Arkansas State University and the Tuckerman-based nonprofit Every Child is Ours announced Thursday they are joining forces this year.
The two entities plan on partnering with four to five other schools in the state to help increase overall Arkansas Department of Education state report card scores.
Ft. Lauderdale Judge Giner Lerner-Wren said every person should experience what life is all about in a place like Tuckerman.
Wren said she met Jan Paschal, founder of Every Child is Ours, during one of her campaigns to prevent the incarceration of people with mental illness.
“She wanted to break the … cycle … the tragic phenomenon of criminalizing mental illness,” Lerner-Wren said.
Lerner-Wren said Paschal visited Florida and Lerner-Wren visited Tuckerman in their quest to change the way people view mental illness.
“I had never seen a rice field, … never two-stepped to a country version of ‘Brown-Eyed-Girl,’” she said. “We need these lessons so we can connect neighbors to neighbors, families to families and communities to communities.”
Paschal has done just that since 2004 when the Every Child is Ours neighborhood food pantry opened its doors.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, who is from Jackson County, also spoke on behalf of Paschal during a Zoom meeting on Thursday saying countless people owed many thanks to Paschal for her tireless work advocating for the poor and underserved.
“It’s amazing what you have done with this initiative,” Beebe said. “Your drive, your determination and not taking no for an answer.”
Beebe said the bottom line is, children can’t learn if they are hungry. “Without food and proper nutrition, you can’t learn.”
Every Child is Ours in Tuckerman was the meeting place for people from around the world, who sounded off about their experiences with the organization and the impact it has had in their lives and communities.
Former President Bill Clinton made a Zoom speech telling about just how much Every Child is Ours impacted Arkansas.
He said during his presidency there were many struggling communities in Arkansas.
“One community in the state did dramatically better,” Clinton said. “Keep at it … so you can give more people a chance to succeed.”
Blaise Taylor, a professional scout for the Tennessee Titans, said the time he spent helping at Tuckerman has stuck with him.
“These experiences don’t just go away just because you are out of state,” Taylor said.
After the speakers had a chance to discuss the impact Every Child is Ours has had on their lives, A-State Dean of Education Mary Jane Bradley said the university and the nonprofit will join forces to create a model of what Every Child is Ours has accomplished with other schools across the state.
“I met Jan and my life has never been the same,” she said. “We want to provide support for four to five other schools in the state of Arkansas.”
“Jan is right along with my grandchildren,” Bradley added. “She is hard to say no to.”