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story.lead_photo.caption Kelsey Powell is the new executive director of Conway Cradle Care, located in the First Presbyterian Church in Conway. Powell volunteered at the day care when she was a student at Conway High School, which is next door to Conway Cradle Care. - Photo by Gareth Patterson

Kelsey Powell is a busy young woman.

At 25, she’s the new executive director of Conway Cradle Care, which provides child care and mentoring services to parenting teens, as well as pregnant teens.

She also has two other jobs — both related to young children.

Powell is the children’s coordinator at Centennial Country Club in Conway, where she has planned family activities for the past six years. She is also the nursery director at First Presbyterian Church, where she has been for the past four years.

“I love to work,” she said with a laugh. “I have a hard time getting rid of jobs.

“Cradle Care is for parenting teens and for pregnant high school students. We offer child care and mentoring services as we assist them in completing their

high school education.”

Conway Cradle Care is located in the First Presbyterian Church at 2400 Prince St., which is next to Conway High School. Conway Cradle Care, a state-certified child care facility, serves students at Conway High School, as well as those at other public schools in Faulkner County.

“The child care services offered here in this facility are basically for students at Conway High School,” she said. “We try to find other, state-certified child care facilities for students we serve out in the county.”

She said the child care services are offered only when the teen parents are in school.

“The mentoring program is very important for these teens,” Powell said, noting that these services are offered to males as well as females. “They meet one on one with Karen Yancey, our mentoring program director, and talk about such things as nutrition, a budget and parenting skills. Karen also keeps an eye on their [grade-point] average and attendance at school. If their grades start to fall, we want to help them right away.”

Powell said Conway Cradle Care is licensed for six infants and six toddlers for a total of 12 children.

“Our infant room is full, and we currently have five in our toddler room,” she said, adding that the child care center is open to the community if space is available. “Our spots go first to the teen parents.

“As a nonprofit, we cannot afford to employ another worker at this time.”

In addition to Powell and Yancey, other employees at Conway Cradle Care are Deanna Tate, who works with the toddlers; Carol Campbell, who works with the infants; and Monic Murray, who works with both programs as needed. Volunteers also assist at Conway Cradle Care.

Powell said the child care services are not free, but the young parents are given assistance to apply for vouchers from the Arkansas Department of Human Services to help with the cost. There is no cost for the mentoring program.

Powell said she became aware of Conway Cradle Care as a student at Conway High School.

Powell, the daughter of Don and Vanessa Powell of Conway, has an older sister, Caroline Powell, and a younger brother, Kipley Powell, who both live in Fayetteville.

Kelsey Powell graduated from Conway High School in 2008.

She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science.

“I started out as an early-childhood education major, but that focused on children ages 4 and up,” she said. “I wanted something with a 0-3 age emphasis. One of my professors suggested I change my major to family and consumer science, so that is what I did. It focuses more on children 0 to 3 and deals more with nutrition and child development.

“I started volunteering with Cradle Care when I was 16 as part of my child-development class at Conway High School,” she said, adding that an internship was necessary for the class.

“I loved it. I got to know some of the moms [who used Conway Cradle Care],” she said. “Some of them went on to college. It was inspiring to see them from start to finish and see how successful they could be.”

Powell served as campaign coordinator for the United Way of Central Arkansas for six months prior to accepting the job at Cradle Care, where she has been since July 13.

“I’m excited about being here at Cradle Care,” she said. “I think I have found my niche. I think I am where I am supposed to be.

“It’s worked out well. I already had a working relationship with [Diana Byrd, former executive director of Conway Cradle Care]. She is only a phone call away.”

Powell said she hopes to work on the organization’s rating with the Arkansas Better Beginnings Quality Rating Improvement System, established by the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.

“We are rated Level 1, and I hope to meet the Level 2 criteria within the next year,” Powell said. Level 3 is the highest rating possible.

“The Better Beginnings system is trying to get all of the preschools on the same level,” she said.

She also hopes to work on the mentoring program offered by Conway Cradle Care.

“It’s a good program, but it could be stronger,” she said.

Powell wants to continue to develop and strengthen partnerships within the community.

“We work with some really good partners, but I hope to strengthen those community relationships,” she said. “We work closely with Child Care Aware [Resource Center], which is a resource library in Conway,” she said. “We’ve been able to borrow lesson plans and other materials from them. They have been helpful in providing training materials as well.

“I know we can always call on them. Those are the kind of community relationships I hope to strengthen.

“I also want to let the community know who and what we are. Getting our name out there is really important.”

Conway Cradle Care was established in 1995 to assist teen parents who were forced to drop out of school because of a lack of support for their situation and/or a lack of money for child care.

The organization started as a mission of First Presbyterian Church of Conway. Over time, it has become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a United Way of Central Arkansas agency. It is also supported by the Community Foundation of Faulkner County, First Presbyterian Church and other grants, as well as by individuals, other churches and businesses.

“A recent survey found Arkansas is No. 1 in teen births,” Powell said. “The numbers have fluctuated over the years. Even though the high school graduation rate is really high, teen pregnancy is still here.”

Powell was quick to point out that Conway Cradle Care is “very unbiased” on the issue of teen pregnancy.

“We are just a resource for all teens,” she said. Conway Cradle Care holds fundraisers throughout the year. Its biggest fundraiser is a style show, which was most recently held in July.

“I think we are going to change the date for the

fundraiser next year,” she said. “It will still be a style show, but it will be held at a different time. With all of the emphasis on shopping local, I hope we can get a lot of local businesses involved.

“We also do a mail-out as a fundraiser. It does pretty well, and we have a Stoby’s fundraiser every year, too. That’s usually a packed house.”

For more information on Conway Cradle Care, call (501) 730-0017.

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