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Staff members at National Park College will work to support Ouachita Children's Center with various events through a new partnership established for the academic year.

The staff senate at the college selects a service project each year and previously worked with Jackson House. Melinda Thornton, continuing education specialist, began as the senate's chairwoman on July 1 and accepted recommendations for new community partners.

"We thought that would just be an awesome opportunity for us to step in and really help an organization," Thornton said.

The senate includes three officers and six representatives from state specified divisions of the college. Donny Caudill, program/accounting assistant for the Child Care Aware of West Central Arkansas on campus, serves as the representative for community service, legal, arts and media.

"We already work with Ouachita Children's Center," Caudill said. "I get to do both sides. With their after-school program, we provide curriculum for them to use. It goes hand-in-hand and it is a great project. Sallie Culbreth is just so enthusiastic and has all of these great ideas. I am excited."

"The partnership between OCC and NPC has already been a wonderful collaboration that helps to create a strong community," Culbreth, director of community relations for OCC, said.

"They provided an army of volunteers for our community Back-to-School Carnival, which was attended by over 900 people with over 35 community organizations participating to encourage healthy and safe choices by youth and families. There is no way this would have been as successful as it was without this partnership before, during and after the event."

Staff members will assist OCC with various events, as well as wish list drives. The senate will have donation locations available in the Gerald Fisher Campus Center, NPC Library and at the Community and Corporate Training Center.

Items in continued need include twin size sheet sets and pillow cases, bath towels, hair brushes, wide tooth combs, white T-shirts, socks, shoes, school supplies, backpacks, gift cards and more. Used clothing donations are referred to Jackson House and The Salvation Army. Special items of need can include new pillows, window treatments, shelves, paint, and board games.

"As a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and support services for youth in crisis, we are always stretched thin when it comes to having community and fundraising events," Culbreth said. "We have several large fundraising events planned over the next year that will require a significant number of volunteers and NPC has pledged to be there for us to make these the successes we need them to be."

The center developed a Harry Potter theme for several events, including Caroling at the Castle on the OCC campus Dec. 2 from 6-7:30 p.m. with lights, a luminary and Christmas carolers. Harry Potter-themed designer Christmas trees will be available.

The Jan. 6 Yule Ball, a ticketed event, will be held from 6-9 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. A full Harry Potter Festival is planned for July 21, 2018, at Hot Springs Junior Academy middle school.

Maintenance specialist David Caldwell is the senate's chair-elect and Nathan Looper, veteran affairs coordinator, is the past chair. The senators are Juanita Brewer, payroll services coordinator, for business and finance operations; Gail Carmon, information systems analyst, for computer, engineering and science operations; Claudia Lightner, administrative specialist, for office and administration; Diane Meredith, director of the Educational Talent Search program, for management; and Bob Otwell, maintenance specialist, for maintenance and service operations.

NPC's staff senate began in 2014. Darla Thurber, special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer, researched other staff organizations and helped college staff members develop bylaws.

"While we are a voice for the staff representatives of the college, we wanted to also provide campus life experiences that would bring staff, faculty and students together in a spirit of fun and fellowship," Thurber said. "Research shows students who are connected to faculty and staff are more likely to persist and then complete."

The staff senate leads Spirit Week on campus each fall. Activities and days of the week are themed similar to homecoming weeks at high schools.

"It is a way we try to bring all of the staff together in an effort to support each other, support the students and do good for everyone," Thornton said. "We have a wonderful staff here and everyone knows everybody wants to come to work for National Park College. The staff senate plays an important part keeping the staff together and on point on what our goals are for the college as a whole."

Thurber said community partnerships began as an integral component of the staff senate. She said the partnership with Ouachita Children's Center fits the senate's original goals for staff engagement.

"I am so pleased with the way our senate has turned out," Thurber said. "The first slate of senators and officers meshed so well, but we had no idea that it would continue so strongly.

"We are fortunate as a campus to have so many staff members who are engaged and genuinely care for one another and our students. When you have that ingredient, there is not much room for anything but success."

Local on 10/25/2017

Print Headline: NPC staff partners with OCC

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