By Renarda A. Williams | Photography by Rett Peek
For nearly two decades, Thea Foundation has cultivated the education through strategic partnerships and true tenacity. After the untimely death of their daughter, Linda and Paul Leopoulos established the Thea Foundation to provide the “Thea Experience” to Arkansas students. “We learned after losing our daughter Thea, that her participation in the arts had a direct relationship to her confidence as it did with both of our sons. The more we learned about the high-impact of using the arts and creativity in our schools to impact students no matter what their interests or their path could have it occurred to us that if we did a good job to help people understand what we now understand that it could make a huge difference in our community. So passing this concept forward that we learn from our children’s experiences seemed like the right thing to do,” Paul notes.
Currently, Thea Foundation focuses on three main programs:
These scholarships are awarded annually to young Arkansans and based solely on talent. Scholarships are often matched by almost every 4-year college and many 2-year colleges in Arkansas. To date, Arkansas students have received more than $2.3 million in Thea Scholarships.
Thea’s Art Closet
Thea’s Art Closet helps Arkansas teachers get supplies necessary to incorporate the arts into classroom curriculum. This program has provided more than $1.65 million in grants and matching grants for arts supplies to more than 575 schools across the state.
This program partners with cultural institutions and arts organizations to provide new and improve existing arts programming in Arkansas schools. It includes several elective string music programs at elementary, middle and high schools as well as a UA Little Rock partnership that provides visual arts technique training for public school educators.
As Thea Foundation continues its advocacy work in Arkansas, its results are measurable – 17 Arkansas public and charter schools have adopted the Thea Foundation arts-integrated, whole-school reform model, Arkansas A+ Schools. Paul insists it’s the dedication of his small but mighty team that makes the work possible. “The fact is that our staff has the most amazing attitude and is so dedicated to the vision and mission of our foundation. In a way it is so surprising to me to find individuals this capable and motivated. The foundation is totally blessed to have Nick Leopoulos, Stacey Bowers, Nancy Martin and Jennifer Owens, who give so much of themselves and treat their jobs as an extremely high priority in their lives. The Board of Directors and Linda and I love and respect them all.”