Four Arkansans are among the 60 people chosen this year to be Presidential Leadership Scholars, according to the Clinton Foundation.
The program kicks off Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of several months, they will learn about leadership through the experiences of four former presidents -- Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush -- and will visit those presidents' libraries.
The 2019 scholars from Arkansas are Kim Davis, senior program officer with the Walton Family Foundation in Fayetteville; Jill Floyd, project manager and director of community outreach with CDI Contractors of Little Rock; Willie Montgomery III, director and data scientist with Walmart Inc. in Bentonville; and Sherry Skaggs, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
Montgomery said the applicants submitted proposed initiatives. His initiative concerned construction of a food manufacturing plant and distribution centers in various parts of Arkansas.
"Mine is focused on job creation," Montgomery said. "I'll be working with a local business here in Arkansas. I'll be helping them to improve their systems and work on increasing their demand, increasing their production, so they can hire more people."
Montgomery said he hopes he will be able to help people in lower socioeconomic areas of the state so they can get jobs that pay a living wage.
Montgomery said he grew up in Little Rock and is concerned about poverty in the Delta.
Skaggs wants to evaluate and expand the Share-A-Bear Program that she has been working on at UCA for the past four years.
The program includes a donation drive in which new and gently used teddy bears are collected, along with toys, school supplies and winter coats. The items are distributed to children primarily at a holiday event that is held each December in Conway. Skaggs said about 3,000 bears were distributed each year during the program's existence.
The program also provides teddy bears for some law enforcement officers from Conway, UCA, the Faulkner County sheriff's office and the Arkansas State Police. When police officers respond to a call where a child might be present, they take a teddy bear to give to the child.
"It's a good way to calm the child and have a good reaction from the child if you give them a bear," Skaggs said. "We know that many opinions of law enforcement officers are formed in juvenile years. We know there are a lot of barriers, cultural barriers, socioeconomic barriers. This is a way to break down those barriers."
This is the fifth class of Presidential Leadership Scholars.
They were selected after a rigorous application and review process, according to a news release from the Clinton Foundation.
"Scholars were selected based on their leadership growth potential and their personal leadership projects aimed at improving civic engagement or social good by addressing a problem or need in their community, the country or the world," according to the release.
Scholars will travel to each participating presidential center to learn from former presidents, key former administration officials, business and civic leaders and leading academics, according to the release. Former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have spoken to the scholars during past programs.
Scholars will visit the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock and three centers in Texas: the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station and the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
"They will study and put into practice varying approaches to leadership and exchange ideas to help strengthen their impact in their communities," according to the release.
"The latest class joins an active network of 240 Scholars who are applying lessons learned through the program to make a difference in the U.S. and around the world," according to the release.
"Examples of these scholar-led efforts include providing employment and mentorship to veterans, helping developing nations access safe anesthesia services for effective surgical care, empowering women with economic opportunity through clean energy in Africa, and deploying much needed resources in the wake of natural disasters," the release says.
Metro on 02/03/2019