By Emily Banks Wooten
A kick-off ceremony was held Friday to formalize an agreement between Livingston High School (LHS) and Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) that will have far-reaching implications for local students for years to come.
LHS is one of 12 East Texas schools to be included in SFA’s Distinguished High School Program. Through the program, top-ranking LHS graduates will be automatically eligible for scholarships worth up to $20,000 at SFA as a result of a new partnership between the schools.
“We appreciate you coming on this special day,” LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said to a room full of LHS faculty and staff. “What do we do better than anybody else? We change lives. And we’re changing lives today.”
Hawkins referred to the dual credit courses offered—and paid for—by LISD, in which students may receive high school and college credits for various courses taken while at LHS. He also touched on the Green and White Scholarship Program whereby “well over three-quarters of a million dollars is pumped into education for our students.
“Today is kind of the third leg of that trilogy. In full disclosure, I’m a three-time Lumberjack so I may have a bias, but we couldn’t be any more excited about the vision and partnership for the students of Lion Country,” Hawkins said, as he introduced SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon.
“The students coming out of LHS have some tremendous benefits and here’s where it gets exciting. We want to put resources toward the students of LHS,” Gordon said. “LHS has sent us some tremendous students and we want to continue that. We’re extremely excited about this relationship. We’re excited about developing new partnerships. We’re proud to partner with LHS on this.”
Students from partner schools receive scholarship money for up to four years based on their class rank. Students ranking in the top 10% of their class will receive $5,000 per year and students ranking in the 11-25% of their class with a 3.0 GPA or higher will receive $3,000 per year.
In addition, SFA has waived the $50 application fee for all Livingston students, regardless of class rank, and seniors ranking in the top 30% of their class are guaranteed admission to SFA.
“At SFA, we are fully committed to student success and access, meaning we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to ensure Texans have affordable access to higher education,” Gordon said. “Our Distinguished High School Program recognizes hardworking high school students by helping them obtain their college degree in a more timely and affordable manner.”
Emma Brecht, SFA’s executive director for enrollment management, said, “Last year was the first year of our Distinguished High School Program. We dropped the $50 enrollment fee because sometimes that $50 can be a barrier.
“We asked ourselves ‘How can we be a bit more distinguished?’ We’ve always offered guaranteed admission to students who ranked in the top 25%. So we upped it to all students in the top 30%, regardless of test scores,” Brecht said.
“The exciting parts are those scholarship opportunities. You may ask yourself ‘What hoops am I going to have to jump through?’ None. You’re a Distinguished High School. You’re automatically admitted,” Brecht said. “We’re excited about this partnership and really looking forward to working with your students.”
Benefits for students at distinguished program partner schools include additional financial aid assistance to students with high financial need; a special, tailored campus visit; and an assigned admissions counselor to serve students throughout the college-enrollment process.
“The district is excited for the students of Livingston in their opportunities to become Lumberjacks,” Hawkins said. “We feel this partnership will pave the way for life-changing experiences at SFA that have proven success with our students. This relationship between Livingston High School and SFA presents a valued partnership with a robust vision to impact those we serve.”
Students from distinguished program schools applying as first-time freshmen at GoApplyTexas.org also should submit official SAT/ACT scores and high school transcripts to the SFA Office of Admissions. For more information about applying to SFA, visit sfasu.edu/apply or call (936) 468-2504.