Arkansas & Delta

Our partners at Rural Community Alliance and the Arkansas Teacher Corps work together to support place-based approaches to empowering rural schools and communities.

Rural Community Alliance - Hub Lead

Candace Williams, Executive Director of Rural Community Alliance serves as a primary contact for the Arkansas Delta Regional Hub. RCA is a state-wide, community development organization that seeks to build thriving rural places through community organizing, coalition building, and youth empowerment.

Rural Community Alliance Youth Members
Rural Community Alliance takes their youth members to the state capitol. Photo courtesy of the Rural Community Alliance

The Rural Community Alliance is a member-driven organization envisioning a just and thriving rural landscape that “offers access to excellent education, economic opportunity, and a rewarding quality of life to all residents.” The organization works to achieve this vision by enabling “informed and organized” residents to “define the change they want, build collective power, and take action to improve their lives.” Empowering people, particularly rural youth, is how Candace originally got involved with RCA. “I became involved with RCA when I was a junior in high school when I was trying to fight to save my school district from closure,” she shares. Staying engaged ever since, Candace became a youth organizer in 2013 before becoming the Executive Director in 2015. Youth empowerment has remained a personal favorite aspect of RCA’s work for her: “We are very intentional about making sure the youth understand the importance of their voice. We're doing a lot around the importance of civic engagement, and we are trying to launch community schools in two of the rural Black districts in our network.”

While rural community organizing and rural youth empowerment are major pillars of the organization’s work, RCA supports other programming, including:

  • Health outreach

  • Cybersecurity training

  • Dolly Parton Imagination Libraries

  • Community schools

  • Education policy and advocacy

Members of the Rural Community Alliance Network
Members representing 25 Arkansas communities in the Rural Community Alliance convene. Photo courtesy of the Rural Community Alliance

Arkansas Teacher Corps - Hub Lead

Brandon Lucius, Executive Director of the Arkansas Teacher Corps serves as a primary contact for the Arkansas Delta Regional Hub. ATC is an alternative educator pathway program that provides teachers-to-be with educational, leadership, and life skills needed to thrive in the classroom.

    Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows training up on classroom instruction.
    Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows training up on classroom instruction. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Teacher Corps

    The Arkansas Teacher Corps is a partnership between the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Education, and Arkansas public schools to recruit, train, and sustain high-quality teacher-leaders in the state. Through an intensive three-year process, which includes a seven-week summer training program, ATC prepares cohorts of aspiring teachers with not only education skills, but also essential social-emotional and community leadership skills. The hope for the program is that “Arkansas schools will have the capacity to empower teachers and students as rigorous learners, resilient individuals, and responsive leaders.” Brandon first got engaged with ATC by following the same path into the classroom that his cohorts now walk. Having originally left his rural Arkansas roots, a chance encounter with a Teach for America recruiter was a reflective moment for Brandon that left him determined to serve his home communities: “I joined Teach for America and taught in West Helena, for a few years and actually ran into ATC in its first year of existence. After I heard about what ATC was doing, I really was excited by it and stepped into an instructional facilitator role.” Seeing the broader potential of ATC to inspire and train future rural leaders, Brandon shares that he became “passionate about working with teachers and thinking about how to take the impact I was seeing in the classroom and have a larger impact outside of the classroom across a school or an entire community.” Rising through ATC to eventually become its Executive Director, Brandon finds that seeing successive cohorts of passionate people become true community leaders is what inspires him to “keep coming back day after day.”

    The 2023 Arkansas Teacher Corps Cohort.
    The 2023 Arkansas Teacher Corps Cohort. Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Teacher Corps

    As an alternative pathway into education, ATC works to recruit, prepare, and retain educators across the state. Brandon explains how in Arkansas this means “rural education is implicit to our mission and vision.” He continues: “80% to 90% of our folks are in rural areas. All of our staff has lived and taught in rural areas. We don't do as much explicit rural programming just because we're living in that culture and expectation already.” The rural-focus for ATC also extends to placement as well as recruitment, especially of diverse Teachers of Color.

    Teacher Profile

    TyKesha Cross

    Overcoming adversity through the power of education.

    Rural schools are not only the social and economic hub of the areas they serve, but they are also an essential lifeline of emotional support and social services for students and the larger community. Often the task of ensuring our students are seen, heard, and loved falls on the educators. TyKesha Cross, a Junior High and 9th Grade Banking teacher at the Pine Bluff School District in Pine Bluff, AR, knows personally the power of teachers and education to lift students out of incredibly difficult situations.

    Read More