For her commitment and dedication to transforming the lives of P.A.R.K. students, Women & Children First will honor Melanie Jackson at this year’s Woman of the Year Gala.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Nancy Nolan | Produced by Ellen Scruggs | Hair by Caitlin Neumann with Face Your Day Salon | Makeup by Kurstee Smith with Face Your Day Salon | Wardrobe from Barbara/Jean
Melanie Jackson admits she’s a cheerleader at heart. And after even a brief encounter, it’s undeniable… She radiates with gracious + genuine love of life and love for those around her. Her faith, along with her strong sense of civic responsibility and enthusiasm, keep her busy at P.A.R.K. – the organization established by her husband – transforming the future of students in Central Arkansas. Her generous spirit and pragmatic perspective blend seamlessly into her work throughout the community. For this commitment to improving the lives of children, Women & Children First will honor Melanie at this year’s Woman of the Year Gala.
Melanie recognizes the obstacles that many families encounter. She has three sons and notes, “Raising boys today can be a challenge whether you’re a single parent or married like I am; instilling discipline and self-respect, along with respect for others, is a top priority. It’s tough for some kids to get the attention required to develop their full potential.” P.A.R.K. provides an after-school environment conducive to scholastic and personal excellence as well as related programs for students. The application process strategically identifies students as “high-risk” with a college-preparatory mission that transcends the classroom. “Our kids come into P.A.R.K. not knowing what to expect.” P.A.R.K. is designed to not only support academic requirements with tutors and additional study opportunities, but to also cultivate responsibility through extra-curricular activities. “Just knowing someone really cares about their future is invaluable to the kids and families we serve.”
As community outreach director for P.A.R.K., Melanie coordinates grant applications and funding strategies as well as mass communication for the organization. She notes, “Most people do not realize that P.A.R.K. does not accept any government funding. P.A.R.K. is about reaching the youth spirit, soul and body – something that can’t be controlled by federal dollars.” The highlight of her day is always “hanging around with kids and encouraging silliness,” she says. “I like to see them smile.”
Cindy and Chip Murphy introduced Melanie and her husband Keith to the mission fulfillment work of Women & Children First. Melanie notes that both organizations provide a safe-haven for those in need. “One thing I wasn’t aware of until my tour of the Women & Children First shelter is that some of the youth tutored at P.A.R.K. were also part of Women & Children First at some point.”
Chairman Diana Smithson believes Melanie exemplifies the essence of the Woman of the Year Honoree. “Melanie has worked tirelessly in our community for more than two decades. Her contributions are immeasurable – mentoring and realizing the potential of P.A.R.K. students. Like Women & Children First, the heart of P.A.R.K. is empowering individuals to succeed in life.” With fellow Chairman Bobbi McDaniel, the gala will showcase Melanie’s civic leadership and celebrate her continued commitment to the prosperity of children.
Melanie grew up outside the city limits of North Little Rock in the community of McAlmont surrounded by friends and family. She recounts, “It’s a place that holds a lot of my fondest memories… I learned to respect people for who they are and never judge anyone – always be the one to lend a helping hand and make it better for someone else.” Those fundamental values are the foundation of P.A.R.K, coupled with humility and spirituality that she believes P.A.R.K. students carry with them throughout their lives. “I have always had a heart for youth. P.A.R.K offers students the tools to be better, smarter, more capable adults. It focuses on the student, but it’s also about making the family stronger.”
Women & Children First breaks the cycle of domestic violence – providing crisis intervention, safe shelter, social and legal advocacy and support services that are critical resources. “Like P.A.R.K., Women & Children First encourages and equips people to believe in themselves by simply providing the necessary tools to help make it happen. After all, it takes a village.”