Media Highlights

Arkansas Governor Lauds Opportunity Leader Linda Nelson for her Work

by Jennifer Jordan   •  

Momentum is growing – from leader to leader, county to county, state to state – in the national movement to expand opportunity to more Americans. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe is the latest chief executive to praise on-the-ground efforts to improve economic mobility in his state.

On March 30, Opportunity Leader Linda Nelson, executive director of the Ouachita-Calhoun County Literacy Council, will co-host with Opportunity Nation the 2013 Youth Challenge Pathway Expo. The event aims to connect young people ages 14-24 to educational and job training programs.

Nelson will promote a new Transitional Pathways program that will launch in September 2013. Youth who are disconnected from school and jobs commit to a year of service in exchange for a monthly living stipend and enrollment in an academic or job-skills program. This will help them complete at least an associate’s degree or industry-recognized certificate.

“I applaud the members of the Council for pursuing their mission to assist Arkansans in becoming more economically self-sufficient, employable and able to attain higher levels of education,” wrote Gov. Beebe in a letter of support to Nelson that he issued this week.

The governor thanked Nelson for her efforts to help more young people “find their own pathways to success.”

“Your focus on the power of positive transformation in the lives of at-risk young adults will help to bring about a better life for families in Southern Arkansas and throughout the State,” the governor wrote.

Gov. Beebe, a Democrat, joins Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, in publicly embracing Opportunity Nation’s message. Our organization believes that diverse groups and leaders must join together to expand access to programs that help more Americans succeed in today’s economy and build good lives for their families.

Gov. Pence declared March 2013 “Opportunity Month” in Indiana, following in the footsteps of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, also a Republican. Gov. Branstad proclaimed Feb. 2012 “Opportunity Month” in Iowa and has supported the work of our local affiliate, Opportunity Iowa.

In rural Arkansas, Linda Nelson has used Opportunity Nation’s Opportunity Index to measure how her county fares across 16 key economic, educational and civic indicators.

She found that Ouachita County ranks below adjacent Union and Columbia counties in several key areas, influenced by its high rate of adult illiteracy — 25 percent.

Nelson is rallying her community to improve its Opportunity Index Score from a C to a C+. She knows she has to increase the percentage of adults who complete some form of post-secondary education from 18.9 percent to 25 percent to help move the needle.

Nationally, Opportunity Nation seeks to improve Opportunity Index Scores by 10 percentage points in all 50 states over the next 10 years.

“We know that individual programs like Transitional Pathways cannot, on their own, achieve all of our urgent goals over the next 10 years,” Nelson said. “But we are committed and know this plan is a step in the right direction.”

We join with Gov. Beebe in applauding the effort, vision and commitment of Linda Nelson and our other Opportunity Leaders who are working hard to ensure more of their children, friends and neighbors can climb the ladder of opportunity. These regional and state leaders are leading the way.

The day-long Youth Challenge Pathway Expo 2013 will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charles O. Ross Center on the campus of SAU Tech in Camden.

Jennifer Jordan

Jennifer D. Jordan is Opportunity Nation’s Senior Writer. She shares the campaign’s mission and accomplishments and those of its coalition with diverse audiences, seeking to heighten awareness about expanding economic mobility to more Americans. Read Jennifer's bio.

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