June 26, 2024

A regional partnership between Fort Smith college and high school educators has helped open the new Peak Innovation Center for health care, first responder and other vocational career opportunities for students.

The Peak Innovation Center opened Monday, March 28, University of Arkansas Fort Smith officials announced.

Monday was the first day for classes at the new Fort Smith Public Schools facility. Through the UA-Fort Smith Western Arkansas Technical Center, the students at Peak can complete college courses and earn credentials while still attending high school, many of which flow seamlessly into advanced degrees and job placement. 

The UAFS WATC program serves 22 school districts from Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Scott, and Sebastian Counties, providing concurrent credit classes at no charge to participating high-school students.

“At the Peak Innovation Center, students complete college courses and earn credentials while still attending high school,” explained Dr. Latisha Settlage, Dean of the College of Business and Industry at UAFS. “Through WATC, we can offer concurrent credits that not only bolster college portfolios and shorten the timeline to earning bachelor’s degrees, but which also lead to completion of technical certificates, certificates of proficiency, and even associate degrees in high-demand fields while students are still in high school.”

Dr. Gary Udouj, director of Career Education and District Innovation for Fort Smith Public Schools said, “We are thrilled students from around the region will have the opportunity to experience hand-on training in labs that feature state-of-the-art equipment unmatched in our state, ensuring that we can continue to raise the trajectory of students’ success.” 

UAFS instructor Randy Kent, right, assists London Starr and Miguel Solis as they program an ABB robot during their Robot Programming 2 course at the Peak Innovation Center.

The following courses now active at Peak include automation and robotics, computer integrated machining, electronics technology/industrial maintenance, emergency medical responder, medical office assistant, network engineering, and unmanned aerial systems. 

Students enrolled in automotive technology, computer-aided drafting, and welding will remain at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith campus. The certified nursing assistant and licensed practical nursing programs will finish the spring semester at the University of Arkansas- Fort Smith campus, but will be offered at Peak this fall.