By JESSIE SMITH
The Arvest Bank donated a total of $7,500 to the Ashdown High School FFA and art department on Sept. 19. The Ashdown High School FFA received $2,500 in order to purchase a plasma cutter for the shop program.
The computerized plasma cutter system will allow students to use standard equipment currently employed by manufacturers, according to FFA Teacher William Gentry. The students will receive useful experience and training to take with them after high school.
“I think it’s essential that our students have access to that and experience with that in order for them to be, you know, competitive in the job market,” Gentry said. The students are very happy about the donation, according to Gentry.
“They’re thrilled,” Gentry said. “This is something that we’ve talked about … since day one.” Both Gentry and Ron Bigham, the other FFA teacher, have worked with a plasma cutter at other schools.Gentry said they are trying to upgrade the agriculture department in order to provide better training for the students.
“We’re very thankful for the donation from Arvest, and like I said, if there’s anyone else out there that, you know, feels like they’d like to help out and invest in our program, then we would be more than grateful for that assistance,” Gentry said.
Representatives from Arvest Bank, including President Danny Young, also visited Ashdown High School to donate $5,000 to the art department. The donation will fund a pugmill mixer and a second clay extruder for the ceramics program.
Many studies have shown that art programs lead to better test scores and higher level thinking in students, according to Art Instructor Melanie McGraw. “They also serve as an outlet, you know, for kids to express themselves,” McGraw said.
“I’ve taught art for sixteen years, and I’ve seen kids come in my art program that … they may not be an academic or an athlete, but they have success in art.” This is the second year of the ceramics course. McGraw said they started out with rolling pins and wooden slats, and they are trying to build up their supplies.
Since clay is expensive, the pugmill mixer is important because the piece of equipment recycles clay. “The art department has never received a donation of this magnitude,” McGraw said. “We’ve received donations before, and we’re so grateful for those, but to give $5,000 to an art program, to me that says a lot about Arvest — that they understand the importance of fine arts in school. … I just can’t express how grateful I feel.”
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