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

Independence County: Building Brains in Preschoolers One Conversation at a Time

Independence County: Building Brains in Preschoolers One Conversation at a Time

Preschools in Independence County have adopted innovative technology to support early brain development. LENA – short for Language ENvironment Analysis – is a professional development opportunity for early childhood educators that uses cloud-based software and a small, wearable device – often referred to as a “talk pedometer” – to measure and increase conversational turns that happen between a child and an adult caregiver.

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

For the first time, Excel by Eight hosted its semiannual Learning Community outside of Arkansas’s capital city, bringing more than 30 community leaders to Independence County in mid-October for local site visits and informative sessions. The two-day event took place in the cities of Batesville and Southside and focused on early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Jill Wilson, executive director of two child care centers in Mountain Home, and Garrett Dolan, senior manager of corporate social responsibility at Tyson Foods, served on a panel moderated by Roby Brock, editor-in-chief and host of Talk Business and Politics. The panelists discussed the challenges facing employers and child care providers in Arkansas, including quality of care, workforce, and affordability.