their travel home on Fridays and their return on Sundays.

They will earn 13 college credit hours by the end of the second summer. While on campus, students will use a laptop computer they can keep if they complete the second summer. Course textbooks are provided, and the students may keep them.

In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, CDA Summer Academy students will be charged with setting up the Little Lions Child Development Center on the UAFS campus.

In September, UAFS announced that a partnership with the Arkansas Department of Human Services would bring in $1 million to create and staff an on-campus early childhood center. At the time, Henehan said the center would serve 42 children 3 years and younger. The AECA grant funding the summer academy also includes $50,000 in materials for the Little Lions Child Development Center.

Henehan said the summer academy was the brainchild of Ronnette Haynes, instructor and coaching coordinator of Early Childhood and Preschool in the UAFS School of Education.


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