The University of Central Arkansas Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) has partnered with UCA Service-Learning to sponsor an AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program. 

The new partnership will allow UCA to sponsor six AmeriCorps VISTA members that will serve in partner communities and nonprofits in Arkansas for one year. UCA will provide a network of support and professional development to host sites and VISTA members throughout the year of service. 

The six UCA AmeriCorps VISTA members and their service locations are:

  • Anthony Bennett — City of Hope Outreach, Conway, AR
  • Mia-Angel Bennett — Rise House, Conway, AR
  • Hannah Hanshaw — UCA Outreach and Community Engagement, Conway, AR
  • Sam Little — Milestones Services, Conway, AR
  • Gretchen Ritchey — Hot Spring County, AR
  • Penelope Seminario — City of Lonoke, AR

The AmeriCorps VISTA program was started in 1965 and provides a living stipend and professional development opportunities for volunteers who dedicate a year of service to the goal of addressing the root causes of poverty in communities across the United States. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as catalysts for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions.

The city of Lonoke and Hot Spring County were selected based on their work with CCED to develop community-wide strategic action plans. The AmeriCorps VISTA members at these sites will help organize community groups and work toward the strategic goals outlined in the strategic action plans.

“Connecting VISTA members with Arkansas communities is an exciting opportunity that will lead to positive change,” said Shelby Fiegel, director of CCED. “Our team at CCED worked with Lonoke and Hot Spring County over the past several years to develop long-term, strategic action plans. The VISTAs in both communities will assist in building capacity and achieving community and economic development goals.”

Three of the AmeriCorps VISTA members are serving with nonprofit organizations that have worked with UCA Service-Learning in the past, and one VISTA member will work with poverty-related outreach initiatives at UCA. These VISTAs will serve in roles that build their host organizations’ capacity to leverage volunteers and provide services ranging from early childhood education and tutoring to financial empowerment and housing.

“Sponsoring a VISTA program will help UCA to create new pathways to public service for our graduates, as well as deepen our relationships with our community partners,” said Lesley Graybeal, director of Service-Learning at UCA. “We are excited to connect our communities with these national service opportunities and work together toward the ambitious and worthwhile goal of addressing the root causes of poverty.”

For more information about the UCA AmeriCorps VISTA Program, contact Graybeal at

About the AmeriCorps VISTA program: AmeriCorps VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America, is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering, service and civic engagement. CNCS engages millions of Americans in citizen service through its AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs and leads the nation’s volunteering and service efforts. For more information, visit 

About CCED: The mission of UCA’s Center for Community and Economic Development is to have a positive impact on communities by equipping leaders with economic tools and resources, building consensus to achieve community goals and bringing UCA resources and communities together. CCED envisions communities across Arkansas and the country with robust economies, a flourishing quality of life and diverse and engaged citizen leaders. A part of UCA’s Division of Outreach and Community Engagement, CCED provides customized training and technical assistance to communities and their leaders.

About UCA Service-Learning: The UCA Service-Learning Program supports partnerships between students, faculty and community partners to integrate meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities. Service-learning and volunteerism are part of UCA’s Division of Outreach and Community Engagement.