About Us

Excel by Eight partners with families and communities to improve health and education outcomes for Arkansas children prenatal to age eight.

Excel by Eight was established as the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in 2011. Our mission was to ensure all children read at grade level by the end of third grade. With the support of our more than 30 partner organizations, we received national recognition for our work to help improve parent and community engagement, school readiness, classroom instruction, attendance, and summer learning.

Despite these successes, we recognized there’s more progress to be made. That’s why we broadened our efforts in 2019 to help all children – from prenatal to age eight – meet their full educational and health potential.

Excel by Eight is a team of policy makers, health care professionals, educators, nonprofit leaders, and community organizers committed to increasing children’s health and education outcomes by:

  • Building models for change in communities around the state.
  • Identifying policy barriers that make it difficult for communities to build and strengthen their grids of resources.
  • Enhancing  public understanding of early childhood development to encourage action to build strong resource grids statewide.

Our vision is that Arkansas is a state where all children have a strong start to reach their full potential.

Strong Start Statement

Excel by Eight acknowledges that every child in Arkansas deserves a strong start, but not every child starts in the same place.

A strong start means education and health outcomes are not determined by barriers related to age, disability, gender, income, race/ethnicity, geography, or community resources.

Family, community, and policymakers play a vital role in ensuring a strong start is available for every child.

    Our Team

    Reginald Ballard

    Reginald Ballard

    Community Consultant, Excel by Eight Reginald Ballard brings nearly a decade of experience in the educational sector to Excel by Eight. A Little Rock Central High School graduate, he learned early how social justice and an equitable education can be a driving force...

    Angela Duran

    Angela Duran

    Executive Director, Excel by Eight Angela Duran is executive director of Excel by Eight. She has spent more than 25 years engaged in program and policy development, strategic planning, research and evaluation, and project and organizational management in the...

    Ann Patterson

    Ann Patterson

    Project Director, Partners for Inclusive Communities Ann Patterson has focused on program development and policy issues across the lifespan. Her most personally rewarding experience has been her work on children’s health and mental health, including positive social...

    Jessi Rice Woods

    Jessi Rice Woods

    Community Consultant, Excel by Eight Jessi Rice Woods is a community consultant with Excel by Eight, supporting policy and local planning work in Independence, Pulaski, and Sevier counties. Early in her career, Jessi led global learning and community development...

    Anna Strong

    Anna Strong

    Executive Director, Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Anna Strong is a member of the Excel by Eight Foundations Executive Committee. As executive director of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ARAAP), she leads health...

    Jamie Ward

    Jamie Ward

    President, Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health Jamie Ward is the owner of Curricula Concepts, Inc. Her current focus is using her more than 25 years of experience to train early educators and caregivers on the importance of engaging families and health and...

    Adena White

    Adena White

    Communications Director, Excel by Eight Adena J. White is an accredited public relations professional and social-impact storyteller with 15 years of experience leading communications efforts for nonprofit organizations. She founded Blackbelt Media in 2017 to tell the...