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J. Austin White Cultural Center

 

 

The J. Austin White Cultural Center provides exposure to music, art, theater and other similar educational experiences and activities to the children and young adults of Southeast Arkansas, an isolated area lacking in cultural diversity and metropolitan resources. At JAWCC, we firmly believe the children and young adults who participate in our programs will be the future leaders and innovators who will grow and strengthen Eudora. Our organization’s mission is to assist young people in finding their hidden strengths and talents, allowing them to grow and flourish into responsible, cultured adults who give back to their community.

We believe our organization can only achieve our mission and stay true to our vision when the entire community of Eudora sees JAWCC as a resource for all. For this reason, almost every program offered at JAWCC is free of charge, and we work hard to make sure there are as few barriers as possible for any and all who want to participate. JAWCC is known not only for our afterschool and summer programming for kids, but it’s also a part-time Zumba studio, a karate dojo, a place to get free WiFi, and a gathering place for class and family reunions. The core of our programming revolves around providing year-long activities and resources for all school-age children and young adults. This includes after school arts and science activities for kids in K-8th grade, and tutoring, ACT prep and our Youth Council program for students in 9th-12th grade. JAWCC also provides programming during school breaks with our Spring Break Camp and Summer Camp. This summer will mark our eighth year putting on our Arts and Exploration Summer Camp, a free, all-day summer camp for participants in K-8th grade, which typically serves over 100 children from Eudora and Chicot County.

Freedom Summer Collegiate provides our high school participants with an amazing opportunity for personal and academic growth. Freedom Summer Collegiate’s presence in Eudora is such an important means for connecting our talented kids with access and opportunity to diverse learning opportunities and scholastic skills they lack. Participating in these courses and interacting with Freedom Summer Collegiate instructors give our kids not only important experience in intellectual discussion, analysis and critical thinking, but often the motivation and inspiration to expand their choice in college and the majors they want to study. JAWCC exists to provide diverse programming and ideas to an area that can easily be considered isolated and lacking in resources, and the diversity of thought and experience Freedom Summer Collegiate instructors bring to their work with our students helps to bridge the resource gap that exists in rural, ArkLaMiss Delta towns like ours.

 
Eudora, Arkansas

Eudora, Arkansas

CHallenges

Due to state mandated school closures a little over a decade ago, students in Eudora attend school at Lakeside High School in Lake Village from fourth grade on. This is significant because this means students spend an hour or more on the bus to and from school each day. It also means families who live in Eudora face more challenges attending parent teacher conferences, performances and sporting events because of distance and transportation difficulties. Lakeside High School is a Title I school, with 99% of the student population qualifying for free/reduced-price lunches. The school is also heavily segregated by race, as evidenced by the disparity between racial demographics of the school and the county. The average ACT score for Lakeside students is 16.2, two points lower than the state average and four points lower than the national average. State testing shows 26% of students tested scoring proficient in English,and 13% of students tested scored proficient in math. 20% of the around 40 teachers at Lakeside High School are in their first or second year of teaching  Lakeside High School does have a relatively high graduation rate (92.7%, state average is 87.4%) but has a relatively low college-going rate of 34.2% (state rate is 50.1%). Only about 3% of Lakeside students are enrolled in AP courses, and Lakeside offers only 2 AP courses both in English. With no AP math or science classes offered, there are very few STEM opportunities for students.

 
It’s incredibly easy to list the problems and challenges that face young people in Eudora, and Southeast Arkansas as whole.There’s a lot of “lack of…” - like lack of transportation, lack of resources, lack of funding, lack of interest, lack of afterschool activities, lack of time, lack of teachers, and honestly, I could go on for a very long time. For me, the lack of opportunities that existed for my students was (and is) a particularly pressing problem. As convinced as I am of Southeast Arkansas’ deficits, I am equally, if not more, convinced that our students are incredibly talented, intelligent, funny, and deserving of opportunities to learn, explore and grow.

For far longer than the 2 years I have been the Executive Director, JAWCC has worked to provide these opportunities out of the belief that our kids deserve the same experiences and chances as those who live in a different state, bigger city or a richer zip code. I’ve seen how participating in Youth Council, JAWCC’s Acting Collegiate trips and Freedom Summer Collegiate have grown my students’ confidence in their intelligence and capabilities, and motivated them to set personal and academic goals for themselves they previously thought were out of reach. Watching them recognize and harness their talents and strengths keeps me here, and reminds me how important JAWCC is to our kids and this area, because the lack ofs aren’t going away, but neither are the kids deserving of opportunities. Eudora is not without its challenges, but I’ve grown to love and admire the resiliency, humor and spirit of this community, and particularly, of the kids JAWCC’s programs serve. I can’t wait for you to join us in Eudora and continue to create opportunities for our students and community.
 

What COURSES WE'RE INTERESTED IN

Our students have shown the most enthusiasm for courses that increase their writing skills, emphasize critical thinking, allow for the exploration of race and culture, hone their debate and discussion skills, and challenge them to think and ask questions outside of their own worldview. Our students are fascinated and captivated by courses that challenge their thinking and knowledge of the world, and allow them to explore beyond their small town. Freedom Summer Collegiate courses should both expand students’ perspectives and build academic skills, while showing them how and why being a critical thinker with worldly perspective can positively impact their lives.

 

Where You'd Live: Lake Village, Arkansas

Lake Chicot in Lake Village, Arkansas

Lake Chicot in Lake Village, Arkansas

Freedom Summer Collegiate instructors will reside about 16 miles from Eudora in Lake Village, a town located on the banks of Lake Chicot (the largest natural oxbow lake in North America). Like Eudora, Lake Village is a rural town. There are numerous advantages to living in Lake Village--along with being scenically beautiful, Lake Village is a (slightly) larger town and provides more access to restaurants, grocery stores, and things to do. Past instructors have utilized the hiking trails and swimming pool at Lake Chicot State Park as well as enjoyed the popular free workout classes and equipment available at Lake Village’s Community Center. Additionally, Lake Village is only 20 miles from Greenville, Mississippi, which offers more in the way of groceries, shopping, restaurants and entertainment, like Mighty Mississippi Brewing Co., the historic Doe’s Eat Place, and the delicious Downtown Grille. There are a number of historical sites and museums that offer fascinating, and often little known, insights into the life and culture of the ArkLaMiss Delta, like the WWII Japanese-American Internment Museum in nearby McGehee, Arkansas, Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, Arkansas or the Winterville Mounds site in Greenville, Mississippi. Living in Lake Village gives instructors several logistical advantages, including access to beautiful Lake Chicot, and the chance to experience not just one, but two close-knit Arkansas communities.