Photography by Sarah Oden | Shot on location at Wright, Lindsey & Jennings
Centers for Youth & Families is the oldest continuously-operating nonprofit organization in Arkansas. From its beginning as the Children’s Aid Society to The Centers that served 3,800+ Arkansans last year, the mission of Centers for Youth & Families remains steadfast – building healthy children, families and communities. It’s a mission that Antwan Phillips believes should resonate with everyone.
In 1987, civic leadership took visionary action – merging the Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Center, the Junior League of Little Rock’s Parent Center and Central Arkansas Human Services Council-Stepping Stones, Inc. into a single entity – providing more complete and efficient treatment. The continuum of services for children and families include specialized prevention, intervention and treatment that promote emotional and social wellness. The Champions of Hope, a youth leadership program, offers young men a unique opportunity to serve as stewards of CFYF and cultivate a spirit of volunteerism.
Antwan spoke to this year’s Champions of Hope class last month. He reflected on his personal journey and believes, “Leadership is a developed skill – it is not something you are born with. It starts with service and is strengthened through relationships. Ultimately, leadership is exhibited in your actions through ‘stepping up’ when the opportunity arises.” Antwan is a partner at Wright, Lindsey & Jennings and also acts as Position 9 At-Large City Director for the Little Rock City Board of Directors. His professional and civic responsibilities blend seamlessly into life as a public servant.
Champions of Hope represents a diverse group of young men with a finite focus on timely social issues including depression, suicide prevention and human trafficking. These mental and emotional challenges have become more pronounced during the pandemic. “The past year has presented a real opportunity for the young men in this program to see how societal issues can impact people’s health and the important role behavioral health providers like The Centers play in helping people from all walks of life cope and overcome challenges,” Centers for Youth & Families Chief Executive Officer & President Melissa Dawson explains. “Every individual who completes the Champions of Hope program goes forth with knowledge that helps to dispel myths, end stigma and be advocates for access to mental health care.”
Each year, EVOLVE celebrates this evolution of Centers for Youth & Families. A highlight of the evening is the presentation of the Champions of Hope. These young men represent the organization’s values: family, respect, excellence and hope. Antwan notes that accountability is another character trait that these civic leaders can embrace. “Your presence is a gift. This means that your time is a gift to your families, your community and your state. It is a gift to our schools, our businesses and our non-profit organizations for you to be present and be involved.”