FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Senior Walk, where each graduating class has their name engraved on the campus sidewalk, is one of the University of Arkansas’ longest traditions in miles and years, but not every senior is allowed to add their name upon graduation.
“I do want my name added on Senior Walk,” said Cody Jensen, UA freshman in the EMPOWER program.
Jensen is following his dreams of being a Razorback, and a future physical therapist thanks to a program called EMPOWER. The EMPOWER program is a four year non-degree program for individuals with mild intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
“It is such a weight lifted off my shoulders and I’m so proud of him to be a college student and to be succeeding because it’s really really, really hard,” said Kelli Jensen, Cody’s mom.
Empower students get the full college experience and pay full tuition and fees, plus an extra fee for the program.
Students like Jensen live in the dorms and take twelve to fifteen credit hours a semester. Their course load is a mix of traditional courses and EMPOWER life skill classes with the help of the program’s mentors.
Jensen said the EMPOWER directors help the students study for tests and teach them skills like budgeting.
Although, the biggest difference is, upon graduating, the EMPOWER students are left out of the university’s Senior Walk. A university tradition dating back to 1904 where each graduating class gets their name engraved on campus sidewalk.
“I think it’s important that they’re included, just like traditional students,” said Ashley Bradley, a EMPOWER director.
EMPOWER students have created an online petition in hopes of being included.
The petition caught the attention of the university and sent KNWA/FOX24 this statement:
“Currently, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s and doctoral graduates’ names are inscribed on Senior Walk. Those completing graduate certificate programs, micro-certificate programs, non-degree producing programs (experiential or academic), courses, and credentials, or programs that are considered professional and workforce development are not included on Senior Walk. You might also be interested to know that the provost plans to convene a task force to examine how the university recognizes academic accomplishments including on Senior Walk as well as in other places/ways.”John Thomas, Manager of University Communications
With over 7,000 signatures on the EMPOWER students’ petition to be added to the Senior Walk, many are excited to know the university is taking steps towards inclusion.
“They are putting the time in, putting the work in, facing all of the same challenges as a typical student and yet we’re not fully recognizing that achievement and that effort and that’s disheartening,” said Jensen.
You can view the petition here.