Arkansas Colleges of Health Education in Fort Smith on Tuesday announced that it has received a $32.3 million dollar gift to fund health and wellness initiatives.
“This tremendous, anonymous gift will help ACHE continue to fulfill its mission at a much faster pace,” CEO Kyle Parker said in a news release. “We are not just studying problems; we are creating solutions.”
The gift will support renovations for the ACHE Research Institute Health & Wellness Center in Fort Smith. The initial phase of the project is expected to be completed in December 2022.
The first floor — 60,000 SF — will feature a community art gallery, art instruction spaces for students and the community; an artist-in-residence program; a space where occupational and physical therapy students can create and produce adaptive devices using a 3-D printer; a ceramics lab with a kiln to improve hand-eye coordination and art creation; and a theater.
The center will have multiple cooking stations as well. Brightwater, an academic department of NorthWest Arkansas Community College, has signed an agreement with ACHE to create K-12, art-integrated curriculums that will focus on healthy nutrition.
ACHE and Brightwater are collaborating on a pilot study, Integrated Culinary Arts and Nutrition, at Fort Smith Public Schools. ACHE is supporting teacher training sessions at Brightwater’s facility this summer and funding classroom equipment. This fall, teachers at Fairview, Cook, and Ballman elementary schools will begin teaching nutrition using mobile culinary teaching carts and Tower Gardens, an aeroponic indoor gardening system supplied by ACHE.
High school students will be able to dual enroll in Brightwater to obtain an associate’s degree and high school diploma at the same time.
ACHE's new center will also have an ACHE Fit Lab for exercise and a clinical trials clinic. ACHE said the center will provide outreach programs and study physical activity and mobility as well as mental health, work to increase access to exercise opportunities and work to develop youth programs promoting physical activity.
A 60,000-SF biomedical research lab on the fourth floor will be used to evaluate the new center's health and wellness programs, which will utilize a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education approach.
Plans for the new center's exterior, comprising 15,000 SF, include an art walk, community classroom, food gardens, and a multi-use trail system surrounding a small lake.
In addition, ACHE said it will continue or expand its partnerships with the Regional Arts Museum, Center for Arts Education, PEAK Innovations Center in Fort Smith, United Way of Fort Smith and Antioch for Youth & Family.
RAM and CAE will be involved in K-12 curriculum pilot programs. Through the United Way and Antioch partnerships, ACHE said it intends to develop programs that provide nutrition education and healthy cooking options to the community. Also, outdoor community gardens are being discussed for the PEAK Innovations Center, ACHE said.
“This is a transformational moment for Fort Smith, the surrounding region, and with empirical proof of success, the entire state,” Parker said. “It is transformational in education for our children, transformational for this region, and transformational in creating a healthier living environment for everyone. None of this could have happened without the incredible anonymous gift of a family that loves this community and is making a difference in all of our lives.”