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Welcome to our Chamber Connection Newsletter!

In an effort to connect our Chamber Members to valuable news, information, and resources each month we will feature a spotlight topic to better connect our community. This month's topic focuses on the importance of our Education including back-to-school topics, upcoming programs, and exciting education transitions. Next month's topic will feature a focus on our Healthcare and October will focus on Economic and Workforce Development.


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In This Month's Issue:

Welcome Back-to-School

More from our Newsletter Sponsor

Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2023 - Opening Retreat

Fort Smith Chamber Announces the Jack White Community Leadership Award Recipient - Mr. Bill Hanna

Junior Leadership & Career Academy Class VII - Reception/Orientation

Teacher Appreciation Breakfast Events

Higher Education Back-to-School News

Area Elementary & Middle Schools Welcome Back Students

Area High Schools Welcome Students Back

Welcome to Our New Members
Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters

Welcome Back-to-School

This month, the Chamber is especially thankful for the support of our business community as we celebrated our appreciation of our Fort Smith teachers and staff in the k-12 systems with Teacher Appreciation Breakfast Events.

Our newest Leadership Fort Smith and Junior Leadership & Career Academy classes kicked off their leadership journeys this month with opening retreats featuring team-building, communication skills, and bonding time.

This month's edition will also highlight back-to-school news, updates, exciting firsts, and more from our area's higher educational institutions. We highlight our kindergarten - 12th-grade area schools by sharing some of their back-to-school news and photos.

To learn more about our various educational programs and outreach events, or to sponsor; contact Hannah Cabe. Hannah is the Fort Smith Chamber's Educational Programs Administrator.  You can email her at

More From our Newsletter Sponsor

Leadership Fort Smith is a 10-month program that offers participants a backstage pass to the Fort Smith Region. The class will focus on the strengths, challenges, needs, and overall community issues that participants can directly address. Only 25 participants are selected each year for Leadership Fort Smith. Selection criteria include but are not limited to demonstrated leadership, potential leadership ability, and commitment to the community.

Ritter Communications is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for the Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2023. The 25 participants have been selected and were announced to the community on Thursday, July 14 at the Class of 2023 Reception event held by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. Ritter looks forward to the growth and development of these up-and-coming Fort Smith leaders.

Ritter Communications is a leader among local independent communications providers, offering business, residential and wholesale customers advanced internet, phone, video, and cloud services. We invest heavily in the communities we serve by deploying proven, best-in-class infrastructure and technology while coupling it with a world-class customer-focused experience. Founded in 1906 and headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Ritter Communications is committed to growing and evolving to meet the demands of today’s ever-connected world.

Meet the Class Here

Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2023 - Opening Retreat

The Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2023 had their Opening Retreat at Mount Sequoyah this month!

This retreat allowed the classmates to get to know each other, become a close-knit team, develop key leadership skills, and have fun! Thank you to McClure Professional Services for facilitating this retreat for the past 17 years!

A special thank you to Arvest Bank for being our Session Sponsor for our Opening Retreat.

Thank you to our Program Sponsors:

Presenting Sponsor: Ritter Communications

Partner Sponsors: Mercy Hospital-Fort Smith, and the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

Session Sponsor: Arvest Bank

Lunch Sponsor: Firstar Bank

Fort Smith Chamber Announces the Jack White Community Leadership Award Recipient - Mr. Bill Hanna

Bill Hanna is the President & CEO of Hanna Oil and Gas Company, which is a third-generation, family-owned business. He joined the company in 1983 and has worked in a variety of capacities. Bill has been instrumental in numerous projects including bike and walking trails, skate park, and beautification projects throughout the community. Bill has served on the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors for the past 12 years and served as President in 2018 and 2019. During his presidency, the club conducted a campaign that raised $2.6 Million to renovate Hunts Park, a multi-use sports complex. No matter the project, Bill makes a personal commitment to be certain that the outcomes are successful. One of his most impactful accomplishments was the transformation of an old and discarded building (the former Shipley Baking Company). This newly renovated space has provided our city with a modern multi-use space that younger generations gravitate to.

Jack White Leadership Award Recipients:

Hazel Evans

Nancy Orr

Ross Pendergraft

David Olive

Sandi Sanders

Robert E. Miller

Ray Baker

Jim Spears

Josie Decker

Joel Stubblefield

Benny Gooden

Robert A. Young III

Carter Hunt

Charles Shuffield

Roland S. Boreham, Jr.

Dorothy Rappeport

Don Flanders

Edward "Sandy" Sanders

Mark Rumsey

Sister Judith Marie Keith

Phillip Merry

Sam M. Sicard (posthumously)

Melody Trimble

Ivy Owen

Col. Mark "Casper" Anderson

Steve Clark

Sam T. Sicard

Dr. Jerry Stewart (posthumously)

Jason Green

Trent Goins & George McGill

Charlotte Tidwell

Junior Leadership & Career Academy Class VII - Reception/Orientation

We had a wonderful Reception/Orientation this month where we celebrated and introduced the 36 students selected for the JLCA Class VII!

Congratulations to all who were selected to be in this wonderful program. 

During our Opening Retreat, the incoming ninth graders learned conversation tools, played team-building activities, and learned about the group projects they will be working on all year.

Thank you to McClure Professional Services for facilitating this day! 

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, OG&E

Platinum Sponsors: AT&T, Mercy Hospital-Fort Smith, and the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

Gold Sponsors: ABB, Baptist Health Fort Smith & Van Buren, BHC Insurance, First National Bank of Fort Smith, and  Rheem

Teacher Appreciation Breakfast Events

Higher Education Back-to-School News

Arkansas Colleges of Health Education welcomes new students! New Students have arrived at ACHE to start the school year in our osteopathic medicine and Master of Science in Biomedicine programs. It's amazing to welcome these dynamic students not only to the ACHE campus, but to the Fort Smith Community. 

Read More of the ACHE Community Newsletter Here

ATCC’s Edmunds Earns Statewide Education Honor

Pat Edmunds, Arkansas Tech Career Center (ATCC) director, received the Arkansas Career and Technical Education (ACTE) postsecondary professional of the year award during the ACTE Conference July 12-13 in Hot Springs.

Edmunds has served as ATCC director since 2010. Under her leadership, ATCC enrollment has increased by almost 200 percent.

Through its location in Russellville and its satellite locations throughout the Arkansas River Valley, ATCC provides educational opportunities for students from 19 school districts. ATCC students earned 4,680 concurrent credit college hours toward certificates of proficiency and career readiness during the 2021-22 academic year.

“Ms. Edmunds puts the best interests of students at the forefront of every decision she makes for ATCC,” said Bruce Sikes, Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus chancellor. “She believes in the potential of every student, and the success of ATCC is evidence of her convictions. She is an advocate for all students, especially students who have been underserved and those who have found it difficult to believe in themselves. This award is a deserved recognition for an outstanding leader and individual.”

Read More From ATU - Ozark Campus

‘Fill the Fridge’ Effort Brings Food to Residential Students at UAFS

The college students who will live in UAFS’s Sebastian Commons apartments will have some help keeping the fridge full this year.

Thanks to a partnership between The Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry, the LionHeart student organization, and Antioch for Youth & Family, students in the apartments will receive deliveries of perishable and nonperishable food. The first delivery was on Aug. 19.

“Antioch has been interested in partnering with UAFS for a long time,” said Kara Crowley, Coordinator for Student Activities and Civic Engagement. “So when we reached out to their founder, Charolette Tidwell, with the idea to ‘Fill the Fridge’ for all on-campus apartments, she immediately supported the idea.”

Tidwell confirmed her long-time desire to get food to students.

“The goal is to build momentum with food pantry knowledge and utilization, improve diets with nutritious food, and build community effort on the college campus,” she explained.

Read More

Area Elementary & Middle Schools Welcome Back Students

1st Lutheran School is excited to expand its middle school by now enrolling through eighth grade. They are also opening an outdoor classroom space and plan to continue to grow their school community.  1st Lutheran School will hold a Mums Sale from September 19th - September 23rd. Contact Kristin Basham at 479-629-4294 for more details.

Christ the King Catholic School transitioned this year to dual language immersion. Christ the King is the first school in Arkansas registered with the national dual language school registry. The goal is to help both native English-speaking and native Spanish-speaking students become bilingual and bi-literate and achieve academic success. This program is for students ages 18 months -pre-k 4. All grade levels from preschool 18 months through the 5th grade are using the Lego curriculum this year as a supplement to learning. The students and the teachers are excited to learn through play! Also new to Christ the King is Fr. Brian Cundall and he has already been active in the school community.

Harvest Time Academy was thrilled to welcome back over 200 students back to school August 15th. Students were welcomed with warm, smiling faces from their teachers as they walked in the doors. Parents were invited to take first day of school pictures and walk their kiddos to class. One of the best parts of the first week at HTA was chapel day! Chapel is one of our favorite times of the week here at HTA. Students are invited to lead pledges, read the lunch menu, pray and take turns leading worship time. Chapel is a break from school work where our students and staff come together and learn about Jesus, pray for one another, encourage each other, sing, and have fun. 

Looking into October is the HTA's Glow Run in the Park 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run at Ben Geren Regional Park! It is scheduled for Friday, October 28th at 7:00pm. It is a public event that is fun for all ages! The 5K is a timed race to which medals will be given to the top 3 in each age division as well as a female overall winner plaque and a male overall winner plaque. The 1 mile fun walk is great for families and kids who want to come out and walk or run, bring strollers, etc. As it is scheduled around Halloween, costumes and glow attire is encouraged! Early bird online registration begins September 1st. Registrants who sign up before September 31st will receive a free Glow in the Park t-shirt. Sign ups are available on FB and at the link below:

Immaculate Conception School kicked off their back-to-school with a fun photo booth opportunity for students. The students have been busy with many activities including visits from Fr. John. 

The Montessori School of Fort Smith celebrated the birthday of Dr. Maria Montessori with their students. The Montessori School recently shared more about this celebration on social media: Born in 1870, Dr. Montessori was one of the first female physicians in Italy. Her passion for children led her to create a system of education designed to meet the needs of students, not adults. Dr. Montessori's groundbreaking work continues in schools around the world where children use the same Montessori materials in their learning. 

Trinity Catholic School had a great start to the school year, welcoming students back on August 15. They also recently held their Trinity Gala fundraising event and deeply appreciate the support of the community.

Area High Schools Welcome Students Back

Check out the back-to-school photos from Future School, Fort Smith Northside, Fort Smith Southside, Peak Innovation Center, and Union Christian Academy.

The Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce extends its deepest condolences to the Fort Smith Public Schools, especially to Southside High School faculty, staff, and students on the passing of long-time coach and teacher Aaron Kareus.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and school community.  Read more about Coach Kareus here.

Future School

Fort Smith Northside

Fort Smith Southside

Peak Innovation Center

Union Christian Academy

Welcome to Our New Members

7 Brew Drive Thru Coffee

Diamond Center

Educational Opportunity Center

Edward Jones Investments-Amber Fonseca

Haas Hall Academy

Jan-Pro Of NWArkansas

Michelle White, RE/MAX Executive Real Estate


Mindful Nutrition

Natural Brush Control

Northwest Orthodontics


Revel Restaurant and Bar


Whataburger (Phoenix Avenue)

Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters

September 29, 2022 - Healthcare

October 27, 2022 - Economic and Workforce Development

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