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Episode 58: Hope where Hope is needed most – The Evolution of Hope Academy in Bentonville

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Podcast: I am Northwest Arkansas Episode 58 - Hope where Hope is needed most The Evolution of Hope Academy in Bentonville

Duration: 41:38

It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy [0:42] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host Randy Wilburn and I'm excited to come to you today. I'm here in the recesses of Bentonville way out past the airport past all of the Walmart pass all of the Walmart warehouses and everything. I'm out here in a beautiful pristine area with cow pastures and a couple of subdivisions, and I'm out here at the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter, and I'm here with two fantastic gentlemen, Jake Gibbs and Adam Slaughter from the Hope Academy. And Jake is the principal of the Hope Academy and Adam is the community liaison for the academy and they reached out to me and I got to tell you, I was so proud when I heard that Adam said he just googled podcast in Northwest Arkansas and found I am Northwest Arkansas, we were right at the top. So, guys, your support is working out. I really appreciate that.

But without further ado, Jake, Adam, how are you guys doing today?

Guests [1:37] Doing well Randy, thanks for coming out here.

Good, good. Well, it's good to have you guys here. It's not often that I get to interview you know, there's three of us in an interview so we're going to make the most of us today.

Folks, I got to tell you I had a chance to walk around the grounds here and really take in the facility and I was blown away by you know, when you think of a children shelter you think of kind of like a waste station where kids go and it's for an indeterminate period of time, but it's not the best opportunity or best place for them to be. But I got to say that you know, this is an amazing facility, an amazing location, and you know, it just appears that there is a lot of love here in terms of what goes into giving back to so many kids that are going through so many difficult things so early in their lives. And I mean, I got to say, that's probably one of the reasons why you even decided to start Hope Academy but I'd love for you just to tell us a little bit about the children's shelter itself, just the overarching piece of it and then let's dive into understanding what this treat plan is for Hope Academy.

Speaker [2:49] The Northwest Arkansas Shelter, I believe we're in year 26 now and during that time, we've really honed our craft of providing a safe haven to children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. And what that looks like is providing first and foremost, just some basic physical needs clothing, food, rest, some of the things that they may have been lacking. And then we have a lot of programs where we provide social and emotional support. And then we have an on-site school for our residents, where we provide them with the academics that they need as well.

Randy [ 3:24] Was that on-site school for the residents the genesis of why you wanted to kind of roll out this Hope Academy?

Speaker [3:33] The leadership team at the shelter started talking about, you know, what can we do? What are we good at? First of all, what are we best at perhaps, and what came up was, you know, our school runs very well. And we do a really nice job of providing academic services as well as the social emotional piece. So, how can we extend that out into the community? So that really was the start of the conversation.

Randy [3:56] And then what has been I mean, obviously, this has been a long time coming. And it certainly takes money to do things like this. So, what have you guys done to? What kind of support from the community have you received in order to affect the change that you hope to see with this hope Academy?

Speaker [4:13] Well, it's interesting, we are really dependent on the community to make this work, because the financial model for this school is actually a little bit backwards in that some of what we will need to run is going to require grants and private donations. And so certainly, we've begun that campaign of outreach to say, you know, in order to provide this service to the community, here's some different ways that you can help us.

Randy [4:39] I mean, as a community liaison, Adam, what are your thoughts about that? And it sounds like you've got your work cut out for you.

Adam [4:46] Yeah, so I've been in contact with maybe a dozen or so different nonprofits in the area. Just one to get our name out there. Yeah, good. Like you mentioned, we're kind of way way out in Bentonville, and not that many people know where we are and don't really know what we're doing and wanted to get these other organizations involved in our project. And one of the things we're hoping to do with the kids that we serve is kind of craft our educational model through the community and find ways that different nonprofits can interact with our students and find projects that our kids can do, visit other organizations so that they can help make an impact in the community, while at the same time making their educational goals and really building their academic selves.

And so, I've been working on getting some partnership set up with different organizations throughout Northwest Arkansas to see if 1) be willing to come up with projects for our students, and also provide services to the families as well because we start with the child but we really also want to extend our services to the family because one of the things you want to do is catch kids before they enter the foster care system and help their families get back on track and keep them as an intact unit and a productive members of society.

Randy [6:06] Oh, I love that. So, tell me and both of you, I'd love for you to chime in just so that the audience can have a better understanding. We talk about kids that have been through trauma and have needs because of that. What are we talking about here?

Speaker [6:22] Well, broadly speaking, and when we look at trauma, it would be things physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to drug abuse, or domestic violence. And what we say with regard to the kids that we want to serve is that they've experienced this in a significant and pervasive way. And what we know, through research is, and this is starting to become more and more clear is this actually causes chemical changes to the brain; literal brain damage is caused by trauma. And so that causes some deficits in the ability to communicate, it causes some deficits in executive functioning, critical thinking skills, all of those things that you need to succeed in school and life. These kids are already starting out behind the eight ball and when I say these kids, I mean really particularly younger kids. Of course, it snowballs as they get older. So that's really the other thing that we know from research over the last 25-30 years is that you can actually begin to reverse these processes in the brain. And so obviously, just like any other process where you're wiring the brain, the younger you can do that the better.

Randy [7:35] Absolutely.

Speaker [7:36] And I think what was so fascinating to me, especially when I've only been in this area for seven years now, When I came to the shelter, I had no idea that it was such a need that an area like Northwest Arkansas that kind of has the reputation of being a little more well to do than other areas of the state. It's filled with children that need help and the three years I've been here I've helped and seen thousands of kids who have been abused by their family who self-harm who have attempted suicide, who have been starved by their parents. I mean, it's eye opening. It's an unbelievable thing to see and to be a part of, but then when they come here, and they can be here for anywhere between a day and 90 days, and 90% of the time, we see them getting a chance to actually be a kid. They have tantrums over, another kid stole their toy. They didn't get the snack they wanted and you know, those are the problems that kids should be having instead of worrying about getting beaten or where my next meal is coming from [left out in the cold] It's an crazy eye opening thing to know that, that here the need is so high, and we're hoping that Hope Academy can propel that need into the community and kind of open everybody's eyes to what's going on.

Randy [8:58] I'm glad you mentioned that because the two I get it and totally understand the blessing that Northwest Arkansas is from an economic standpoint. The other thing that I will say is that it seems like, and this is just through my own interactions with different people that I've had on this podcast and elsewhere, is that there is a strong philanthropic movement here for a variety of issues, right? So, it doesn't matter what it is but it seems like you know, with children, this is a prime area that we can focus on. And honestly, when I look at kids, I think about what you're doing is setting the tone for a generation, period end of story. And the more that we, when I say we collectively as a community, right? I'm part of it, you guys are part of it. The more that we can help set that tone the better off we will be as a society. I think so.

Speaker [9:53] Absolutely. (Inaudible 9:54). I don't know if it's a little known, but I don't know that it's discussed a lot. Washington and Benton County are in the top three Counties in the state for reported cases of child abuse. So that's something that's significant that your listeners and certainly everyone that's available needs to hear. And I'm glad that you mentioned that community piece, because that's going to be an absolutely essential component of the school, as Adam mentioned, you know, what we want our kids to understand at Hope Academy is that, yes, there are a lot of resources out there for them. We're there for them. We're there for their families. But at some point, your community is going to ask of you. And so, what we want them to start doing and developing at a young age is the ability to recognize some of their own strengths, and starting to put the puzzle pieces together of how I am needed. I'm important, and I fit somewhere in this community. And that's such a big part of why we're looking to partner with other nonprofits so that these kids can start to find their place in the community.

Randy [10:54] Yeah, that's great. So, let's talk about just this idea of Hope Academy, why don't you give us kind of an insider's view of what you I guess you're going to roll this out over the next few years and you're going to kind of slowly as they normally do with charter schools, add grades, [correct]. Okay. So, you're going to start off with?

Speaker [11:14] We will open kindergarten through third grade and then for the initial five-year charter, we will add a grade up till six. Okay, so, once we get to sixth grade, we will stop there.

Randy [11:26] All right. And that would be the capacity?

Speaker [11:31] Right now, what we want to do is because this is a relatively new concept, at least in our part of the world, we want to keep it small so that we're doing it right.. Going up to sixth grade does not mean that we would never expand, but right now we want to focus on elementary kind of heading into middle school. So that was the thinking behind that so that you're not getting overly complicated with the credit hours and all of those other things that are required of a high school?

Randy [12:01] And would you also say that your client base is more the younger group as opposed to? Or is it just across the spectrum?

Speaker [12:10] At the shelter it varies. We can have the capacity for infant up to 18 years of age. And so, you know, we have a pretty decent curve there with regard to ages. But, you know, again, the thinking with the school, and the younger serving the younger grades first was, was catching that trauma early and, you know, providing kids with a highly individualized experience.

Randy [12:36] Okay, now I got it. I just asked the question. And again, this is just from my pure, I'm not knowing but are there other programs out there or schools that specifically focus on childhood trauma?

Randy [12:49] There are a few. I've done some research. There's a really great program up in Kansas City. It's more of a preschool and it's connected to a pretty large hospital. They have a lot of resources. And it looks like they're doing a lot of good things. Outside of that the direct relation to what we're doing, I haven't seen. There are tons of programs nationwide and some here in the state that do address the issue of trauma. But I really think we're still very much on the front end of marrying education and trauma together and figuring out what exactly that looks like.

Randy [13:24] Yeah. So, you know, people that are here in Northwest Arkansas, and even if they're elsewhere listening to this, I mean, what's the best way for them to relate to this issue and help out in any way that they can. I mean, me just listening to this, I'm thinking of ways that I could possibly help out again, as a member of the community, but what are you looking for, with regard to outside help? You've mentioned some of the other nonprofit agencies that you'd like to team up with and partner with, but just with individuals that are listening to this podcast, what would you say to them if they're like, Man, you know what? If there's something I could do, I would love to do that. I'm sure you have some, some ideas.

Speaker [14:05] Yeah, you know, we're going to have a very small staff at the school, it's a small school. So what would be very helpful is to find people who work in this space, mental health professionals, counselors, even teachers who have a heart for working with kids who have a challenging background, you know, we would love to meet with people who can advise, who can provide us with, you know, resources in the practice of this; that would be a big one. We can always use individuals who may have a particular skill set in working with younger kids, yoga teachers, a big part of this is connecting the mind and the body, because trauma creates that dissociation, we know and so anyone that is involved in any sort of physical activity, those would be great opportunities.

Randy [14:57] Yeah. You mentioned that a couple years ago. You even had the UFA soccer team up here to give some lessons.

Speaker [15:03] Coach Hill was great and came up and they had a blast. But that's a perfect example of you know, we got our residents out. We had a structured activity time. They learned some soccer skills. And so, every time we do those things, you can clearly see the benefits. The challenge is to keep it consistent because it really does take a matter of months and even years using that as part of the overall therapeutic program to make progress.

Randy [15:30] Okay. All right. So, have you guys I mean, even before getting this off the ground and in your current state, tell us about some of the success stories that you've experienced? Because I think people need to understand that there is an end result to all of this effort that we're talking about, and what are the good stories that could resonate with people when they hear it and say, Wow, yeah, I want to be a part of that.

Speaker [15:56] Yeah, I think you know, from the I'll talk first of all from the shelter side, you know, typically when our residents leave, we don't do any follow up on them. That's just sort of the nature of this short operation. But we do have a few examples of children, teens, specifically who have come here who have really flourished who have found their way who have gotten back on track academically. We had one young lady here, who after she left, she enrolled in school, she got her driver's license, she was the lead in the school play. She's in her church choir, and she really blossomed here. You know, she had some really tough experiences before she came here. And our program really provided her with the confidence that she needed to go out and figure out who she was and capitalize on that.

From the Hope Academy side of things, I would say a couple of things. Number one, I think that when we went in front of the charter approval panel for the state, and then we went back in front of the State Board of Education, it seems to me that the state is really starting to recognize that trauma and its effects on a child's brain are a real thing, and that we aren't going to make long term academic gains until we address that first.

Secondly, I've heard from a lot of parents, some who have applied to the school who are really excited about this because they're at their wit's end. You know, we've had parents who are out of vacation days because they have to keep going to pick their kids up from school and the public schools do a fantastic job of handling trauma, recognizing it, training their staff, but the reality is, in those larger school settings, it's hard to handle those really specific needs.

Randy [17:44] Yeah, I mean, it requires so much attention.

Speaker [17:48] Absolutely. And that's why our class sizes are going to be 10 students, one teacher and two paraprofessionals. So, we really wanted to create a high staff to student ratio.

Speaker 4 [17:59] I would add, especially on the shelter side of things. In October, some legislation went into effect that affected the shelter wide, like nationwide shelters across the US.

Family First Prevention Services Act. Yeah.

Speaker [18:14] And so, what that did it puts pressure on DHS when they when they have to. First of all, a shelter is like DHS's last resort for their kids. They're really pressured to automatically find a foster home or something permanent. And, you know, you look at the statistics and they're way more kids in need than there are placements. And so, at some point, they have to come to the shelter and but these new laws that have gone into effect, unfortunately, that's resulted in some shelters in Arkansas closing down and our shelter has been able to rally through that and continue to provide support. And what we're finding is that even with this new legislation, DHS are still sending us kids because there's just not going to work putting kids immediately in foster care. And this place is so special because we have a team of case managers.

When a kid comes in, they're responsible for getting their medical setup, their dental, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy. I mean, we get we give these kids everything they need. We had a girl come in who I mean her teeth were black, rotted out. And, you know, she went to the dentist almost once a month, and by the time she left, she was she was complete. She had a new smile. Those are the things that we do. There's this connotation that a shelter is this prison or, or place for children institution. Right and, and like we had a kid come in who was seven years old and he weighed 30 pounds. He was tiny. His parents had starved him and neglected him and completely, just abandoned him and he came into our care. And you know, it was hard because he was really at risk. You know, introducing new foods can be hard for a kid who hasn't eaten anything in weeks. Slowly but surely, we got him back on track. And he ended up twice that size. And became a regular kid. We saved his life, this place rallied around him and brought him back in. And that that to me just seeing kids getting to be kids who have been raped. It's unbelievable the things that adults think that they can do children. It's just unbelievable.

Randy [20:38] Well you hear about it in the news, right? I think sometimes we, and I say we all, all of us, even those that are listening to this, we collectively are almost anesthetized to it and we don't really feel it. Yeah. And I would imagine that you guys because it's in your face every day, it's very raw. And I would imagine that you guys because it's in your face every day, it's very raw. I think it's incumbent upon. You have to figure out a way to get the word out, so that people understand what's going on.

Speaker [21:04] And that's why I like for me, when asking individuals what they can do, the first step is come see our space. We give tours constantly contact us. We will walk you through this place. We'll share our success stories, share our horror stories, and let you know that this is a place where change happens. And I think that's the first step. Come see what we do. Because a lot when I go out into the community, the first question they asked me is, where are you guys? Where you guys at? And we're behind God's backyard.

Randy [21:33] So, but it's cool. I mean, like I said again, it's almost like coming to a campus. And I gotta say, I wish you guys could see the pictures and maybe I will take a few and put them on the show notes. But you know, they've got a pump track, they have a great gym, they have a wonderful library, they have a store, they have a fishing pond, they have a softball field. I saw some soccer nets up in the back part of the of the campus. And they have so many wonderful facilities. And on top of that they have a bright water trained chef. They've got their own farm to table movement happening out here. And I may I say that but as I mean, that's important, because they're teaching the kids how to grow vegetables, and how to grow other plants and things of that nature that they can then utilize. And I think it's important that we start exposing kids to that because, as you said, both so eloquently, that, you know, these kids at the such a young age, I mean, their prefrontal cortex hasn't even formed yet. And there's so much of an opportunity for us to catch them at such an impressionable age and really kind of point them in the right direction. You know, they reach that fork in the road and sometimes just based on life and circumstances, they go down the wrong path and it's only because of their environment. That's it. So, I mean, you guys are creating an environment, you're creating a space, a safe place where these kids can truly be kids.

Speaker [23:07] Yes, safety. That's a great word safety and trust. Those are the two things that research says. talking about reversing the processes in the brain? Those are the two big ones. Understanding that adults can be safe and that they can be trusted. You mentioned the prefrontal cortex, that's Bessel Van der Kolk, who's one of the premier researchers of trauma over the last 25-30 years. He has a great book it's called, The Body Keeps the Score. (Inaudible 23:34) recommend anybody read, but basically, he says that area is sort of the Watchtower of the brain. And the amygdala is the smoke detector. So, the amygdala that first senses is the danger. And then the prefrontal cortex area is the area that says okay, exactly what kind of danger are we talking here? Is it an immediate life-threatening danger, or is it something like a dog barking behind that fence over there? And when that area is not developed, all that's happening is the amygdala is sending that warning, the brain is shooting cortisol to alert the body. And that's actually a chemical when you know, in, when it's limited to what it should be in a typically developing person, obviously, it's helpful, but it's damaging otherwise. And so, these little kids are getting these high doses of cortisol in the brain. And so that's a little bit of the science behind why everything is a threat, things that we see and realize immediately, you know, within fractions of a second, our brain understands that a dog barking behind the fence isn't a problem. These kids with these slowly developing brains as a result of trauma in their mind that dogs gonna get them exactly as an example.

Randy [24:47] Yeah, I mean, there's obviously a lot of science behind it. I just read just enough to be a little dangerous about understanding the impact of it because I certainly like to try to meet people where they are and I think part of it is just understanding the challenges that folks go through. So, you know, when you think about building a house, you build a house on a solid foundation. And I would imagine that you're probably thinking of the Hope Academy as that solid foundation to really get that process going.

Speaker [25:16] Yeah, we, you know, we need to make sure that all of our staff are trained consistently in the same programs that we're handling children consistently across the board. Of course, each child has individualized needs, but there are going to be standards that we have, as they relate to how we treat kids. And everyone understanding that behavior is communication. It's not the right type of communication, but there's something behind it. And that's how each case needs to be handled.

When we see a child acting out. The first thing that we need to do is hone our skills to understand what the antecedent is and why that child is acting out. Not to react emotionally. As professionals and adults, we cannot react emotionally, even in a sad way we have to be able to hold those emotions in check. And then as a staff will deal with those things on our own time, I want people to understand that this type of teaching environment is an intense one. And so, we want to make sure that our staff is provided time for self-care as well.

Randy [26:24] Absolutely. I can only imagine; I don't know that I would be able to go through this truthfully on a regular basis and not be a fully affected in the way that I do everything else in my life. So, I mean, I can only imagine what you guys go through and certainly you guys will be part of my prayer place. And you know, just thinking about you guys and what you do and even those that are listening here you need to think about ways that you can support the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter here in Bentonville and also support what Jake and Adam are trying to do with the Hope Academy because again, we need to endeavor to ensure that we are giving our kids the best foundation possible. And when it's not possible, we need to figure out a way to make it happen. So, I certainly want to encourage you to figure out ways that you can be a part of what these guys are doing out here in Bentonville.

And so, before we wind up, I'd love for you just to So, the first round of classes are going to start in September?

Speaker [27:26] In August. That's when the school will open.

Randy [27:29] That's when it will open officially. And how many kids are you hoping to enter in August?

Speaker [27:33] We would open with 40 if we're at full capacity. Yeah.

Randy [27:37] Okay. And you already have most of the teachers ready to go for.

Speaker [27:46] No, we're still definitely in the midst of interviewing and hiring process.

Randy [27:46] So, any teacher that may have some experience in that area, especially in that CAPE Third Grade area, and especially with kids that have had or have dealt with trauma or traumatic experiences, you'd be definitely open to talking with them?

Speaker [28:00] Yes. You know, experience isn't necessarily a barrier here. I want people who are committed to this and who have the energy for it, because it's going to take a lot of energy the first couple of years as we work through this, just to be quite frank.

Randy [28:12] And I would imagine even, you know, podcasts have a very long shelf life as we talked about Adam. So, I would imagine that even after August, you'll still be open to talking to anyone that is even remotely interested in finding out how they can help or be a part of this or even see if there are openings available for their skill set.

Speaker [28:31] If people are naturally inclined towards something as difficult as this, I would like to talk to them, because generally, they're coming with a genuine heart.

Randy [28:43] Is there a Hope Academy website set up yet?

Speaker [28:45] Yes, there is. It's There's an orange banner across the top where you can apply if you feel like this would be an appropriate setting for your family or child. And then at the bottom, there's a job application link as well.

Randy [29:04] And then what's the website for Northwest Arkansas children's shelter?

Speaker [29:07]


Randy [29:11] So, before we close out, I'd love for you guys just to share a little bit and I didn't ask you this upfront so I'm kind of doing the reverse in my in my conversation because I wanted to get right into the meat of why we were here in the first place. But I would love for you just to kind of tell the audience a little of your superhero origin story, Jake, and because you seem very passionate about this, and clearly, this is something that you are eat, sleeping and drinking on a regular basis.

Jake [29:38] Yeah, to be honest, I really wasn't particularly passionate about it at the beginning; I just really wanted to teach and I always saw myself with the corduroy jacket and the patches and the hype in the classroom.

Randy [29:52] Prototypical teacher, right.

Jake [29:53] But I quickly discovered that that is not reality. And the first job I took, I honestly took out of desperation because it was August and I didn't have one yet. And it was at the Siloam Springs Alternative School. And to this day, it remains one of my top favorite jobs of all time. And then after that, I never went looking for it but I always ended up working in behavior programs. I worked at a TDT. I taught Special Education. And now I'm here. And so, despite my best efforts to get away from it, I kept finding myself back in and I finally stopped fighting it and realized that I have the disposition to do this and I have just sort of a natural instinct to understand these kids and to work with them. And so, I've always sort of said, I live out on the frontier of education, and I'm interested in ideas. I'm interested in innovation, and I just happened to fall into this job. And here we have an opportunity to really do something that I think is going to be great for the community, which is what it all comes back to honestly.

Randy [30:56] Yeah, and I wish I could say that the numbers are only going down but the numbers are only increasing in terms of the number of kids that you could actually impact and make a difference in their and alive.

Speaker [31:07] Yes. And that's, you know, people say I wish you had more than 40 spots available. But again, we want to do this small so that we can do it and then one day we would love to expand.

Randy [31:18] That's awesome. That's awesome. And Adam, why don't you give us just a quick glimpse into you said, you've been here seven years in Northwest Arkansas.

Adam [31:26] I've worked with kids since I was old enough to hold a job. It's all my work experiences with kids. I was with the Boys and Girls Club for four or five years, both in Rogers and in Siloam Springs. Actually, I found the shelter, I was looking for a weekend job to help pay my rent and college and stumbled across the shelter and kind of had that eye-opening experience of walking through these doors and like, Whoa, this place is amazing.

And I've just, I don't know, I've just always really just been good with kids. I find they're easier to work with than adults. They're honest, especially here, you know, they're looking for those positive role models that they can invest in and that you can invest back And, you know, while working here, I've been kicked, punched in the face spit on. Three-year olds have cussed me out. Like I mean, this is just reality. Yeah, it's just the reality here


It's not pretty

Adam [32:24] I've had to train myself to not take it personally. When I leave these doors, I have to, you know, separate myself, but when I'm here, and when the kids are excited to see me when they open their Christmas presents on Christmas, like everything we do for these kids, seeing their smiles, seeing them come back from health crises. It's just, it's worth it. It's just, it makes everything better. It's just yeah, knowing that, you know, up to like 12,000 kids have cycled through this place. And you know, we don't know where they all are. But I know that they had their time here. And we gave them the opportunity to really be themselves. And it's just something that I love and something that I'm glad to be a part of.

Randy [32:01] Oh, that's awesome. I appreciate you sharing that. Before we go, certainly love to get one last thought for me. Just about Northwest Arkansas in general. What are your thoughts about this area? If somebody's listening to this, and certainly, this is an eye-opening episode, it's not one of our normal episodes. But you know, the focus of Northwest Arkansas is the intersection of business culture, entrepreneurship and life. This is life. This is the real stuff. I don't care where you are, you're going to have to deal with situations and repercussions and challenges and society is firmly aware of all the things that we are encountering on a regular basis and how we overcome them. But I just would be curious to know what your take is on Northwest Arkansas?

Adam [33:52] Yeah, it's been. It's an amazing place.

Randy [33:56] You're not from here.

Speaker [33:57] No, I'm from Iowa, actually. And didn't come here by choice either. My dad, he lost his job in Iowa and he ended up getting one here. And it was my senior year of high school so I didn't have much of a choice. And so, I came down here and within just a few months, just exploring the area and seeing how culture is just promoted here. All the small businesses that are thriving, you know, I'm a big beer guy and so, all the breweries that are open around here, it's great. Like I just think that Northwest Arkansas is a.. there's just so many stereotypes about the state. People when they hear that I live in Arkansas, like what's in Arkansas like Northwest Arkansas is in Arkansas.

It's a beautiful place, there's so much nature, there's just so much to do here and I can only give it positive recommendations. Even working in an environment where I see the kind of the undersides of what's going on around you. [which exists every day.] That's exactly right. It's a sober reminder that even though we see so much wealth and so much progress coming through this area that there is still need in the fact that I'm being able to be a positive agent of change for those under parts of the community it makes my time here even more worthwhile. [That's awesome.] And Jake, he's been here, way longer than he's your life or have gone away a couple times, but you can't escape coming back. Yeah.

Randy Wilburn


So, what are your thoughts about Northwest Arkansas? What would you share with anyone that's interested in knowing more about this area?

Speaker [35:37] Yeah, you know, I've really actually seen it change because when I was little, there was none of this. Of course, Walmart was here, but they weren't really as heavily invested in the cultural side of things and all that as they are now. What I would say is, yes, there's the museums and the outdoors and all of that good stuff, but the people really Adam kind of touched on it. The small business community is so very supportive. Even the larger businesses that are headquartered here, and there are people that move here from the coasts, I think it impacts them living here and seeing the opportunities. You know, they're around 300 nonprofits in Northwest Arkansas. And so, people's outpouring and generosity is what blows me away every day and their willingness.

We go and talk to these people and at the drop of a hat, they're there to help. And so that's one of the things that makes this place special as well.

Randy [36:36] I love that. That's great. Yeah, I mean, I concur. Like I said, I guess out of all of us, I'm the guy that's been here the shortest amount of time. But that's exactly what I feel. And you guys actually just even opening your doors up to invite me up here to be a part of what you guys are doing and to maybe tell your story in a uniquely, authentic way through podcasting. I really appreciate that and so, I gotta say, you guys are really honestly big and I look forward to being a participant and a cheerleader for this Hope Academy for what you guys are hoping to accomplish. No pun intended.

Speaker [37:12] It's gonna happen. It's just a matter of time.

Randy [37:15] And so, you guys, you all are over it.

Well, I really appreciate you guys coming out and connecting with me and having me here at your great facility. And thank you so much just for taking the time to sit down with me.

Speaker(s) [37:27]

Yeah, thanks. We appreciate you coming up and giving us an opportunity to share our story.



Absolutely. And I have a feeling this is not the last time that we're probably going to sit down and maybe talk about some things and what I may like to do is possibly come back after a while just to kind of to get an update. You know, I mean, that would be really nice just to see how things are going and maybe some things have gone in a different direction than what you originally thought and maybe you need some help in this area. So, whatever we can do as a media outlet and as an entity that wants to continue to spread good news throughout Northwest Arkansas, we'd love to come back and continue to tell this story. So, this is just the first chapter.

Randy [38:05] We've got some exciting things going on with the University of Arkansas that I think we'll have some follow up on as well.

Randy [38:11]

Good. Good. Well, let's do that. Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for having me. And we really appreciate you both. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks.

Well, folks, there you have it. Another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I would say it's a great episode because I always say it's a great episode. But the reality is, is that I mean, these guys are doing something special, the yeoman's task that both Jake and Adam have in front of them is not small, but they are willing and able servants that really want to see this vision come to pass and so I just want to make a personal appeal from Randy to the tribe of I am Northwest Arkansas to just tell you that if you can please in some way shape or form support with these men and the rest of their team are doing to make Hope Academy a reality to support the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter if you can support that.

If there's just something about this episode that really resonates with you, I want you to reach out to these guys and just say, how can I help? We're are all in this together. And none of this is possible without each other's help. So just like I'm helping them by putting this together today, I would love it for you guys, my listeners, the crowd that I just I live and die for. I would love it if you guys would take the time to reach out to these guys and just simply ask them, how can I help? Matter of fact, you can put that in the subject line of your email when you email them. And I'll make sure that I put all their contact information on the show notes so that you can interact with these guys and a link to their website so you can see this wonderful facility for yourself. They're doing great things here in Bentonville at the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter and specifically for this new upcoming Hope Academy and I would really appreciate your support of this because it will make not just Northwest Arkansas better but it will help society as a whole.

So that's all I have for you this week. I look forward to seeing you next week. As always, our episodes come out every Monday morning at noon. And its technically afternoon, but you know what I mean? That's when it comes out. So please, if you can, I'd like you to do two things., three things for me. 1) I want you to subscribe to this podcast, wherever you listen to it. I want you to tell a friend about it and share it with them and tell them why you like it. And then 3) three, if you can, please visit the website, and you can join our email list where you can get a weekly update on what we're doing and learn more about the events that are happening. You can sign up if you have a business and put yourself in our business directory. We'd love to hear from you. So that's all I have for now. I'm signing off today, but I will see you next week. Peace.



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