On Saturday, September 15th, SPSF NWA welcomed current scholarship recipients, alumni, and other community organization clients for our inaugural Empower Summit. 45 attendees gathered at Mount Sequoyah Retreat Center for a packed day of networking and professional development.

The morning kicked off with some mindful meditation with Arkansas Yoga Center instructor Jeff Ledbetter. He led the group in  breathing techniques to help attendees become centered and provided stress reduction tips.

Natalie Bartholomew, Chief Marketing Officer for Grand Savings Bank, #TheGirlBanker, and SPSF NWA Board President, shared some words of encouragement for the attendees before breaking for our morning sessions. “We all do what we do for our children, to make a better life for them. Remember—it is okay to do things for you. You deserve this! May you leave today feeling more connected, more inspired, and more empowered!”

Attendees had the opportunity to attend two of six sessions in the morning. Amy Reeves Robinson- Founder and CEO of Tribe of Women—focused on the why and how to make ourselves a priority. The ins and outs of Corporate Culture was presented by Dr. Sherri Keeth, the Executive Director of Managed Care for Sam’s Club. Attendees learned how to be an “Interview Star” with Dayna Rhodehouse, the commercial Sales Manager for W.W. Grainger.

In the latter part of the morning, attendees learned how to be job ready with the Executive Director for Dress for Success NWA, Virginia Germann. Mark Foster, Director of Education for CCOA explained tips and tricks to mastering your money. Twyla Rownak, Licensed Counselor for sister affiliate Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, spoke about how to survive and cope with stress. 

Emma Willis, Executive Director of Arkansas 529, joined us as the lunchtime keynote speaker. Emma introduced the Arkansas 529 college savings plan and the benefits of saving for higher education early on. Emma then fielded questions about how to set up a 529 plan for the children in our attendees’ lives and the best way to utilize the savings plan.Following lunch, Dr. Ryan Sheets, the Director of Business Communication Lab for University of Arkansas Walton College of Business, explained how attendees could strengthen their elevator speech using nonverbal communication. The vast number of careers in the medical field were explained in detail by Michael Howard, the Chief Nursing Officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital-Northwest. Tanya Hayes, Coach and Founder of bluvista, encouraged attendees to turn their career dreams into a reality.

The day ended with five different round-table discussions. Participants were able to spend 15 minutes with each round-table presenter. Allyson Twiggs Dyer, Owner of the Twiggs Group, explained the power of personal branding. Gina Gregson, Sr. Manager of Engineering, Acxiom, and current SPSF NWA Board Member, discussed the vast number of careers in the technology field. Dr. Karen Hodges, SPSF NWA Learning Coach, encouraged attendees how to best utilize their time for studying. The importance of mentorship and how it can be life changing was the focus of Jennifer Janda, Community Engagement manager of Big Brothers Big Sisters NWA, discussion. SPSF NWA current recipients also had the opportunity to meet with our Program Director, Carrie DeVore, to learn about all the services we offer, upcoming scholarship deadlines, and any upcoming events.

When asked what their favorite part of the event was-one review read, “I enjoyed the feeling of community and support. Today really helped me gain a sense of self and I feel like I mattered and belonged. It was wonderful connecting with other single parents and people that shared a common goal.”


All of those that attended the event left feeling excited and empowered. Our speakers and presenters provided them with an opportunity to sharpen the tools they already had and added additional resources to their toolbox. 

At SPSF NWA, our goal is to always seek innovative ways to help recipients achieve their goals. The Empower Summit is just one example of the resources available to our dedicated single parent families.