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She can speak nine languages and play more than two dozen musical instruments.

And now Arrington Payne, a recent graduate of the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts, is the first recipient of the New Horizon Award to attend Eastern Kentucky University, thanks to a newly established partnership between the University and the Cincinnati Public School District.

“Arrington is a remarkable student,” said EKU Admissions Counselor Wil Thames. “I am beyond confident she’ll be a fantastic addition to the Colonel family, and I can’t wait for her to get to campus.”

Payne was active in steel drum band, jazz band and debate, tutored K-12 students in various subjects, and participated in a STEM club outside her school. She plans to major in biomedical engineering and pre-med at Eastern and plans to be a bio-genetic physicist and cardio-thoracic surgeon in hopes that her mother never has to work again.

“The scholarship is a tremendous help to myself and my family,” Payne said. “This scholarship was the push I needed to get out of Cincinnati, so I won’t have to worry about … getting distracted. This scholarship let me know that even though I’m not the smartest in my class, people saw my efforts and I was doing something right.”

The partnership, which EKU Board of Regents Chair and northern Kentucky attorney Lewis Diaz helped facilitate, is designed to create a “pipeline of academically talented and diverse students” who, through continuous engagement and exposure to college-readiness and outreach initiatives, select EKU as their “best fit.

“The primary goal of the partnership is to assist traditionally underrepresented low-income and/or diverse students in their academic preparation and college selection to simultaneously increase their academic success and degree attainment as well as diversify and broaden the matriculation of these students into specific academic programs at EKU.”

Long-term engagement activities may include early academic advising, Camino Camp participation, discounted tuition, scholarships, and specialized school district recruitment and campus visit programming.

All Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) students in good academic standing who apply for admission to EKU by Dec. 1 with an unweighted high school GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale are automatically eligible for the lower SMART tuition, a discount of nearly $9,000 off EKU’s out-of-state tuition. High academic achieving students may also qualify for additional merit aid. Additionally, CPS students who are SMART eligible and qualify for federal financial assistance are automatically eligible for the PELL Plus program, in which students receive in-state tuition and are automatically offered merit scholarships equal to those offered to Kentucky residents based upon their high school GPA and standardized test scores.

In consultation with EKU Admissions, CPS administration will annually nominate two Pell Plus-eligible students to receive the New Horizon Award, which covers tuition, room, board and books after subtracting federal grant aid, federal loans and expected family contributions. Preference is given to CPS students who participate in planned partnership programming. In addition to Pell Plus eligibility, the students must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale and a composite ACT score of at least 18 (or SAT equivalent).

“This collaboration is one that we expect to grow every year as we become more of a known opportunity for Cincinnati students,” Thames said.

For more information about the opportunities available through EKU’s partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools, contact EKU Admissions Counselor Wil Thames at or 859-622-1561.