southark-internYou never know where an internship might lead.

One of the first students to be a part of the SouthArk Works program, Kourtney Castillo so impressed her supervisors at Great Lakes Solutions that she recently was offered a full-time position as the industrial plant’s storeroom coordinator just a month into her internship.

The 20-year-old accounting major at South Arkansas Community College happily accepted, although she will return to classes in the spring to wrap up a technical certificate.

“She is a good egg,” Great Lakes Solutions human resource manager Erin Packwood said. “She started with an internship position in the storeroom; we were simply interested in giving a bright, talented individual some work experience.

“An opportunity arose and she applied for the [permanent] position through the normal process and proper channels. She was part of a fairly large candidate pool and made it through our selection process.”

It actually was Castillo’s second internship through SouthArk Works, an internship program still in its infancy after getting all wheels on the ground in the spring semester of 2014. After her first internship wrapped in the summer, she sought out a second, landed at Great Lakes Solutions and “blew the socks off” of her bosses.

Her maturity, aplomb, intelligence, work ethic and ability to learn quickly are evident, even though, at 20, Castillo said that she’s young for the job. She didn’t even know what a “gasket” was before taking the position, but deals in them regularly now. As the storeroom coordinator, she is a key cog in the wheel of the facility.

“I’m probably the youngest they ever hired for that position, but that just means I’ll be there that much longer,” Castillo, who is both a wife of three years and a mother to a toddler, said. “It’s interesting. It’s like manning a parts store, just in a plant, and basically the inventory part of accounting. It’s an important job because if they need a part and we haven’t stocked it, that could cause down time or other problems.”

Castillo was quick to point to SouthArk Works as a big reason why she was able to land the position.

“If I hadn’t had the internship during inventory, I wouldn’t have gotten the job,” she said.

For more information about SouthArk Works, contact Sue Bowman at

tucker-kimberly-w250South Arkansas Community College Phi Theta Kappa President Kimberly Tucker has been selected as a 2014 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar.

This scholarship is designed to provide new Phi Theta Kappa members with financial resources to help defray educational expenses while enrolled in a two-year college.

This year’s recipients were selected by a panel of independent judges from more than 900 applicants, selected based on academic achievement and leadership. They receive $1,000 scholarships.

Tucker, a teacher education major who has a 4.0 grade-point average, also was selected as this year’s Academic All-Star at SouthArk.

Marcus Morris, a computer information technology major at South Arkansas Community College, has accepted a Simmons First Bank Endowed Scholarship to attend the college this fall.

At SouthArk he is a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

smith chrisChris Smith of El Dorado has accepted a Jodie Mahony Endowed Scholarship to attend South Arkansas Community College in the fall.
The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

jones ChristineChristine Jones of Strong, an accounting major at South Arkansas Community College, has accepted a Michael Mahony Bancorp South Endowed Scholarship to attend the school in the fall.
She is a member of Phi Beta Lambda and a 2009 graduate of El Dorado High School.
The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

Alice Winchester, a respiratory therapy major at South Arkansas Community College, has accepted a Health Science Scholarship to attend the school in the fall.
She is the treasurer of Phi Theta Kappa and a member of Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

Amanda Hargett, a 2010 graduate of Light Brigade Christian Academy, has accepted a Robert R. Brown Jr. Scholarship to attend South Arkansas Community College in the fall.
The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

Jay Brown, a 2011 graduate of El Dorado High School, has accepted a James M. Moore Jr. Endowed Scholarship to attend South Arkansas Community College in the fall.
He is the son of Jody and Brandy Brown of El Dorado.
The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

Angela McLelland of Junction City, a physical therapist assistance major at South Arkansas Community College, has accepted a Charles E. Cowger Endowed Scholarship to attend the school in the fall.

She is a 2002 graduate of Junction City High School and a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

Victoria Bryan, an early-childhood education major at South Arkansas Community College, has accepted a Mabel Stratton Powell Endowed Scholarship for the fall semester.

She is a 2013 graduate of Farmerville (La.) High School and a member of Phi Beta Lambda at SouthArk. She is the daughter of Barry Bryan and Tina Koonce, both of Spearsville, La.

The scholarship is funded through the SouthArk Foundation.

A dance, dinner, and an auction will be among the festivities as the South Arkansas Community College Foundation hosts An Evening with the Stars, honoring a special Friend of the College and Distinguished Alumni.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. on May 2, 2014 at the El Dorado Conference Center.
Friend of the College William R. Howard, and Distinguished Alumni Melissa Jerry and Greg Taylor will be honored.
"The SouthArk Foundation board of directors is honored to once again celebrate the support and accomplishments of our 'Stars'—important figures who have helped make this educational institution vibrant and solid," Foundation president Greg Withrow said. "In addition to acknowledging our honorees, we invite the community to join us for a delicious meal, bid on outstanding auction items, enjoy the smooth jazz tunes of Dr. John and Julie Spencer, and have a great time dancing to popular old school and new rhythm and blues dance favorites with Charley Hankins' band, Sonic Groove." The event will feature a live auction with seasoned auctioneer Bruce Maloch.
Event chair Robin Carroll said, "The Foundation supports a broad number of teaching and learning initiatives. This event will give the community a chance to learn more about the Foundation, the good work it has done, and its plans for the future."
Central to the night's events will be the honorees. "We look forward to acknowledging the philanthropic work of William R. Howard and celebrating the achievements of our outstanding alumni, Melissa Jerry and Greg Taylor. These individuals will be written into the college's history," college President Dr. Barbara Jones said.
William R. Howard is a long-time resident of Arkansas. Born and raised in Hampton, he served in the 3rd Army Headquarters in England under General Patton in World War II and crossed the English Channel 12 days after D-Day. Shortly after the war, he met his wife, the late Cacilia Howard, in Germany, where he lived for three years.
Mr. Howard graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. He and Mrs. Howard relocated to El Dorado after he graduated college, and both worked at the Lion Oil Company.
Avid water skiers, scuba divers, duck-deer-and-squirrel hunters, and all-around outdoor sportspersons, the Howards spent many years traveling the world, enjoying many exciting adventures. They did numerous dives in shipwrecks in Mexico, where they were in a scuba diving movie, "Five Fathoms to a Ship's Grave." Mr. Howard donated a coral collection to South Arkansas Community College, which he retrieved while diving in the Caribbean Sea.
At age 90, Mr. Howard still loves to load his four-wheeler on this truck and ride the piney woods of his south Arkansas property.
Mr. Howard truly is a part of SouthArk, where he has befriended numerous college staff and employees. He recently took part in a documentary film on World War II, a project of the college's Performing and Media Arts program. A major contributor to the efforts of the SouthArk Foundation, Heritage Plaza on SouthArk's West Campus will be named in honor of Mr. Howard and his late wife Cacilia.
The Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to two individuals who have excelled in their field and given back to their community.
Melissa Jerry is the chief financial officer at First Financial Bank in El Dorado, a position that she has held with distinction since 1999. Prior to that she was the internal auditor at National Bank of Commerce in 1988-1992, vice president and controller in 1992-1995, senior vice president and controller in 1995-1998, and senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1998-1999.
A Huttig native, Ms. Jerry is a 1988 graduate of Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia with a bachelor's degree in accounting, a 1985 graduate of SAU-El Dorado with an associate's degree in liberal arts, and a 1974 graduate of Strong High School. She also is a certified public accountant, having been licensed in 1990, and a 1990 graduate of the Bank Administration Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. Her combination of intelligence, integrity, and impressive ability earned her the distinguished nomination for Arkansas Business' 2012 chief financial officer of the year award in the large bank category.
A dedicated community leader with a strong business acumen, Ms. Jerry has passionately supported many community organizations. She is generous with her time and consistently provides exemplary leadership in all her projects. She has has served as the past-chair of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and previously was on the boards of the Union County Community Foundation Board and El Dorado Habitat for Humanity. She also is a former commissioner of El Dorado Water Utilities. She serves on the SouthArk Foundation Board of Directors as the treasurer and finance committee chair. In this position, she has provided expert knowledge and support in the Foundation's financial operations. Ms. Jerry's significant contributions to education and her outstanding career accomplishments have brought honor and distinction to her employers, our community, and SouthArk.
Greg Taylor is the corporate environmental, health, and safety director of training at Martin Resource Management Corporation. Through hard work and determination, he has achieved the assignment of training over 2,900 employees. In his career in training, spanning more than 25 years, he previously was the environmental health and safety training manager at Great Lakes Solutions- South Arkansas Operations, an operations trainer at Lion Oil, and the lead trainer for the Century Telephone-Alltel acquisition.
A native of Spearsville, Louisiana, Mr. Taylor was a satellite communications specialist in the U.S. Air Force during the first Gulf War in 1990. He is a 1989 graduate of Spearsville High School. He is a 2013 summa cum laude graduate of SouthArk with an associate's degree in process technology.
As chair of the SouthArk process technology advisory committee, Mr. Taylor has been the leading force in advising and building this program. With determination and exemplary leadership, he has created a strong collaborative spirit with south Arkansas business and industry, and has forged the way in organizing and implementing a three-day training for local industry for new-hire process operators. This new program has met with rave reviews from business and industry partners across south Arkansas. Additionally, he is the industry chair of South West Arkansas Community College Consortium, Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership grant, an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.
His colleagues note with admiration his passion to see people improve in skill and knowledge and his strong desire to continuously shape the future excellence of the process technology industry in our community.
Tickets for the evening gala are $125 and may be purchased on line at or by calling (870) 864-7130. Proceeds benefit the Foundation, which supports college goals and projects, and provides student scholarships.

Arts in April, the annual South Arkansas Community College celebration of the arts in all of its various forms, will include six different events throughout the month. All are free to attend.

Local poet Jim Barton, who has won nearly 400 awards since 2006, will speak about the creative process and read some of his own works, including poems from his latest book "Dirty Little Town," at 12:15 p.m. on April 10 in the Cypress-Oak Room at the El Dorado Conference Center.

SouthArk music professor Victoria Harden will present an organ recital at 7:30 p.m. on April 11 at First Presbyterian Church. She will play from the works of Kenneth Leighton, Caesar Franck, Johann Sebastian Bach, Nicolaus Bruhns and Charles Marie Widor; the performance will be followed by a reception, hosted by the SouthArk Foundation, in the church fellowship hall.

Broadway actor and singer Craig Schulman, the director and star of the local production of "Les Miserables," will discuss his theatrical career at 12:15 p.m. on April 15 in the Cypress-Oak Room at the El Dorado Conference Center. Schulman has appeared in the lead roles of "Jekyll and Hyde," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables."

The spring recital for SouthArk music students will be at 12:15 p.m. on April 24 in the west concourse of the El Dorado Conference Center.

SouthArk visual art students will have an exhibit and sale in the El Dorado Conference Center on April 24-29.

The 17th annual Writers' Ink awards ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on April 27 in Murphy Hall at the conference center. About 375 Union County high-school students participated in the creative-writing contest; the work of 46 were selected for publication in the Writers' Ink literary magazine, which is published by the college, edited by the SouthArk faculty and judged by members of the faculty and staff. A reception will follow the ceremony.

For more about Arts in April, contact liberal arts dean Phil Ballard at (870) 864-7156.

arts in april   harden

The South Arkansas Community College Foundation has launched the Buy a Brick...Leave a Legacy campaign for William R. and Cacilia Howard Heritage Plaza.

Inscribed with the name of your choice, each brick is available for a $100 tax-deductible contribution, and will be laid in the plaza on the college's West Campus.

This site has been used for educational purposes dating back to prior to the Civil War, and once was the home of El Dorado High School, among other institutions.

For more information, contact the foundation office at (870) 864-7106 or

 view-1-with-trees  view-2-with-trees

The groundbreaking ceremony for Heritage Plaza, the beautifcation project at South Arkansas Community College's West Campus, will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 16. The public is invited to attend.

The plaza will be a green space that reflects on the historical significance of the block between West and Summit Avenues and Block and Wesson Streets, which has had a lengthy tenure of use for educational purposes dating back to the Civil War days and prior, and is well-remembered as a former location of El Dorado High School.

Named in honor of El Dorado's Bill Howard and his late wife Cacilia Howard, the plaza is expected to be complete by early summer, but fundraising continues. About $520,000 has been raised toward the goal of $700,000. When finished the area will have a tree-lined pathway, grassy areas, a fountain (convertible to a stage) and park benches.

Contributions still are being accepted and naming opportunities still are available; contact Cynthia Reyna at or (870) 864-7106 for more information.