Sevier County

Excel by Eight in Sevier County

Janet Cantrell, Mary Runnels, and Beth Tody co-lead the E8 initiative in Sevier County. After the initial community input process, the steering committee narrowed priority areas to child food security and physical activity. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee added child care quality and availability as a priority area as well.

In the area of physical activity, a Horatio-based subcommittee has worked to raise funds to improve area parks and recreation spaces with a focus on early childhood development. As a partnership with Save the Children, the group installed resources such as a “Born Learning Trail,” a story walk, busy boards for fine motor skills, book distribution shelves, and more. Those resources were placed in public spaces in Horatio, including two parks, three local businesses, and the library. The project has since expanded to explore public spaces in De Queen as well.

In March 2019, Sevier County participated in the first round of Early Development Instrument assessments. The EDI is a population measure of how young children are developing based on the five domains of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge.


Located in Southwest Arkansas, bordering the Gulf Coastal Plains

University of Arkansas Cossatot Community College

Quickly growing Latinx and Marshallese population

An abundance of rivers and lakes gave rise to historical fishing and forestry industries

Steering Committee


Janet Cantrell, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension

Mary Runnels, Department of Human Services

Committee Members

Beth Tody, Save the Children; Excel by Eight

Erika Buenrrostro, University of Arkansas Cossatot Community College

Cheryl Byrd, De Queen-Mena Educational Service Cooperative

Sherry Dinger, Parkhill Preschool

Deborah Hedge, Sevier County Health Unit

Kimberly Johnson, Little Bitty City Enrichment Center

Kim Kennemore, De Queen-Mena Educational Service Cooperative

Debbi Neal, Horatio City Council

Amy Smith, Horatio School District

Angie Walker, Dr. Randy Walker Family Practice & Allergy Clinic

Read more about E8 Communities

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Tackling Food Insecurity, Improving Outcomes

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