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

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

The Rural Community Alliance (RCA) 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.” RCA’s team and membership 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.” The Rural Community Alliance shares leadership of the Arkansas and Delta Regional Hub with the Arkansas Teacher Corps.

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 core 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, Rural Community Alliance supports other programming, including:

  • Health outreach

  • Cybersecurity training

  • Dolly Parton Imagination Libraries

  • Community schools

  • Education policy and advocacy

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

Arkansas Teacher Corps - Hub Lead

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

The Arkansas Teacher Corps (ATC) 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. The Arkansas Teacher Corp shares leadership of the Arkansas and Delta Regional Hub with the Rural Community Alliance.

Through an intensive three-year process, which includes a seven-week summer training program, ATC prepares cohorts of aspiring teachers with not only teaching skills, but also essential social-emotional and community leadership skills. Through the program, Executive Director Brandon Lucius says that “Arkansas schools will have the capacity to empower teachers and students as rigorous learners, resilient individuals, and responsive leaders.”

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. About 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. Scroll below to explore stories from the Arkansas and Delta region.

Teacher Profile

TyKesha Cross - Pine Bluff, AR

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.

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