A building that was originally built by Red River Vo-Tech students got a rebirth of sorts Friday on the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope campus as the new UACCH Student Success Center.

A building that was originally built by Red River Vo-Tech students got a rebirth of sorts Friday on the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope campus as the new UACCH Student Success Center. “We are glad that this program is on campus,” UACCH Chancellor Chris Thomason said. “A lot of students have found success in their higher education because of the Career Pathways program. We are happy that we have such good leadership in this building and we hope that everyone involved has continued success.” Dr. Claudia Griffin, director of Career Pathways at UACCH, took the microphone and explained her history in Southwest Arkansas. “This building is where I taught Adult Basic Education the year Chancellor Thomason was born,” she said. “It is sort of where Ramona's (Brown) office is now. “For 63 years, Southwest Arkansas has been my home,” she said. “Hope has been my home for 44 years and the chancellor can tell you how long it's been since I first taught here. Even when I worked in other places, I called this area home. “Six years ago, I left the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to come to UACCH to set up the Career Pathways initiative,” Griffin said. “It was against the advice of my friends. They didn't think it was a good career move. It wasn't, of course. But that was just one reason not to come, and I now have at least 1,557 reasons to come. “That, Dr. Rosa, is the number of students this program has served in the six years of existence,” Griffin said. “And, I use the words 'at least' because you know that it is not only the lives of those 1,500 students who have been changed, but the lives of their children and their families that have been changed. “That is the dream that you and Dr. Linda Beene had when you first wrote the grant,” Griffin added. “And, Chancellor, it may just be coincidence, but the first year of the program, enrollment at UACCH jumped. After the rest of the college adopted parts of our model, college retention and graduation rates increased. “There are more students to come as long as this program is funded,” Griffin said. “With this fabulous staff, success will continue. I'm speaking of Ramona Brown, administrative assistant and my right hand; Sonya Thomas, counselor and my second in command; Linda Waller, a former school teacher, who is now a counselor, and Karen O'Dell, who we stole from another area of the college and who is in charge of the books and equipment we loan. She is also in charge of the computer lab, and employment assistance. “Most of the students who use this building are successful,” she said. “Even though they have so many barriers to success, their retention rate is about the same as the college as a whole, and that's just counting college-recognized credentials,” Griffin explained. “It isn't counting employability certificates or Career Readiness certificates.” “These 1,500 students have so far earned 210 Associates' degrees; almost 300 Technical Certificates; almost 300 Certificates of Proficiency; over 250 Career Readiness Certificates; 130 Employability Certificate; five GEDs,” she said. “That totals almost 1,200 awards for 1,500 students.” With those statistics, she introduced Dr. Karon Rosa, the director of Career Pathways for the state of Arkansas, and the writer of the original grant for the program. “In our line of work, we focus on knowledge economy,” Rosa said. “You have to have some kind of education in today's world. There are currently 27,000 students enrolled the Career Pathways Program in the state, and did you know that Career Pathway students have a 17 percent higher success rate in college? We are proud of the program here and have seen many successes take place.” Thomason then made an announcement that shocked the crowd; that Griffin had announced her retirement, effective May 17. “We have been fortunate to have Dr. Griffin as the head of this program and we will really miss her when she leaves,” Thomason said. “She is going to have another position—it's called retired and we wish her the best.”