Local bank recognizes students’ accomplishments

Margaret Smith of First Security Bank said in working toward a stronger relationship with the school, the bank learned about the five semifinalists. “For a school our size, that is a huge accomplishment,” she said. “They were so proud of that. In view of that, we thought that would be a great way to promote our public schools in Conway and to promote Conway as a whole.

“What better way than with a billboard for people coming into town? Luckily, we already had a billboard on the interstate under contract.”
The National Merit Semifinalists are Conway High School seniors Josh Smith, Edith Jordan, Sara Hales, Ryland France and Tammy Barnes. Semifinalists are recognized based on their scores on the PSAT.

Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent of Conway Public Schools, said, “We’re excited. We’re very pleased that our kids can be honored in such a tangible and public way. We wanted our community and our state to know how proud we are of our academic achievements here in Conway. Many districts in the state have no national merit semifinalists. To have five puts us in a very elite class of districts.”

The billboard – located on the west side of the interstate near Exit 129 in southern Conway – went up at the end of January.
John W. Adams, president of First Security Bank, said, “We are excited to feature the success of the Conway Public School system on the billboard. We think that the quality of our schools has a great impact on the entire community. Our ability to see growth in job opportunities and housing are all in some way tied to a decision regarding the quality of education found in Conway. We want to celebrate that and honor these outstanding students.”

As for the celebrated students, they are finishing up their last weeks of high school, trying to decide where to go to college and thinking about what their majors will be.

Barnes has decided she will attend Hendrix College, and Smith has narrowed it down to Hendrix or Trinity University in San Antonio. Hales is considering Hendrix and Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. France is trying to decide among Harvey Mudd College, California Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University. Jordan said she will likely attend either the University of Tulsa or Washington University in St. Louis.

Some of the students had not yet decided what they would study. Smith said he is considering philosophy and religion. France plans to major in math.

The semifinalists learned in October they would be pictured on the billboard.

“I guess it’s a compliment to us that they would want to put us on the billboard,” Hales said.

“It’s a great compliment,” Smith said. “We’re like Conway’s mascots.”

Four of the five students agreed one major thing they will take with them from Conway High School is what they learned from former history teacher Jim Owen.

“I still feel like I learned more in that class than I learned in any class in high school,” Barnes said.

“We learned history with a perspective that events in the past directly correlate to events now,” said Smith. “(Owen) made that very obvious.”

Hales added, “Because we’ve taken a lot of AP classes, I think we’re more prepared for a college workload.”

The students will find out later this month if they are National Merit Finalists.

Sheila Counts, counselor at Conway High School-West, said, “Having five semifinalists (is) great for our school and is a reflection of the hard work of not only the students but our teachers who prepare them. I love the billboard and am very appreciative toward First Security for investing in our school in that manner.

“I love to see our students who excel academically get the recognition they so deserve.”