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Thea Foundation Receives Research Support from Clinton School of Public Service


This academic year has been a special one for Thea Foundation for many reasons as we continue to serve Arkansas teachers and students through our programs. One particular reason has been the inclusion of research support from a truly impressive team of students enrolled at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Thea Foundation’s practicum team from the Little Rock-based graduate school has gone above and beyond to help research the impact of our Art Closet program, specifically in the Little Rock and North Little Rock School Districts, although the program does support schools statewide.


If you're unfamiliar with our programs, Thea's Art Closet funds supplies and creative material requests from public school educators in Arkansas; for the 2019-20 school year alone, Thea Foundation has already donated more than $95,000 worth of resources to teachers all over the state. This equates to impacting over 40,000 students at over 90 different schools, supporting over 130 teachers, in the state.

Each week, graduate students Lydia Grate, Alec Zills, and Connor Thompson have graciously reached out to and interviewed several educators and administrators about the impact of Thea’s Art Closet in their school. We look forward to incorporating their research and feedback from schools to continue to improve and expand this program, helping equip as many teachers as we can with the necessary resources to implement creative learning and arts education. There are over 33,000 public school teachers in Arkansas at this time. 


Below is a short bio. about each of these gifted graduate students we're proud to work with.


Lydia Grate 

Grate graduated from Arkansas Tech University with degrees in broadcast journalism, public relations, and speech communications. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa from 2011 to 2013. 


She has also worked on a variety of public service projects, including teaching hospitality skills to girls at risk of sex trafficking in Thailand, mentoring at-risk youth in Australia, and organizing community festivals in New Zealand.


Alec Zills 

Zills was born in Nashville, Tennessee and raised around the Kentucky border in Northwest Tennessee in a town called Gleason. After high school, he decided to continue his athletic career at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.


During this time, Zills was encouraged to broaden his horizons academically, which manifested in engaging with music and the performing arts for the first time. These experiences have led to his interest in advocating for educational equity around the arts in underfunded-public school systems.  


Connor Thompson

Thompson graduated from Parkview Arts and Sciences Magnet High School in Little Rock as a visual arts magnet student and from Antioch University, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. He is concurrently pursuing a J.D. from the William H. Bowen School of Law. 


Connor's public service experience includes serving as a mentor to first generation college students in Los Angeles and as a teaching assistant in Antioch University's Bridge Program, providing university level courses for adults who may not otherwise have access to higher education. 


Connor benefited from access to arts programs as a student in Little Rock public schools, and he is inspired by the work of local educators and administrators supported by the Thea Foundation to provide new arts opportunities for students.


Thea Foundation really can't thank this compassionate group of students enough for being such a delight to have in our space weekly. We also want to extend a sincere thank you to the Clinton School of Public Service for allowing their student to assist us as part of their curriculum. We know each of these students has a bright future ahead.


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