Mena Superintendent Dr. Lee Smith has announced that Mena & Waldron in conjunction with UA Rich Mountain, have been awarded a Career Coach grant. This grant will pay for half the salary of a career coach at Mena and one at Waldron. Mr. Timothy Walston has been hired to fill that position in Mena.

The Arkansas College and Career Coach program is designed to motivate and support Arkansas students achieve their goals as it relates to college and career planning. The program provides assistance and information for resources in the areas of academic tutoring, career counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other supports necessary for postsecondary education/training access, retention, and success.

The unemployment rate for Polk, Scott, and Montgomery Counties are among the highest for people in early adulthood in nearby counties of Southwest Arkansas.

A Career Coach is needed to guide students through strategies to overcome the proximity problems such as creating a plan for the student that is personalized and demonstrates the necessity of travelling to another location to go to school or to take advantage of virtual offerings from a single institution.

Mena High School serves 502 students in grades 9 through 12. The student population is 87.8% white, 6% Hispanic/Latino, 2.6% American Indian, 1.4% Asian, 0.8% African American, and 1.4% two or more races. The percentage of low income students is 63%; however, the average percentage on the other three campuses is 71%. The district finished the 2020-2021 school year with 69%. Ten percent of the students receive Special Education services and two percent are English Language Learners. The Homeless student population for the district has averaged 34.1 over the last four years and the number of students in foster care has averaged 8.85 students in the same timeframe with the highest number in one reporting period being 20 students.

The career coaches will use research driven truths to develop programs that ensure the success of students in Polk and Scott counties.