Photography by Jamison Mosley
“Public service is in my DNA,” Jennifer Cobb states. This Capital City native began a career in healthcare and marketing in Alabama. In 2006, family brought her back to Arkansas. It didn’t take long before she returned to philanthropy as Arkansas Children’s Foundation Director of Communications & Annual Gift Channels. It seems it was only a matter of time before City Year Little Rock garnered her attention and energy with its mission fulfillment work: building the next generation of leaders to secure the economic future of Arkansas.
While at Arkansas Children’s, Jennifer honed her leadership skills with a keen awareness that every child deserves a healthier tomorrow. “I built my team from scratch: defining roles, setting goals, establishing baseline metrics and implementing new systems to increase revenue.” During her tenure at Arkansas Children’s, she realized, “We must champion our children to ensure a stronger future for all Arkansans.” These measurable results, combined with her heart for the welfare of all Arkansans, earned Jennifer a position at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. But, Jennifer admits, “I enjoyed learning about the inner workings of an organization that large, but a little voice inside me kept whispering, ‘lead.’ That’s when City Year came knocking.”
As City Year Little Rock Executive Director & Senior Vice President, Jennifer is a visionary for an organization that not only partners with the Little Rock School District for student success, but also provides critical workforce development to AmeriCorp members. Jennifer refers to this as the “double bottom line” – considering the social impact as a larger return on investment. “City Year Little Rock may be small, but we are mighty! We are one of 29 City Year sites across the U.S. committed to helping students stay on track to graduation.” Jennifer notes the statistics are impressive. “Studies show schools that partner with City Year are 2-3 times more likely to improve on math and literacy assessments.” And the young professionals are transformed as well. “During their 10 months of service, our AmeriCorps members undergo incredible growth and change. I love seeing them stretch their critical thinking skills, develop resiliency and exercise compassion.” Sarah, a 22-year-old Little Rock native who served with City Year Little Rock last year, elaborates, “Working with 5th graders was a challenging, yet life-changing experience.” She continues, “I learned so much about myself, and I learned how to push through adversity. I owe it all to the students I grew to love. I will always look back on this experience with gratitude.”
As a member of the AmeriCorps network, City Year Little Rock is a true public-private partnership. Funding is provided by the Corporation for National & Community Service, the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock School District. “But this funding alone does not cover the cost of putting AmeriCorps members into our local classrooms. Individual, corporate and foundation donors are also instrumental to our success.” These kinds of contributions are critical and community engagement is essential. “We equip students with the academic, emotional and social skills they need to thrive in the classroom and real world.” Here comes the “double bottom line” of the equation. “At the same time, it fulfills a workforce need by providing AmeriCorps members with professional development opportunities and in-demand career-readiness skills.”
This busy mother of five believes it’s a civic responsibility to help advance the educational equity for fellow Arkansans. City Year Little Rock is uniquely balanced as an ideal investment of time + energy that improves the outcomes of two demographics. “City Year Little Rock is an unmatched opportunity for young adults to help students thrive while building their career readiness. City Year is building the next generation of leaders who will embody and embrace the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion to help create a better future for all.”