In a wide-ranging discussion with two long-time Hope friends during the keynote “conversation” of the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet April 6, former President Bill Clinton emphasized innovation in education currently reflected by two initiatives in the Hope Public Schools.
Clinton, along with long-time friend Joe Purivs, a former deputy attorney general in the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office when Clinton served as Arkansas governor; and Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III, childhood friend and former White House Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration, reminisced at length concerning their formative years in Hope.
“I think I would have been the education governor of Arkansas had I not been elected president,” Clinton noted.
He said meaningful economic development for the state and for Hope hinged then, as now, upon education, recalling the foundation education he received in Hot Springs, and Purvis and McLarty in Hope.
Clinton tied that foundation to the importance of the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana for Southwest Arkansas.
“You have got all you need here at this university,” he said. “I’m telling you, this is by far the most important asset you’ve got.”
Developing partnerships between business and public education has become increasingly important, Clinton said; in part, to provide an understanding of real-world opportunities for students. That was the reason why Clinton sought to bring the best ideas from elsewhere to Arkansas.
“I wasn’t too proud to copy,” he quipped.
McLarty picked up the theme by pointing out that the Hope Public School District has done the same thing in developing the Hope Academy of Public Service and the UAHT-based Hope Collegiate Academy.
“You have that, Mister President, in the Hope Academy of Public Service, which was a partnership with the Clinton School; and, the Hope Collegiate Academy on this campus,” McLarty said.
Now in its third year of operation, HAPS was developed through a direct partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock partially through the research of a team of Clinton School graduate students.
Developed as a grades 5-8 “college ready” concept, the model was praised by Clinton School Dean J. L. “Skip” Rutherford in its development.
“This model, the HAPS model, has the potential to inspire students in a way they haven’t been inspired before,” Rutherford said at the time.
The HCA is currently in its “pilot” year on the UAHT campus, and is expected to enroll its first full class in the fall.
Based upon a successful model at Northwest Florida State College, the HCA represents a next step for Hope High School students who want to go to college by creating a “total immersion” college experience that begins with transition in the 10th grade year and becomes a complete college-level course of study in grades 11 and 12.
Students graduating from HHS through the program can receive a two-year degree from UAHT free of cost that makes them eligible to enter any four-year college or university in Arkansas at the third year, or “junior”, level.
“I think you have a lot of pathways toward education,” McLarty said of the two concepts.
Clinton agreed with McLarty that the development of innovations in small school districts such as Hope have the potential to show local students their ability to control their future, while not giving up a community environment.
“Find something where we might hit gold; we might define the future, and kids can stay home and build something beautiful,” Clinton said.