On the surface, balancing the responsibilities as a member of several of the most important boards in Central Arkansas all while serving as the Arkansas Chapter for Moms Demand Action and Assistant Director for the Donaghey Scholars Program seems like an overwhelming, impossible situation, but for full-time mom Dr. Jessica R. Scott, these facets enable her to lead her community toward success.
Dr. Scott’s position on the Mayor’s taskforce for Public Safety, the Arkansas Zoological Foundation Board, SAVE10, Board for Just Communities of Arkansas and the Emerge Arkansas Advisory Board allows her to improve her city. As a member of the Arkansas Zoological Foundations Board, Scott aims to maintain an exceptional atmosphere at the Little Rock Zoo.
“We are responsible for fundraising for the zoo, and supporting projects that will allow the zoo to better serve the Central Arkansas community,” Scott said. “The zoo is the number one attraction in the state of Arkansas by far, and it serves the entire community; from the children to the grandparents that visited as kids, and everybody in the middle. It is our job to make our zoo world-class.”
Similar to the rest of her involvement, the Little Rock Zoo is one of Scott’s passions. She sought to find an avenue to become involved in and set out to make an impact.
“I grew up going to the zoo,” Scott said. “I’m a mother, so supporting organizations that support kids is very important to me. As someone who has studied biological anthropology, doing something that supports people learning to love wildlife and conserve our natural resources is also very important to me.”
Not only does Scott aim to set Arkansas aside as an attractive state, she looks to provide for its constituents in a long term sense.
“SAVE10 is a new organization that is actually launching next month on 10/10 and it was founded by Sarah Catherine Gutierrez who started Aptus Financial Services here in Little Rock,” Scott said. “Sarah Catherine is an expert financial planner and her vision [for SAVE10] comes from the recognition that women do not tend to be encouraged to save for retirement in the same way that young men do, culturally. We still have this father-son investment culture and that same thing doesn’t often apply to women and so what we see is that men tend to have more accumulated wealth than women, even women who have worked their whole lives.”
While Scott may not have been the Founder, she still values the overall financial stability of the women in Arkansas.
“I’m one of the founders, although Sarah Catherine has really done the hard work, to start this movement in Arkansas to educate women, particularly young women about beginning to save,” Scott said.
As a professor at UA Little Rock, Scott is especially passionate about young women learning how to save.
“It’s really important to me, because I work with college students, to be involved in some things are going to help them better plan for their financial futures,” Scott said.
Scott accredits a large portion of her passion for the community to her grandmother, as she was an example of a passionate, local leader.
“I was raised by my grandmother, and she was a teacher and one of those women that were involved in everything,” Scott said. “She was involved in our church, she was involved with civic organizations, and she volunteered at the library. As a teacher, she was that teacher who always had food in her desk to make sure that her kids were taken care of. I really learned from that example that communities support people; no one does anything by themselves, and that we are part of this bigger system that allows people to improve their lives.”
After spending some time away from Little Rock, Scott returned with an enthusiasm for furthering the city.
“I think for me, when I found myself settling back here in Little Rock after going away to graduate school, I knew that I wanted to invest in my community in all of the ways that I felt like I could,” Scott said. “The things I do are all intimately connected to issues that I care about or issues that relate to the work that I do.”
Even though Scott has a drive for civil services that started when she was younger, she considers everyone in Little Rock to be capable of her type of work.
“The message that I try to send to my students, to the people I work with, [or anyone] in the community is, it can feel difficult and it can feel discouraging to try to make change in a city that is struggling, but the reality is here, we can make a real difference, and that’s why I say people need to dig in and take that first step,” Scott said. “Getting involved is easier than you think. We’re always looking for people to jump in and take these things on, so there really should be no trepidation for people to get involved.”
Scott understands why some members of the community hesitate to join these organizations, which is why Scott has a set of recommendations on how to get started.
“First and foremost, you need to recognize your own value to the community,” Scott said. “What I hear the most is, ‘I really admire the work that you’re doing, I wish I could do that but I don’t have [those types of] skills,’ and the answer is we need everybody at the table. The only way a city can move forward and solve problems is by bringing everyone to the table because otherwise, we’re only hearing one small group of voices. It’s about recognizing that everybody can contribute in different ways.”
Despite the common difference of opinions that many citizens hold, Scott believes that the livelihood of the community depends on everyone’s participation.
“With a lot of the work that I do, I work with people who see the world differently than I do, who believe in different solutions to our problems,” Scott said. “[However], we all have shared values. We all want our community to be safer, our kids to get a world-class education and to have more opportunities than we had. We want a city that is clean, that functions well, and we all want to have the opportunity to [succeed]. We all share these values, and that’s a great place to start–even if we don’t come to the same conclusion. I think working together as part of a community with a lot of different voices broadens our own world views and helps us get closer to solutions that are actually better for the community.”
Alongside this, Scott holds a special confidence in the educated residents of Little Rock, because she believes they benefit the most from the city.
“Communities live and die and certainly succeed and fail based on the investment of their members,” Scott said. “All of us as educated people have benefitted from this community. And with that comes some responsibility to give back and strengthen this community.”
Want to nominate someone you know at UA Little Rock for the next Spotlight? Click this link to nominate!!!