Sevier County

Excel by Eight in Sevier County

The Early Learning Parks project that began in 2021 expanded throughout Sevier County and more than doubled the funding investment originally awarded by Save the Children. Arkansas Community Foundation granted $14,000 to expand the StoryWalk®, install a Born Learning Trail at a second site, and increase access to free books for young children.

Additionally, more than $5,000 in materials and labor has been contributed in-kind by local community organizations and residents. This project provides free recreational and learning resources in easy-to-access public spaces, focused on early learning and development. Read more about what has been done and the project’s impact in the community.

Additionally, local leadership in Sevier County has worked in 2022 to identify strategies in the following priority areas: food security, social-emotional health, and early literacy. Child food security has been a long-term priority for this community, surfacing during data walks in 2019. Other priority areas became apparent during the pandemic.


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 Service
Mary Runnels, Arkansas Department of Human Services

Committee Members

Erika Buenrrostro, University of Arkansas Cossatot
Cheryl Byrd, DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative
Sherry Dinger, Parkhill Preschool
Deborah Hedge, Sevier County Health Unit
Kimberly Johnson, Little Bitty City Enrichment Center
Kim Kennemore, DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative
Debbi Neal, Horatio City Council
Amy Smith, Horatio School District
Beth Tody, Excel by Eight
Angie Walker, Dr. Randy Walker Family Practice & Allergy Clinic

Read more about E8 Communities

Jefferson County hosts Fall 2023 Learning Community

Jefferson County hosts Fall 2023 Learning Community

Representatives from each of Excel by Eight’s six communities came together in Pine Bluff for two days of relationship building, learning, and idea sharing at the Fall 2023 Learning Community. Thank you to the Jefferson County steering committee and the team at the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative for being such gracious hosts!

How an emphasis on early childhood helped usher in a $25 million investment for the city of Batesville

How an emphasis on early childhood helped usher in a $25 million investment for the city of Batesville

During an August 2023 special election, residents of Batesville voted overwhelmingly in favor of four ballot issues that marked a turning point for the city. These issues secured a $25 million investment for the expansion and improvement of the city’s parks and recreation facilities as well as an additional $110 million to go toward the construction of a new water treatment system. Opportunities to reshape a city’s infrastructure and enrich its social and recreational offerings without a tax increase seldom arise. But when they do, seizing these moments requires more than a stroke of luck; it demands collaboration, a willingness to learn, and data-informed planning.