Conway Chamber Puts Focus on Pre-K Education

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce recently announced a rededication of $50,000 in annual Toad Suck Daze proceeds from college scholarships to a prekindergarten initiative.

More than $1.4 million in proceeds from Toad Suck Daze, an annual festival in Conway, have funded scholarships to local colleges in the past 30 years.

The chamber this fall contributed its first $50,000 to Lifelong Learners of Conway, a new nonprofit organization that began this year to work with child care providers to promote parent-child interaction and kindergarten readiness according to state standards.

Lifelong Learners provides free professional development for child care workers and offers parents resources on parenting and teaching methods.  

“The need for a focus on early childhood education and the need for a local nonprofit champion were both identified through our 2025 [community] strategic planning process in 2010,” Jamie Gates, senior vice president of the chamber, said.

The four pilot sites for Lifelong Learners’ work in Conway are Little Life Academy, St. Peter’s Episcopal Preschool, H.O.P.E. and Central Christian Academy. They together serve 270 local 3- and 4-year-old children.

“We’re just trying to make sure that all kids start school, and no one starts behind,” said Charlotte Green, Lifelong Learners founder and executive director. “If you start kindergarten behind, you generally stay behind.”