The Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation of Dallas, Texas, recently awarded a grant to the Rural Community Alliance to assist three Southeast Arkansas communities in developing rural Community Schools.

The communities are the Dollarway School District in Pine Bluff and surrounding rural areas, Dermott and Marianna. A goal is for these areas to use ForwARd Arkansas recommendations for evidence-based school reform, according to a press release.

The King Foundation distributes more than $2 million yearly in North and West Texas and South and East Arkansas for projects serving the indigent, the elderly, children, education and the arts, the release said.

Rural Community Alliance is a state-wide nonprofit organization of small rural communities with more than 2,000 members in 65 chapters throughout Arkansas.

To implement the grant, Rural Community Alliance will partner with Community Resource Innovations, an Arkansas-based company which helps schools and communities to identify assets, needs, potential partners, and resources to improve outcomes and quality of life for students. RCA will assist with grassroots organizing and facilitate strategic planning while CR Innovations will provide surveys, map community assets, present and interpret data, and assist with strategic planning, the release said.

“As part of the ForwARd Arkansas coalition, we wanted to contribute something to making the ForwARd vision for preK-16 education a reality and also to seize this moment of opportunity to do something significant for our rural communities by leading the way in bringing Community Schools to Arkansas,” Candace Williams, Rural Community Alliance executive director, said in the news release.

“As part of the King Foundation grant, RCA staff and local volunteers will spearhead a grassroots-led strategic planning process to engage parents, community, and other education stakeholders in applying evidence-based strategies to bring together the resources of school, community, and family to make schools stronger and to help young people thrive,” the release said.

“The planning process is expected to take 10 months to a year. It will include detailed analysis of the school’s and community’s assets and needs and will identify programs and resources that can meet those needs. The end product will be a three-year strategic plan for developing a Community School in each of the target communities,” the release said.