Pine Bluff High School students received a total of $5,479,020 in scholarships Thursday to attend college or enlist in the armed forces.

Scholarship Chairman Dedric L. Jones welcomed guests, students and parents to the Senior Scholarship and Awards Assembly inside Pine Bluff High School’s McFadden Gym. The program began with the high school junior reserve officer training corps presenting the American and Arkansas flags.

“Our students have been served to the best of our abilities and their abilities to make sure they have a plan after high school,” Jones said. “The Scholarship Committee saw the task that they not only wanted the money to increase, they wanted the number of [scholarship recipients] to increase.”

Pine Bluff High School Assistant Principal Reginald Wilson congratulated the students. He said Pine Bluff High School has about 270 seniors in the class of 2017, about half of whom received a scholarship. District Superintendent Michael Robinson asked students to recognize their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members for supporting them. He congratulations the students, calling them a pleasure with whom to work.

“This is truly a wonderful experience today,” Robinson, who has a doctorate in educational leadership, said. “So much effort, so much time, and so much energy has gone into making this what it is today. I am so elated and proud to have caught the tale end of these wonderful scholars and individuals who are departing us this year.”

Robinson said his favorite painting is titled “Heavy Loads,” in which a hand is reaching down to assist another hand. He said that life is about assisting other people. Renaissance Health owner/director Carla Thomas awarded a scholarship in memory of the late Artisha Rainey, a Pine Bluff High School student who died in a car accident in 2014.

Debra Barfield is the sister of the late John Barfield, a Pine Bluff High School Class of 1983 graduate who helped that Zebras baseball team win a state championship. John Barfield played Major League Baseball for the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1991. He died in a shooting in 2016.

She awarded a scholarship in her brother’s memory. Pine Bluff High School art teacher Virginia Hymes said she is “truly blessed to be a part of this beautiful group of young people. Not only are they intelligent, they are hard workers. They believe in volunteering to work in this community.”

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence Alexander touted education as the means to success. He congratulated the seniors for a “job well done.”

“We at UAPB are working hard to make college more affordable,” Alexander, who holds a doctorate, said. “And we’re doing it through these scholarships and through the LIONS programs. You all who are standing up here, we hope to see you in the LIONS programs. That is going to save you some money.”

Alexander touted UAPB for having the lowest tuition of any public university in Arkansas.