2018 All-America City Finalist - Springdale, AR

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

The City of Springdale created the Committee for Civic Engagement and Inclusion and began working on citywide initiatives to better incorporate people of color and new Americans into civic life. The committee includes five city employees and 15 diverse community members.

Outcomes include:

  • the creation of the Mayor’s Youth Council;
  • creation of multi-language instructional videos to help educate new Americans on services the city offers;
  • translating park signage into multiple languages to increase park safety;
  • starting a Civic Academy open to all residents but heavily geared toward new Americans;
  • creating semi-annual community cohesion forums to facilitate dialogue between community members of color and the City;
  • and a #BetterTogether campaign to increase awareness about the contributions of new Americans and people of color in the community.

WelcomeNWA (Northwest Arkansas) and EngageNWA have held several community and stakeholder forums to encourage dialogue. Last year, EngageNWA held multiple forums that brought residents and leaders together from all walks of life to discuss race, LGBTQA, disability, language, gender, and age as it relates to the community and how people are treated, including their access to important services. The results of these forums were shared with local government officials and community leaders to help guide the work to address these issues in Springdale.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

1.) Downtown Revitalization
Downtown Springdale had been in a slow decline for about 30 years. Its movie theatre, local shops, and restaurants closed, and downtown became a shell of its former self. Many residents believed downtown was unsafe, not a place for families. Work in the past three years has changed all of that.

Through a lot of hard work, public meetings, resident input, and community and business support, the City of Springdale adopted the Downtown Springdale Master Plan in December of 2015. Out of that master plan came the Downtown Springdale Alliance- a nonprofit contracted by the City to help create a dynamic and thriving downtown. In only three years, sidewalks, light posts, street banners, bike racks and benches have been constructed, and a new park hosting roughly 50 events each week has opened.

In 2016 alone, nearly 30,000 people came downtown for events. Success built upon success, and the Hogeye Marathon moved to Downtown Springdale for the first time in its 40-year history, as did a farmer’s market, and a night market. Seasonal celebrations have also made their way downtown with events such as the Barn Party Summer Series, a four-day celebration called Ozarktober Fest, and Christmas on the Creek. The last three years have completely revitalized and changed Downtown Springdale.

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2.) Mayor’s Youth Council
In 2016, a resident asked the Mayor’s Office if the City had a Youth Council program. Inspired by the idea, the mayor announced in the 2017 State of the City Address that the City would create one. The Youth Council was created to encourage young people to become engaged with their local government, receive mentoring from city officials, perform community service for the benefit of Springdale residents, advise local government officials on the issues that face young people in our community, and learn about local government and the importance of civic participation.

The program is free and competitive and open to 18 students in grades 10-12 from the Springdale School District. The group engages other young people in a topic of the Youth Council’s choosing, researches an issue that affects youth in Springdale and presents potential solutions to the city council. The Youth Council also organizes a service project for the benefit of the community or a city department, and members job shadow a government official.

To further equity in the council, there are no GPA requirements to enter the program. If a student can contribute to the program, they will not be turned away due to their grades. Instead, each student must have an adult sponsor who will help keep them on track with their academics throughout the eight-month program.

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3.) Little Free Food Pantries
For nearly 25 years, the Springdale Chamber of Commerce has facilitated a program called Leadership Springdale. The purpose of the program is to educate up-and-coming community leaders on what Springdale has to offer and to encourage networking.

Each class is required to perform a project that has a sustaining impact on Springdale. The 2016-2017 class chose to tackle the issue of food insecurity. Inspired by Little Free Libraries (small structures housing small collections of books that anyone can take to read or leave books for others), the group raised enough money to build and setup little free food pantries around Springdale.

This large undertaking required support from the City, local businesses and donated time and resources. Eventually, five pantries were installed, a few locations include: one in front of City Hall, another near the local community center, and third at the Springdale Housing Authority.

The leadership team stocked the Little Free Pantries for the first six months, and now the community has taken over. The real impact of this project was felt at the local housing authority. Tenants at the housing authority are low-income and/or disabled, and often require additional assistance. The housing authority has taken over the stocking of the pantry and they work to keep it filled for their residents. This project has been sustainable because of the participation from the community.

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