With more than three decades devoted to community development, public policy and advocacy – Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation President & CEO works to transform Arkansas communities.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Meredith Melody | Makeup by Brie Carter with Face Your Day Xpress
Born in Brooklyn to a teenage mother, Sherece West-Scantlebury witnessed the obstacles of a disadvantaged community throughout her childhood. She lived in a Baltimore public housing community where drug addiction, alcoholism and domestic violence were common denominators despite countless hardworking families struggling to beat the odds. She realized education was the path to discovering the answers to a single question that fascinated her: “Why is the community the way it is?”
Sherece’s relentless pursuit of knowledge, combined with her heart for service, remains a beacon. It seems all of her experiences led her to Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, a pivotal component in the Rockefeller family’s rich history in Arkansas. The foundation believes in the power of strategic partnerships to transform communities and improve lives – primarily through educational and economic opportunities. Its unique portfolio of programs and services include a network of constituents with a finite focus and deep understanding of social justice and authentic change. As president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Sherece is committed to the welfare of all Arkansans and the results are measurable.
Sherece recognizes the diversity and unique infrastructure of each community. She notes, “This is why the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation works with stakeholders to create meaningful conversations, build relationships and develop a strategy to move the needle towards success.” Three key platforms for this work are: Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading, ForwARd Arkansas and Expect More Arkansas.
For Sherece, the question is when not if she will find her answers. After a tenure of more than a decade with WRF, she shared her insight + inspiration for the future of Arkansas.
Why Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation?
“I was born with a social justice heart – it is in my DNA. Everything about the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is aligned with my personal values. It exists to pursue education, economic, social and racial equity in Arkansas. This means that we must change the policies and systems that negatively impact the 70 percent of Arkansans who work in jobs that do not pay a livable wage to support their families. We have to expect more. Our state and communities within must become places of opportunity through equitable policies that enable people to get a quality education, earn income and generate wealth to support themselves, their families and their communities.”
What makes the work at Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation unique?
“The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation affirms the legacy of our founder who envisioned a thriving and prosperous Arkansas that benefits all Arkansans. We support the elimination of broken education and economic systems and outdated policies. We work with residents, policymakers, community and business leaders and others to find lasting solutions to achieve education, economic, social and racial equity in Arkansas. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation believes that community leaders and stakeholders know what is best for their organizations and communities. We base our strategies in large part on continuous listening and learning from the nonprofit sector and communities throughout the state.”
What keeps you motivated?
“Everyday I get to serve the state of Arkansas and make Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s vision real. I believe that in partnership with others, we can make his vision real. We know that 70 percent of Arkansans cannot read on grade level by the end of third grade. It is not a stretch to link the 70 percent of students who do not read on grade level to the 70 percent of adult Arkansans who are underemployed in jobs that require a high school diploma or less. It is true that we live in a state that has high employment. But, 70 percent of us are not making enough money to support our families. This has to change for Arkansas to thrive and be prosperous.”