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. We appreciate our state partners and community steering committee members for your participation, and we’d like to extend a special thank you to the Jefferson County steering committee and the team at the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative for being such gracious hosts!
“Reading skills begin in the womb” | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Our E8 Communities kicked the Learning Community off with an anagram exercise. The solved anagram was a quote from Dr. Brené Brown: “Courage is contagious. A critical mass of brave leaders is the foundation of an intentionally courageous culture. Every time we are brave with our lives we make the people around us a little braver and our organizations bolder and stronger.” Abby Hughes Holsclaw, consultant with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, shared an introduction to ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Nearly half (47%) of the 1.2 million households in Arkansas have incomes below the ALICE Threshold of Financial Survival. Filmmaker Neba Evans presented her film, “A Song of the Bluff” at the Learning Community. Moderated by Kathy French of AR Kids Read, the High-Impact Tutoring panel featured, seated from left, Phillip Carlock of Pine Bluff School District, Dr. Kimberly Davis of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Rebekah Wills of AR Kids Read, and Tavonte Calhoun of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County. Tavonte Calhoun of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County, Kathy French of AR Kids Read, Dr. Kimberly Davis of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Rebekah Wills of AR Kids Read, and Phillip Carlock of Pine Bluff School District discussed an innovative new collaboration between AR Kids Read and higher education and youth-centered community organizations in Jefferson County. Tracy Cook of Communities Unlimited, Kelli Murray and Charles Maxwell of Arkansas Children’s, and Karen Phillips of Restore Hope shared resources available to local communities that can help improve child development outcomes. Arkansas River ESC director Cathi Swan shared how local education cooperatives are well-positioned to help E8 Communities strengthen resources for our state’s youngest residents.
Excel by Eight’s six communities will come together again in the spring of 2024. To learn more about E8’s work in building local models for change across the state, visit
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