News-Times presents do­na­tion to CASA.

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Micah John­son

Long­time lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor Vin­cent Daw­son re­cently as­sumed the role of stu­dent ad­vis­ing coach at South Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege—which, for him, was like a trip home.

Daw­son was hired in the fall of 2018, but he had his first turn work­ing at the col­lege all the way back in 1985, when it still was a branch of South­ern Arkansas Univer­sity. It was his first job af­ter com­pleted a bach­e­lor’s de­gree. Since that time, he said, El Do­rado’s col­lege has trans­formed in ways that he never could have fore­seen.

The first time around, he came on board thanks to a two-year grant for ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and coun­sel­ing. It would pave the way for later ca­reer moves, Daw­son said.

“My high-school guid­ance coun­selor made such an im­pres­sion on me that I wanted to be a guid­ance coun­selor, and give back what was given to me,” Daw­son said.

Daw­son said that dur­ing his first job at the col­lege, his time was spent as­sist­ing stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties and run­ning around the cam­pus to meet up with stu­dents one-on-one to help them de­cide their classes and ma­jors.

But the job de­mands were dif­fer­ent, he said, due mainly to so­ci­etal dif­fer­ences.

“It’s a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing now be­cause stu­dents have so many other things pulling for their at­ten­tion,” Daw­son said. “Both tra­di­tional and non-tra­di­tional stu­dents.”

Night classes were more preva­lent, he said, and the col­lege had a higher per­cent­age of adult learn­ers with fam­i­lies.

Af­ter the grant that he was work­ing on faced its con­clu­sion, Daw­son said, he sought long-term work. He found it in the El Do­rado School Dis­trict, where he was a coun­selor for the next 28 years, later mov­ing into ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Re­turn­ing to work at SouthArk, again as a part of stu­dent ser­vices, Daw­son found a cam­pus and cul­ture sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent than the one that he had left more than 30 years ago.

The col­lege com­bined with Oil Belt Vo­ca­tional Tech­ni­cal Col­lege in 1992 to be­come the com­mu­nity col­lege that it is to­day, and from there grew ex­po­nen­tially. Daw­son had left a col­lege with one cam­pus and just three build­ings; he re­turned to two cam­puses in El Do­rado, a satel­lite lo­ca­tion in War­ren and more than 15 build­ings.

The orig­i­nal li­brary, Daw­son de­scribed with a chuckle, “could prob­a­bly fit in less than half of the cur­rent li­brary.”

The col­lege also dou­bled its en­roll­ment, ex­panded its pro­gram­matic and sup­port ser­vices and of course, vastly in­creased and im­proved its tech­nol­ogy. Dur­ing Daw­son’s em­ploy­ment at the col­lege in 1985, he said, such changes were not even thought about.

It has been a fun tran­si­tion, Daw­son said, and co-work­ers say that they were happy to see his re­turn.

Daw­son’s su­per­vi­sor Heather Smith said that the vet­eran ed­u­ca­tor has taken on the chal­lenge of learn­ing new things with a smile.

“Per­son­ally, what first struck me about Mr. Daw­son, and con­tin­ues to on a daily ba­sis, is his pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and will­ing­ness to take on new chal­lenges,” Smith said.

“I tell you what—the world could use a whole lot more peo­ple like Vin­cent Daw­son,” said Henry Cul­breth, re­cently-re­tired math­e­mat­ics in­struc­tor. “We’re for­tu­nate to get him back on our staff again be­cause he’s a very tal­ented and ca­pa­ble in­di­vid­ual. He’s easy to work with and re­ally con­ge­nial.”

Daw­son said that he en­joys serv­ing the stu­dents of SouthArk just as he did those of SAU-El Do­rado those many decades ago.

“As long as I am phys­i­cally and men­tally able to work, I’d like to be here,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great op­por­tu­ni­ties over the years. I never knew the op­por­tu­nity would come, but here I am.”

Madeleine Ler­oux/News-Times

Do­na­tion: El Do­rado News-Times Gen­eral Man­ager Rita Halde­man, left, hands dona­tions col­lected through the Com­mu­nity Christ­mas Card cam­paign to Lacey Morgan, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor for the 13th Ju­di­cial Dis­trict South Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates, or CASA. The News-Times col­lected $433 for CASA in dona­tions from its read­ers dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

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