The Forward Arkansas Steering Committee is composed of education, business, government, and civic leaders who share a common goal: improving education in Arkansas. Members reviewed data about the state of education, listened to thousands of Arkansans about where our education system is and should be going, and formally established Forward Arkansas’s goal and recommendations for making Arkansas a leading state in education and closing the achievement gap within a generation.
Ana Claudia Aguayo
Ana Claudia Aguayo is the second youngest of eight siblings and a first-generation college student.
Her career and passion for education and public policy flourished in the nonprofit sector working for Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center in a variety of roles including development, communication and as interim executive director. She joined the organization in 2008 as a volunteer worker advocate assisting low-income workers in their quest for justice by translating and supporting workers throughout their cases. Her passion for education equity arises from her personal journey.
Aguayo was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of 8, she immigrated to the United States with her family and grew to call Springdale, Ark., her home. She became passionate about education reform through her own experiences as a young immigrant. She faced many obstacles in pursuit of a higher education, but was able to overcome them through support and guidance of peers, professors and community advocates. She has been a strong and passionate advocate of the DREAM Act and a sensible immigration platform.
During her studies, Aguayo defied the obstacles of her immigration status and lived and worked in Washington, D.C., as a Congressional intern and as a Hispanic Heritage LOFT Journalism Fellow. In 2013 she was honored with the Cardinal Bernardin Young Leader Award for her commitment to social justice. She is a passionate advocate for the underrepresented and hopes to continue being the microphone for those whose voices are seldom heard.
Aguayo currently serves as membership program manager for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, helping to increase access to the arts for low-income families. Prior to her position at Crystal Bridges, she served as external affairs liaison for Gov. Mike Beebe, lifting up the voices and concerns of the Latino community in Arkansas and offering representation at the Governor’s table. Aguayo is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a double major in broadcast journalism and international relations with minors in economics and Latin American studies.
Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, has been with the agency since 2011. Broadway was a member of Gov. Mike Beebe’s full cabinet, as well as the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, an appointed group of state government leaders charged with creating 21st century jobs and skilled workers.
An Arkansas State University alumnus, Broadway served three terms as representative for Pulaski and Saline counties and two terms in the Senate. He became the youngest Speaker of the House in Arkansas history when his colleagues elected him in 2001. While in the General Assembly, Broadway served on the education committee every term except when he was Speaker of the House.
Broadway previously served as chairman of the 15-state Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), which fosters intergovernmental cooperation among member states, and as chairman of the SLC’s education committee. Beebe appointed Broadway to the advisory board of the Southern Regional Education Board in 2007.
Broadway and his wife, Debbie, are active supporters of the MS Society of Arkansas.
Bill Dillard III
Bill Dillard III is vice president at Dillard’s, Inc., with responsibilities for the beauty, home and accessories areas of the business. He is entering his 21st year in the retail/fashion industry. Since joining Dillard’s in 1994, Dillard has served in several areas of the company, including area selling management, buying, product development and merchandising. He also lived and worked in Hong Kong, working directly with overseas manufacturers as an agent for fashion retailers. Dillard received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He also received a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Dillard and his wife, Tabietha, have four children. He serves on the boards of eStem Public Charter Schools, Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation, St. Vincent Health Systems, Young Life and Search Ministries.
Matt Dozier is president and CEO of the EAST Initiative (Environmental and Spatial Technology), an innovative educational reform effort that combines student developed community service projects with sophisticated technology. The EAST model has been recognized by the Federal Departments of Education and Labor, among other groups, as an innovative, relevant and successful approach to education. Dozier first became affiliated with EAST in 1998 while teaching at North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville, becoming the first facilitator of that program. He soon became a member of the first EAST Professional Development training team, helping to develop curriculum and train hundreds of teachers as the EAST program spread to more than 200 schools in eight states. In 2001, Dozier joined the EAST staff full time, serving variously as the Initiative’s communication director, assistant program director and national program director. He was named EAST CEO in 2007.
Dozier is currently serving on the Arkansas Leaders Advisory Council for the Arkansas Discovery Network, is a member of the Arkansas State GIS Board Advisory Panel, and was inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Computing in 2011. In 2013, he was named a finalist in Arkansas Business’ Nonprofit Executive of the Year awards and led EAST to a Nonprofit Organization of the Year finalist recognition in 2014. He is the editor of Autism is Not a Life Sentence: How One Family Took on Autism and WON! by Lynley Summers.
Senator Joyce Elliott
Joyce Elliott is a member of the Arkansas State Senate. Elected in November 2008, she represents District 31 in Little Rock. A former state representative, Elliott was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in November 2000, finishing her final term in December 2006 due to term limits. A native Arkansan, Elliott was born in Willisville, where she graduated from high school. She earned an undergraduate degree in English and speech from Southern Arkansas University and a graduate degree in English from Ouachita Baptist University. For 30 years, Elliott taught high school juniors and seniors in both Advanced Placement and standard courses. Elliott has a son.
Lavina Grandon is the founder and president of Rural Community Alliance, a statewide nonprofit organization whose purpose is “helping rural schools and communities survive and thrive.” A retired teacher with 32 years of experience in rural schools, she led the opposition in 2003 to the efforts to consolidate all schools in Arkansas with under 1,500 enrollment. She lives in north central Arkansas, where she coordinates a food pantry and helped form a school foundation. Grandon is a past board member of the Valley Springs School District and The Rural School and Community Trust, and she currently serves on the boards of Southern Echo, the Valley Springs Foundation and the Rural Schools Collaborative.
Jared Henderson is the project manager for the ForwARd Arkansas initiative and co-chair of the Implementation Working Group. As a fourth generation Arkansan and a product of Arkansas’ public schools, Jared has fierce pride for his home state and fully believes that it can ultimately be one of the first in the nation to provide all its children with the opportunity to attain an excellent education. Jared started his career as an operations manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He later joined McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, where he served as an advisor to two mayors, a governor, a state superintendent of education and numerous Fortune 100 executives. For the last three years, he has worked for Teach For America as a senior vice president and executive director of the Arkansas Region. Since 2014, he has served on the Board of AR Kids Read. Jared holds undergraduate degrees in computer science and physics from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and was a Dean’s Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he earned a Master’s Degree in public administration.
Dr. Michele Ballentine-Linch
Dr. Michele Ballentine-Linch has served in education for more than 20 years and now is executive director for the Arkansas State Teachers Association, a state chapter of AAE. After serving as a science teacher, Linch pursued a doctorate at the University of Arkansas, where she became director of the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Teacher Leadership Institute, a post she held for more than 10 years. She has performed faculty and administrative assignments at Arkansas Tech University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas Baptist College. Linch’s work with educators has taken her throughout Arkansas and the United States and to underserved schools in rural China. She serves as a Governor’s appointee to the Arkansas Legislative Desegregation Litigation Oversight Committee and Taskforce and serves on the board of the Arkansas Dressage Society. She and her husband, Perry, have two children.
Justin Minkel is the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, a 2006 Milken Educator, and a Teach For America alumnus (New York 2000.) Minkel teaches at Jones Elementary in Springdale, a high-achieving public school where 98 percent of students live in poverty and 90 percent are English learners.
Minkel is a board member on the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and chairman of the organization’s strategic planning committee. During summer 2014, Minkel was one of four teachers invited to the White House to talk with President Obama about how to support students and teachers in high-poverty schools, including the home library initiative he is taking to scale in his school and district. Minkel writes regular columns for Education Week and the Center for Teaching Quality.
John Riggs IV
John Riggs IV is chairman of J. A. Riggs Tractor Company, an industrial and construction equipment distribution company serving customers in and around Arkansas. He is the fourth generation of the Riggs family to be a leader in this business. Prior to being named president in 1995, Riggs held various positions within the company in sales, rental, marketing and used equipment. He is active in civic and community affairs in Arkansas and the greater Little Rock area.
Riggs previously served in the Arkansas State Senate, representing District 16. He served on the education committee, as well as several other committees. In addition to his elected post, he has served on the boards of Volunteers in Public Schools, the Pulaski County United Way, Arkansas Business and Education Alliance, and Philander Smith College. Riggs was elected to and served on the Little Rock School District Board of Education from 1992-1999. He is a member of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is currently the vice chairman of the State Board of Career Education.
Scott Shirey is founder and executive director of KIPP Delta Public Schools. Prior to founding KIPP Delta College Preparatory School in 2002, Shirey completed the KIPP School Leadership Program, which included intensive study at University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Shirey taught for three years in Baton Rouge, La., where he was a Teach For America corps member. In 2011, Forbes magazine listed Shirey as one of the world’s seven most powerful educators. In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked KIPP Delta’s Collegiate High the number two high school in Arkansas. Shirey holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from Colby College.
As a senior program officer for the Walton Family Foundation, Kathy Smith is responsible for education initiatives that promote the principles of accountability, transparency, choice and incentives. She has spent more than 30 years in public education in Oklahoma and Arkansas, first as a high school English teacher and eventually moving to district secondary curriculum director. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Arkansas.
Joy Springer has been an advocate for Arkansas students for over 20 years. She has served on the Magnet Review Committee, Community Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) and the Little Rock School Board. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership.
Springer is active in many community organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church; Ward Chapel AME Church; Clementine Mathis Rouse Scholarship Fund; Henderson State University Black Alumni; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Wright Avenue Neighborhood Association. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, Horace L. Springer, III.
Darrin L. Williams
Darrin L. Williams is chief executive officer of Southern Bancorp, Inc., a family of a community development bank and a nonprofit affiliate that work in concert to revitalize underserved communities in the Mid-South. With more than $1 billion in assets, more than 80,000 customers, and 39 branches throughout the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta, Southern Bancorp Inc. and its affiliates comprise one of the most effective and largest community development organizations in America.
Williams has also been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker Pro Tempore. Williams has been recognized nationally for his progressive legislative work, including being selected as “one of the rising stars” in American government and offered a prestigious Aspen-Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership by the Aspen Institute and being recognized as one of 12 legislators to watch by Governing Magazine. Williams holds an LL.M. in securities and financial regulation from Georgetown University Law Center, a J.D. from Vanderbilt University School of Law, and a bachelor of arts degree from Hendrix College.
Leandro Braslavsky is the finance director of Hispanic Community Services, Inc. He holds a bachelor of science degree in finance from Universidad Argentina de la Empresa and a master of business administration degree from Arkansas State University (ASU). Prior to becoming finance director of the Hispanic Center, he worked at the ASU Office of International Programs, at ESICS doing financial consulting, and at Banco de la Nación Argentina in the area of investments. Leandro is an active member in the Jonesboro community, participating in various organizations in the City of Jonesboro. He is a member of the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce Latino Committee, the Technology and Innovations Committee, the Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Committee, and the Arkansas Out of School Network – Jonesboro Chapter. He graduated from the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Jonesboro Class of 2013 and is currently participating in the first Jonesboro Citizen Police Academy. In his free time, he enjoys traveling to different countries and learning about new cultures; practicing soccer and snowboarding, among other sports; and playing with his beloved dog, Ciro.
Toby Daughtery is lead recruiter and outreach coordinator for The STAND Foundation, whose mission is to empower individuals and organizations through leadership training.
He is a Pulaski Technical Institute graduate who continued his education with a Shelby Breedlove scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. He is a motivational speaker, writer, poet and artist.
Marcy Doderer took the helm as president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Children’s Hospital in July 2013. Prior to her role there, she served as a member of senior leadership for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System in various capacities since 2002. She became administrator for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in 2008 and led the effort to transform the facility into the freestanding Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Doderer’s previous leadership experience includes positions at CHRISTUS St. Joseph’s Health System and McCuistion Regional Medical Center, both in Paris, Texas, and Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Doderer is a fellow in the American College of Health Care Executives and is active in many professional organizations. She has served on the boards of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas and the national Children’s Hospital Association. She is currently a member of the Children’s Hospital Solutions for Patient Safety CEO Steering Committee. She obtained her bachelor of science degree in finance from Trinity University and her master of arts degree in hospital and health administration from University of Iowa.
Bob East is a founding member of East-Harding Inc. He is owner of Advanced Cabling Inc., a security company with more than 150 employees in four offices in two states that was named one of the top 20 fastest-growing security companies in the United States. He has been active in commercial construction as a general contractor, owner and developer for more than 40 years and is a partner in numerous real estate projects. He received a bachelor of business administration degree in finance and administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. East has served as president of Associated Builders and Contractors, chairman of the board of the Arkansas Nature Conservancy, co-chairman of Vision Little Rock, and past president of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership. Currently, East serves on the Clinton National Airport Commission, the board of directors of Bank of Ozarks, and a past member of the board of directors of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. East has been honored with many awards, including Arkansas Business Executive of the Year in 1996 and Man of the Year by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Arkansas in 1983.
Melanie Parham Fox
Melanie Parham Fox started J & M Foods, Inc. in 1989 with her mother, Jamie Parham. The company manufactures gourmet food snacks distributed nationally. Fox previously worked for Groupe Development Company in commercial real estate and then in corporate advertising for Dillard’s Department Stores. Fox received the bachelor’s degree in finance and banking from the University of Arkansas. She served on the Little Rock Board of Education from 2006 to 2012. Prior to her board service, she served on many educational task forces and advocated for children and educational issues. Along with the Board of Education, Fox has served on the City Parks Conservancy Board, the Little Rock Public Education Foundation Board, the Little Rock PTA Council Board, and the Museum of Discovery Board. She is currently serving on the Anthony School Board of Trustees and the PTNA Board. She and her husband, Jeff, have two children.
Diana Gonzales Worthen, Ph.D
Diana Gonzales Worthen, Ph.D, is director of Project RISE (Realizing and Increasing Student Excellence), an ESL-endorsement program for classroom teachers at the University of Arkansas. A science and ESL educator with more than 27 years of experience, she instructs and coaches teachers of English learners as they implement new strategies and methods. She advocates for vulnerable student populations – especially culturally and linguistically diverse students – to increase high school graduation and college-going rates. As afterschool ambassador for the state of Arkansas, she brings awareness to providing quality afterschool, before school and summer programming for all working families, children and youth. She is co-founder of two non-profit organizations, OneCommunity and Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas. She chairs the Arkansas Hispanic Democratic Caucus and is the first Hispanic woman to run for the state house (2006) and state senate (2012). Gonzales Worthen serves on the Arkansas State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the boards of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, OneCommunity (chair), Arkansas-East Bolivia Chapter of Partners of the Americas (president), National Association of Holmes Scholars Alumni (treasurer) and Historic Springdale. She lives in Springdale with her husband, Shannon, and has a daughter.
Ginny Kurrus is the Education Director of the US Green Building Council – Arkansas Chapter. Her primary responsibilities are educational and community outreach. She is the coordinator of the Arkansas Green Schools Challenge, a free program for any K-12 school in Arkansas where school teams are paired with professional USGBC mentors to choose and implement a program to ‘green’ their school.
For the past 25 years she has served as a community volunteer, primarily in the area of education. Ginny served as state president for Arkansas PTA in 2007-2009, is a past president of the Little Rock PTA Council, and was awarded the Jane Mendel Award for outstanding volunteer in the Little Rock School District in 2004. Ginny also served on the Arkansas Department of Education’s Common Core Implementation Task Force.
A native of St. Louis, she graduated from the University of Missouri in 1979 with a BSBA in Finance and Economics, and worked as a commercial lending officer for banks in Dallas, TX, and Little Rock. She currently serves on the board of the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas and the local leadership board for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Ginny is married to Baker Kurrus and has three adult children: Madeline Kurrus Moore, Sarah Kurrus, and Andrew Kurrus.
Hugh McDonald is the former president and chief executive officer of Entergy Arkansas, Inc. McDonald has served in this role since 2000. As president and CEO, he is responsible for the utility’s electric distribution systems, customer service, regulatory and public affairs, economic development programs and charitable contributions, as well as the company’s financial performance.
McDonald, who lives in Little Rock, has been with Entergy since 1982, when he was hired to work at Entergy’s Waterford 3 nuclear plant in Taft, La. McDonald was later promoted to serve as executive assistant to the chairman of Louisiana Power & Light/New Orleans Public Service Inc. – the predecessors of Entergy Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans. He then led Entergy Louisiana’s Total Quality initiative. During Entergy’s 1993 merger with Gulf States Utilities, McDonald was a special projects director for the functional integration of the transmission, distribution and customer service organizations.
McDonald also served as a division manager of customer service for Entergy Mississippi in 1994. He was promoted to serve as director of regulatory affairs for Entergy Texas, after which he was promoted to senior vice president of Entergy Retail Operations prior to coming to Arkansas in 2000 to accept his current position.
McDonald is a past board member and chair of the United States Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves on the boards of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Research Alliance Board, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Fifty for the Future. He also serves on the advisory boards for the University of Arkansas Sam Walton College of Business, UALR College of Business, UAMS BioVentures and The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas.
McDonald holds a bachelor of science degree in construction management from North Dakota State University and earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans.
David Rainey is a former superintendent, state representative, and visiting professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. At the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, he managed a partnership between the university and five school districts to improve reading, math and English K-12. Prior to his work there, he served as a program manager with the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL). In this role, he managed the intensive site work in the five states served by SEDL – Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. This major research initiative was designed to assist districts and schools in working systemically to improve student achievement in reading and math. Researchers studied the transformation of low-performing schools into high-performing schools and developed procedural knowledge for practitioners and policy makers. Prior to moving into this position, Rainey was director of the Southeast Comprehensive Assistance Center, where he managed the delivery of technical assistance and professional development services at the state and district level in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. This work involved coordination and collaboration with the state departments of education and regional service centers in each state to assist local school districts in implementing the Improving America’s Schools Act.
Before joining SEDL in 1996, Rainey served three years as director of the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences. Prior to that he enjoyed 13 years as a building administrator with the Dumas Public Schools – one year as assistant high school principal, six years as junior high school principal, and six years as high school principal.
Rainey holds a doctor of education degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a master of arts degree in secondary school administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a bachelor of science degree in history and government from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Brenda Robinson is the president of the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) and a 20-year veteran of the Pulaski County Special School District. Prior to becoming president of the AEA, Robinson served as a sixth-grade teacher at Fuller Middle School. She has also taught 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th grades and served as an Intervention Specialist and Reading Specialist. Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Philander Smith College and a master’s degree in Reading from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2010, she completed the Arkansas Leadership Academy: Teacher Institute.
Ray Simon has been involved in public education for 48 years, working across all levels of the education delivery system from the classroom to the federal government. He recently formed his own company to provide independent consulting services at the national, state and local levels on topics relating to education policy and practice.
Prior to his current practice, he served at the U.S. Department of Education as deputy secretary, the second-highest ranking official at the agency. He had previously served as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. Both posts, spanning a five-year period, were presidential appointments, subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Prior to going to Washington, Simon was the chief state school officer for Arkansas for six years. He also served as superintendent of the Conway School District from 1991 to 1997.
A native of Conway, Simon began his career as a mathematics teacher at North Little Rock High School. In addition, he has been an adjunct professor for both educational technology and school finance at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Central Arkansas, an educational specialist degree in school administration from the University of Arkansas, and an honorary Doctor of Public Service from the University of Central Arkansas.
Simon and his wife, Phyllis, were honored by the Conway School District Board of Education with the naming of the Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School in 2006. They have one daughter.
LaDonna Spain is Arkansas Department of Education Program Administrator for the Public School Accountability Division. She served as gifted and talented and Advanced Placement coordinator in the McGehee School District and taught in the Tiller School District, Delta Special School District and McGehee School District.
She graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and then earned a master’s degree in gifted and talented education from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
As school improvement specialist, Spain serves Arkansas school districts and schools with school improvement needs by providing on-site services to academic distress districts and schools, priority schools, and focus schools. As a zone leader, she creates and provides professional development for new school improvement specialists that she mentors. She has lectured nationally and in Arkansas on a variety of topics including school improvement processes, federal programs, state categorical Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Planning budgeting, comprehensive needs assessment, and using school improvement web-based tools.
Spain lives in Monticello with her husband. She has three daughters.
Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury
Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury is president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, a private, independent foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of all Arkansans in three interrelated areas: economic development; education; and economic, racial and social justice. Involved in philanthropy for more than 20 years, West-Scantlebury served as CEO at the Foundation for Louisiana and as a program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Her professional career includes nearly 30 years of experience in community development, public policy and advocacy, and public service. In addition to running the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, West-Scantlebury is active in a number of nonprofits and philanthropy organizations.
Her educational background includes a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Maryland and a master of arts degree in public policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. In addition, she has been a fellow at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Policy Institutes and a 2003-04 Emerging Leaders Fellow, a joint program of Duke University and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She completed undergraduate studies at Bowie State University.
During her career, she has been involved with numerous associations and professional organizations including Association of Black Foundation Executives, Bank of the Ozarks, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Center on Community Philanthropy, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service Center Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, and the Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum.
She is a 2007 Telly Award winner for work as executive producer of the social documentary Power in the People and is a 2008 graduate of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Arkansas Class. In 2013, she was named a Woman of Influence by the Arkansas Business Journal and was included on its Top 180 Power List in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Raised in a family of educators, Kenya Williams had the support of a grandmother – a retired schoolteacher – who encouraged her to enter the field of education as a way of reaching and improving the community and as a career.
Williams volunteers at Union Parish Domestic Abuse Unit and creates lesson plans for the women of Union Parish Detention Center. She also has served as an intern for the Social Security Administration and has conducted studies of the South Arkansas Community College Remediation Program.
Williams attended South Arkansas Community College and Grambling State University. She has a bachelor of science degree in social science education and a master’s degree in public administration and developmental education concentrating in guidance and counseling and curriculum and instruction.
Williams currently co-chairs the Strong-Community leadership alliance and works closely with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. She is a member of the Batts-Lapile Water Association Board of Trustees and the South Arkansas Adult Education Advisory Council.
Williams is married and has five children.