News-Times presents donation to CASA.
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.”
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.