chamber logo
Welcome to our Chamber Connection Newsletter!
In an effort to connect our Chamber Members to valuable news, information, and resources each month we will feature a spotlight topic to better connect our community. This month's topic focuses on the importance our Education including exciting announcements, transitions, and more news in our community. Next month's topic will feature a focus on our Fort Smith Chamber Membership.
May| 2021 | Education
Don't Miss Our Newsletters, Save to Your Safe Sender List!
2021 Signing Day
Our 3rd Annual Singing Day - May 7, 2021 highlighted over 40 Students & 10 different companies entering in to the local workforce. We are grateful to the companies, schools, and students that participated in the process of Signing Day and we hope to continue to highlight the talent of area apprentice students and graduates entering our local workforce.
59th Annual Honors Banquet Video Celebration
Congratulations to the following students on graduating area Fort Smith high schools in 2021 with a Honors or Arkansas Scholar designations. We salute your hard work and achievements. Thank you to our sponsors that supported this presentation including Presenting Sponsor, Arkansas Colleges of Health Education; Gold Sponsors: ArcBest and University of Arkansas - Fort Smith; Silver Sponsors: Carman Inc., Rheem Manufacturing, and Simmons Bank; and Bronze Sponsors: Armstrong Bank, BancorpSouth, Cox Business, and Westark Plumbing. Thank you to our Fort Smith area high schools: Future School of Fort Smith, Fort Smith Public Schools (Northside & Southside), and Union Christian Academy for helping the Fort Smith Chamber collect photos of the graduates, we appreciate your hard work on this project.
Fort Smith Chamber Announces The Selection of Class VI for its Junior Leadership Academy
The Chamber is excited to announce the next class of JLA - Junior Leadership Academy! Congratulations to the following students selected!
Peak Innovation Center Investments Announced in May
ArcBest announces a $1 million investment in the Peak Innovation Center on Friday, May 7, 2021. 
Pictured From the Announcement: Tim Allen, Fort Smith Chamber President & CEO, Judy R. McReynolds, ArcBest Chairman, President, & CEO, and Alba Weaver, OG&E Economic Development & Community Affairs
ABB announces $1 million to support advanced manufacturing program at Peak Innovation Center on Monday, May 24, 2021
Pictured From Announcement: Jason Green - VP Human Resources ABB NEMA Motor Division, Tim Allen - President & CEO Fort Smith Chamber, U. S. Representative Steve Womack - Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District, Jesse Henson - President ABB NEMA Motor Division, Dr. Terry Morawski, Superintendent Fort Smith Public Schools
First Class of Doctors Graduate from ACHE
May 15, 2021 Arkansas Colleges of Health Education held a commencement ceremony for its first class of doctors graduating from the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine
UAFS Announces Gifts
Arvest Gift of $50,000 Supports Innovation at The Bakery
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith announced a $50,000 gift from Arvest Bank on Friday, May 21, 2021, which will support the university’s strategic investments at The Bakery District in downtown Fort Smith. In recognition of the gift, UAFS will name the entrance of its new space in honor of the bank.  

The highly-anticipated Bakery District space, located at 70 S. Seventh St., will be dedicated to economic development, housing the university’s Center for Business and Professional Development, Family Enterprise Center, and the newest regional office of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. 

Roger Holroyd, president of Arvest Bank Fort Smith Region, explained the bank’s interest in the project.

“Arvest Bank is excited to be part of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s expansion into The Bakery District,” Holroyd said. “The combination of the Family Enterprise Center, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, and the Center for Business and Professional Development under one roof makes perfect sense. The fact that the roof belongs to the Bakery venue is appropriate since the entrepreneurial spirit required to bring the Bakery to the marketplace is reflective of the values taught in these UAFS-affiliated entities.”
UAFS Announces $8 Million Windgate Foundation Gift Supporting Students in Need, Art & Design
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith announced a nearly $8 million gift from the Windgate Foundation this week, which will provide multiple avenues to enrich and elevate academic opportunities for students at UAFS.

“As an educator, I am so moved by what this support will do for our students,” said Katie Waugh, head of the UAFS Art Department. “This gift will broaden their access to professional and creative communities, and it is an absolute dream to be given the chance to build new ways to support them. Our students accomplish incredible things and often do so while managing many responsibilities. The direct positive impacts this gift will have on them is profound.”

The gift includes more than $4 million in direct student support through a need-based university scholarship, $394,000 for academic program development and expansions; $240,000 to develop an artist in residence program; and $120,000 to support paid internships for emerging student artists and designers.

Through the $4 million portion of the gift, any UAFS student who is eligible to receive Pell Grants, and who receives no other form of free aid (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Arkansas Challenge Scholarships, etc.,) will be able to attend the university at little to no out-of-pocket cost. Tuition and mandatory fees for a full-time student at UAFS amount to $7,335 per year, with Pell Grants covering roughly $6,100 of that cost. Through the Windgate gift, the university will be able to provide the remaining $1,235 to eligible students, bringing the cost of their tuition and mandatory fees down to $0.
ATU Announces New Alliance for Workforce Development
New Alliance Seeks to Create Opportunities
A new partnership in the Arkansas River Valley is connecting students with careers and employers with a skilled workforce.

The Education and Industry Alliance held its first meeting at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus in March 2021. Representatives from ABB, Butterball, Ozark Public Schools, Bank OZK, Guy Fenter Educational Co-op, ATU-Ozark Campus, Arkansas Tech Career Center (ATCC), Arkansas Valley Electric, Black Hills Energy and the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce are involved in the collaboration.

“The purpose of the Education and Industry Alliance is to develop and sustain partnerships with local industry," said Dr. Sheila Jacobs, chief academic officer at ATU-Ozark. "We seek to enhance industry relevant curriculum and educational and work-based experiences for our students so that we may continue to play an integral role in regional and state economic development.”

Student interns at the ATCC Tyson Foods Logan County Career Center in Paris had an opportunity to show representatives from ABB Ozark what they have learned during a site visit near the conclusion of the spring 2021 semester.

As a result of the Education and Industry Alliance, ABB has hired four machining students and the company expects to see the number of hirings increase as the partnership continues to develop.
1st Lutheran School, Celebrates its 168th Year as the Oldest School in Fort Smith
1st Lutheran School continues its legacy of quality education in Fort Smith
On Christmas Day in 1852, the vision for the River Valley’s first school was born. By the early months of 1853, a log cabin school was built at Long Prairie, a teacher secured, and classes began. During the course of the Civil War the families sought refuge in Fort Smith and the school was officially relocated in 1864; it was the only school of any kind located within Fort Smith. Educating the next generation was considered the highest priority; the establishment of the school predated the formal formation of First Lutheran Church by 15 years. 168 years later, 1st Lutheran School still holds fast to the mission of providing students with a solid educational foundation in a Christ-centered, family-focused, student-driven environment.

1st Lutheran seeks to meet the educational needs of the Fort Smith community and is the only private elementary school and one of a handful of early childhood options on the east side of Fort Smith, located on Massard Road just north of Rogers Avenue. In August, 1st Lutheran’s Early Childhood program will expand to begin accepting children at 18 months old.
The ECE program runs academic year and year-round enrollment options. The elementary program currently includes Kindergarten through 6th grades with plans to expand to 7th and then 8th during the 2022-2024 school. 1st Lutheran offers a Summer Care program open to the public and an after school care program for their students during the school year.

1st Lutheran values the Fine Arts providing all elementary students Spanish, art and music instruction at all grade levels, a drama program for 1st-6th grades, and the River Valley’s only elementary band program.

Students who need extra academic support are able to receive small group or one-on-one support through their Resource Room program.

A core part of 1st Lutheran’s vision is to raise up students who impact our local community and the world. That vision also extends to the choices made by the school from supporting local charities through regular service projects to partnering with local and small businesses whenever possible. The school is always looking to expand their partnerships and would love to work with other chamber members.
Fort Smith Catholic Schools Realign Grades
Christ the King Elementary School, Immaculate Conception Elementary School, and Trinity Jr. High realigned grade levels to match the Fort Smith Public Schools Realignment for the 2021-2022 School year
In 2018, the Fort Smith Catholic Schools began meeting to determine if we would restructure the local Catholic Schools when the Fort Smith Public Schools restructured. A decision was made to make a change to preschool through fifth grade beginning in the 2021-22 school year for the Fort Smith Catholic Elementary Schools and for Trinity Junior High to change to a middle school serving grades sixth through eighth.

2021 brought many firsts to Christ the King Catholic School. Not only did they offer virtual and blended options for the first time, but they also graduated two grades for the first time in the seventy-one-year-old history. On Monday, May 24th they held two graduation ceremonies for both their fifth-grade class and their last sixth grade class. Father Juan Guido was the presider of both Graduation Masses. Each Mass was followed by a reception in the Parish Center featuring a video of the students through their years at Christ the King.

Although masks, fogging hallways, and sanitizing were the top priorities during this 2020-2021 school year, Immaculate Conception Elementary has striven to provide students with stability by safely holding events and activities that were both educational and fun. Amidst providing students with traditional experiences and new ways to learn, IC did not neglect the importance of the transition from the old K-6 structure to the new structure matching what Fort Smith Public Schools will implement in the next academic year. Losing two classes, both fifth and sixth grades, is bittersweet. Sixth grade teacher Mrs. Christine Maestri said, “I feel there are many pros to the realignment of sixth graders. ...They are at the age where they are bridging into a new stage of development. Being in middle school seems to be where they can make that growth. I will miss having the 6th grade here at IC, but I can see the opportunities that come with middle school will be beneficial to the 6th graders.”
Principal Sharon Blentlinger worked with faculty and parents to provide two separate graduation Masses, both with receptions, and both grades with parents hosting parties to celebrate. Blentlinger said of the change, “It is always difficult to make such a momentous change but believe that sixth grade students will fit better with seventh and eighth graders emotionally, socially, and academically. I am excited for the expanded opportunities in academic and athletic choices Trinity will be able to offer. I am sad to lose a grade, but this will also give I.C. the ability to make some changes within our facility.”

After over 30 years of serving Ft. Smith and the surrounding communities as the area’s only Catholic junior high school, Trinity is transitioning from grades 7—9 to grades 6—8. On May 17 and 18, 2021, they graduated their last 9th grade class and said goodbye to the first 8th grade graduates. Principal Karen Hollenbeck said, “We eagerly anticipate our rising 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to begin our new adventure as a middle school for the 2021/2022 school year.”

The school’s name will change to “Trinity Catholic School” from “Trinity Catholic Junior High,” effective June 1, 2021. Although our grade levels will change, Trinity will maintain a faith-based focus on strong academics and development of the whole child with opportunities for band, art, choir, drama, and sports for all students, grades 6—8.

Hollenbeck said "We are tremendously excited to be able to impact our students during this critical time of character development and change in their lives." As noted by the Association of Middle Level Education, “The quality of students’ middle school experience substantially affects their overall sense of well-being and, in particular, their later chances for high school completion and post-secondary success.”
Montessori School Takes Service Beyond the Classroom
Montessori School of Fort Smith volunteers at the 2nd Annual United Way APT tour.
Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of the Montessori system of learning, believed that instead of teaching children about a tree in the classroom, you should take them to the tree to learn. At the Montessori School of Fort Smith, the staff and board believe the same thing about learning and service learning. 

'Service to the community not only helps our students gain knowledge and skills that will benefit them later in life, but also helps them to become adults who understand the importance of helping others. In previous (non-COVID) school years, the school has partnered with organizations in the city such as Antioch for Youth & Families, the Humane Society, Chapel Ridge, and Next Step Day Services. This year we were excited to support the United Way at the 2nd annual United Way APT Tour. We look forward to this fall and getting back to work with our neighbors!'
Enrollment Opportunities
Check out additional ongoing enrollment options with other Fort Smith Chamber members, click on their logos for more details
Welcome to Our New Members in May 2021
Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters
Future Chamber Connection sponsorships available. Contact Dawn Turner at to learn more. Reach thousands of subscribers and more through our social media distribution!
June 25, 2021 - Membership

July 29, 2021 - Shop Local (Back-to-School Campaign Kick-off)
Newsletter Advertising

Read more
Connect with us on our social media channel below, like & follow for the latest news, events, specials, jobs, and more from our membership community.