Located in south central Arkansas, Union County has long been hailed by residents and visitors alike for its high quality of life. Since the oil boom era, it has developed into a thriving community with diverse industries, outdoor amenities, cultural institutions, and more—all supported by a vibrant philanthropic network. Today, as the newest Excel by Eight (E8) Community, Union County is aligning its strong systems of support to help improve health and education outcomes for local children. Learn more from Reggie Ballard, Community Consultant, in the Q&A below:

Who serves the E8 Steering Committee for Union County? 

Excel by Eight is fortunate to have parents, educators, health professionals, nonprofit leaders, and other community members serve on our locally-led steering committees. In Union County, this currently includes Alexis Alexander, United Way; Gloria Billings, Division of Children and Family Services; Wanda Corney, Parents as Teachers; Heidi Klappenbach, Family Connects; Debbie McAdams, El Dorado School District; Beth Ann Petlak, Arkansas Children’s; Isaura Pulido, Centro Cristiano Hispano; Kaitlyn Rigdon, El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce; Tequila Smith, FACT, Inc.; Carla Sparks, Arkansas Children’s; Alison Stone, Family Connects; Kimberly Thomas, Strong-Huttig School District; Amy Triplet, Family Connects; and Debbie Watts, SHARE Foundation. As our planning process continues, we look forward to welcoming additional voices.

What are the steering committee’s next steps?

Each steering committee member brings a unique perspective and, occasionally, different goals to the table. However, we remain united in our mission to build a reliable resource grid for Union County with equitable access to family, community, health, and education-related support. Right now, our committee is reviewing Early Development Instrument data. Soon, we will begin gathering public input, so we can address priority areas with the greatest opportunities for impact.

How can community members become involved with E8’s efforts?

We want, and need, everyone to be engaged in this process. We hope Union County citizens will visit excelby8.net, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress and participate in upcoming virtual or in-person events. Interested individuals can also contact me at rballard@excelby8.net or reach out to current steering committee members.