A long-time youth mentor, Coach Larry Clark, Sr. understands the critical need for all children and families to have access to year-round educational opportunities and supportive services. It’s why he founded Life Skills for Youth (LSY) in 2006. Under his leadership, the Little Rock-based nonprofit offers innovative programs focusing on every aspect of development to equip participants for success—all with the goal of building stronger citizens and communities. Learn more in our Q&A with this Pulaski County steering committee member:

First, can you briefly tell us about LSY?

Since it was established, LSY has served the Little Rock area with comprehensive, youth-focused initiatives, such as our after-school, summer, and Saturday academies. We also developed a capstone program called ATM (Anger, Time, and Money Management) to teach students life skills and coping methods. Whether it’s through nutritious snacks or college planning assistance, we provide full-family solutions to help participants thrive in school and life. 

Why do you believe these programs are essential for children and families?

I firmly believe our youth need academic and life skills in order to be well-educated, productive members of our community. As importantly, their parents and guardians need access to resources and support, so they can be the best role models possible.

How do these services help fill a need during the summer or when school is out?

No matter the time of year, learning remains our focus. During summer and on weekends, we encourage students to participate in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math-related (STEAM) educational activities, so they can continue to improve their math and literacy abilities. For the older students, we focus on job placement and mentorship. We also provide summer grab-and-go meals and breakfast, lunch, and snacks during programs to ensure no children or families go hungry.

What can we do as a state to expand access to initiatives like LSY?
As a state, we must focus on helping children grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive adults. Currently, Arkansas is ranked 41st in education. By providing greater funding for after-school and summer programs, we can keep students engaged and enhance their overall academic performance. Investments in mental health services would help families navigate everyday challenges, which have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. 

What barriers do programs like LSY face?

Funding is a top priority. We are grateful for the support we receive, but we could make an even greater difference—not only in Little Rock but statewide—with more resources. We could use additional dollars for STEAM and literacy initiatives; our ATM program; and transportation. Eventually, with the community’s support, we hope to expand our services to include a literacy and technology center in southwest Little Rock so students can better compete in today’s global economy.

Want to support or participate in LSY’s programs? Visit lifeskillsforyouth.org.