Partnership announces new programs, scholarships for students

The University of Central Arkansas’s Conductor and Junior Achievement of Arkansas announced a partnership to create programming that will equip K-12 students with expertise in entrepreneurship, innovative thinking, financial literacy and intrapersonal skills and have planned two major events in the coming weeks and more throughout the year.

The first events are the Spark! Tank Pitch Competition from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 and High School Startup Day from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 16. Both events will be held at UCA.

Public events offered by the Conductor and Junior Achievement are open to community members of all ages. For more information on the student-focused programming and ways to get involved, visit

“Student-focused programming is at the core of the Conductor’s mission, and we’re honored to partner with Junior Achievement of Arkansas to foster educational experiences for K-12 students,” said Kim Lane, chief operating officer of the Conductor. “Our collaborative programming is designed to create ways for every student in Arkansas to learn entrepreneurial principles, and our statewide network of youth entrepreneurs will empower the next generation of leaders and problem solvers. We’re so excited to be part of this movement.”

Through the partnership, the Conductor and Junior Achievement are launching the Spark! Tank Pitch Competition from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 22. In the youth entrepreneurship competition, each student team will have three minutes to pitch its business concepts to event attendees and a panel of judges for a chance to win prizes that will take their businesses to the next level. The winning team will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship to attend the University of Central Arkansas. The judging panel will include representatives from Southwestern Energy, Acxiom Corporation and UCA. Students are invited to compete in the competition, and the event is open to the public. For registration and application information, visit

The group is also teaming up with Noble Impact, an educational non-profit, to host High School Startup Day from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 16. During High School Startup Day, high schoolers will work in teams to solve a problem they face in high school education. At the end of the day, student groups will pitch their solutions to a panel of judges, which will include UCA President Houston Davis, Dr. Michael Hargis, dean of the College of Business at UCA, Dr. Stephen Addison, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UC, and other faculty members. The winning team will receive a $1,200 scholarship to attend UCA, as well as professional headshots for the students and teachers. Over 90 high school students will be in attendance at the event, with representation from Hot Springs, Jacksonville, Bauxite, Vilonia and other schools around the state. Registration for schools is closed, but the pitch portion is open to the public. Guests may register here:

“Building entrepreneurial talent is critical to growing the startup ecosystem in Arkansas,” says Jeff Standridge, Conductor Team Leader. “We need to help students, teachers and parents understand that entrepreneurship is a very viable career path. We’re living in a new economy, one that thrives on entrepreneurial talent, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to work on building this foundation.”

Students can also look for the Entrepreneurship Kickoff Workshop in September at the University of Central Arkansas. The daylong workshop will be the inaugural event of the 2017-2018 school year and will be open to all Junior Achievement students in Arkansas. The workshop will guide students through an immersive learning exercise, teaching them the first five weeks’ worth of Junior Achievement lessons in a one-day, accelerated format. The workshop will catalyze the entrepreneurial learning process, and give students more time during the semester to work on creating their actual businesses. Students can find more information about the workshop on the Conductor website later this spring.

“[Junior Achievement] is proud to be a part of this partnership to empower young people to own their economic success. These projects will put useful and practical information in young peoples’ hands so they can unleash that entrepreneurial potential. Equally important is that these projects will inspire young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career,” says Chad Kauffman, president of Junior Achievement of Arkansas. 

About the Conductor: The Conductor, a public-private partnership with the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie Consulting, drives innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development in central Arkansas through high-impact programming, one-on-one consulting, commercialization support, talent development and collaboration. 

About Junior Achievement of Arkansas: Junior Achievement is a volunteer driven, non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through partnerships between businesses and educators, JA’s curricula helps K-12 students connect the dots between the classroom and the real-world. They currently have over 500 volunteers and reach over 13,000 students in Arkansas annually.