It Takes An Arkansas Village to Raise a Child

September 23, 2015
Photo of business leaders speaking with ECD's Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda K. Smith.

By the Early Childhood Development Staff

PepsiCo Global Walmart Steve Williams and Nortwest AR Council's Mark Malone talk with HHS' Linda Smith before the round table paPepsiCo Global Walmart's Steve Williams and Northwest AR Council's Mark Malone talk with HHS' Linda Smith before the round table panel.The message in Bentonville, Arkansas last week was this: “it takes a village to raise a child” and they are taking it very seriously. Members of the business, philanthropic, school and early childhood communities came together with a long list of community representatives to call attention to early childhood.

The message began with a summary of the research on the developing child, especially on the neuroscience. The path to a good education and a successful career starts early. High-quality early learning beginning at birth and continuing to age 5 helps children enter school ready to learn and prepared to succeed in school and in life. Parent engagement and highly qualified teachers were recurrent themes during the roundtable panel discussion. The call for quality permeated every aspect of the event. This is a community that clearly understands that positive early childhood experiences build the foundation for a skilled workforce, a responsible community, and a thriving economy.

Audience members attending a panel discussion on early childhood development.The belief that it takes support from federal, state and local partners to provide high quality early care and learning today was also a consistent theme. Efforts in Bentonville last week showed that with a comprehensive plan for young children birth through school entry and with partners from business, economic development, foundations, schools, Head Start and early childhood, a community can all come together to make a difference. The plan in Bentonville is to elevate child care programs toward state quality accreditation so that all children from infancy to 5 years old have access to a high-quality early education.

Linda K. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for Early Childhood Development at HHS, and John King, deputy secretary of Education, joined the Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center for the announcement that the group had raised almost 90 percent of a $14.3 million capital campaign for the construction of a new early care and learning facility in Bentonville.

35 years ago, Mrs. Walton had a vision to provide the community the highest quality care and early education for working families.

"Helen's vision was to provide all children with access to high quality care and education. The Helen R. Walton Children's Enrichment Center has worked toward this vision for more than 30 years. We are honored to be long-standing supporters during this milestone in early childhood education. This new facility will have far-reaching impact on children at the Center and also offer training to other child care centers, thereby raising the quality of child care and educational programming throughout Northeast Arkansas." -- Lynne Walton, Board member, Walton Family Foundation

The Center, named for Walton, will support  more than 500 other pre-school programs in Benton and Washington counties. The Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center is a nonprofit partner in the national Invest in Us campaign, announced by President Barack Obama at the White House Summit on Early Childhood. See  for more information on the Early Childhood Initiatives Center campaign to improve the quality of care and education provided by the nearly 500 Arkansas child care programs that serve over 32,000 children in the region.

Photo of eight individuals participating in a round table discussion on early childhood development.In addition to Smith and King, Participants in the Roundtable Panel Discussion pictured above also included Lynne Walton,  Walton Family Foundation; Karen Parker, Walmart Foundation, Mike Malone, Northwest AR Council, Sara Lilygren, Tyson Foods, Inc., Larry Perkin, Hight Jackson Associates, Michelle Barnes, Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center, Steven Williams, PepsiCo-Global Walmart and Dwayne Milum, Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center Board.

Participants also had the opportunity to visit the Springdale Early Childhood Center, talk with Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins and meet with the Expulsion/Suspension/Social Emotional & Behavioral Health Working Group. Things are happening in Arkansas.

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