Arkansas Support Network
Syard Evans remembers her eureka! moment — not that she calls it that — while working for the Arkansas Support Network, which helps people with disabilities and their families, as a college student.
Evans had to care for an autistic 9-year-old girl with behavioral issues during an overnight stay. At one point, Evans said, she looked in the mirror and wondered if she was in over her head. The next day, the child was brought back to Evans for another stay, and when the child recognized Evans, she dragged her into the bathroom and insisted on Evans giving her a bath. “Her response to me — not everybody can do this,” Evans said. “If you can do it, it’s very valuable and it’s worth it.”
The child’s heartfelt connection with Evans reinforced her commitment to those with disabilities. Her 20-hour part-time job turned into a full-time job, and Evans was so dedicated to ASN that she worked full time and took night classes in pursuit of what eventually was a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Evans, after nearly two decades with ASN, was named the organization’s CEO in January to replace Keith Vire. “ASN has always been more than providing support for individuals with disabilities,” Evans said. “From day one, ASN’s philosophy and mission has not just been important to me, but it has shaped my perspective about people and humanity and life and what our responsibilities are to each other.”
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