The Center for Exceptional Families’ Board


Board Information


Email your application to Shelby Knight. Call for more information!

Shelby Knight
Executive Director

shelby.knight@tcfef.org
Toll Free: (888) 360.9654

Office: Po Box 16125, Jonesboro, Arkansas 72403


Board Bios


Mary Helen Cox

Mary Helen graduated from Arkansas State University in 2007 with a degree in early childhood education with an emphasis in special education and with a masters in educational theory and practice in 2011.

Her youngest child, Jonah, was born with a disability including autism.  Since Jonah’s birth, Mary Helen has learned first-hand the importance of advocacy in the life of a child with a disability and has dedicated her time to both of her children as well as helping other families who are new to the disability world.


Lauren Preston

Lauren and her husband received a Down Syndrome diagnosis for their son, Jack, shortly after his birth. Since that day, she has been focused on educating herself and others about his diagnosis and the importance of inclusion for individuals with disabilities.  She is passionate about the disability community and strives to raise awareness and help promote acceptance.


Jerry Smith

Jerry is a self-advocate who lives in Jonesboro. He was diagnosed with Autism PDD-NOS as a toddler. Jerry is a 2015 graduate of Nettleton High School in Jonesboro and graduated in May 2019 from Arkansas State University Beebe with an associates of applied science degree in business technology and a technical certificate in computer information systems.

He is looking forward to sharing his experiences and being an example to others on the Autism Spectrum.


Rob West

Rob has been an on-air radio personality for more than twenty years and works locally at Jonesboro Radio Group. Rob and his wife are foster parents with three siblings currently in their home.  He and his wife saw the need and felt they could make a difference for children in the foster care system. 

Rob and his family feel that fostering brings great joy to their lives just in knowing they are helping to make a child’s life better.


Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an attorney licensed by the Supreme Court of Arkansas as well as the Federal Courts in the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.  He has practiced extensively in corporate transactional law including real estate transactions, contract negotiations, secured transactions, creditor’s remedies, and employment law.  Thomas has also practiced in the area of estate planning for a number of years. 

A few years ago he began planning for his now 12 year old son Grady.  As part of the process he learned about the complexities of special needs trusts, ABLE Accounts, TEFRA, and various government benefits for the disabled.  Thomas then decided to dedicate the majority of his practice to estate planning with an emphasis on planning for those with special needs.  

Thomas is the owner of Thomas Smith Attorney-At-Law, PLLC and is a candidate for an LLM in Elder Law and Special Needs Law at Stetson University of Law in Saint Petersburg, FL.  He is married with one son and his family lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas.   


Ruth Eyres

Ruth Eyres is a strong advocate for persons with disabilities.  She worked in the field of disabilities for many years, as a special educator, a special education consultant, and currently an assistant professor to special education teacher candidates at Henderson State University.  She is a board member of the Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Developmental Disabilities and Autism, and is a past board member for The Ryan White Center in Arkansas.  

Ruth volunteers her time with her church youth group, is active in Arkansas Project Zero for children in foster care, and acts as a parent volunteer at Pulaski County Special School District.  She is a parent of two children with disabilities and her and her family make their home in Sherwood. 


Elizabeth Band

Elizabeth is a former elementary school teacher and is currently a stay-at-home wife and mother of two. Elizabeth and her husband received the diagnosis of a chromosomal disorder (trisomy 10, monosomy 2) for their son right before his first birthday. Since then, they have dedicated much of their time advocating for his medical, educational, and therapy needs. Elizabeth is excited about the opportunity to sit on the board and advocate for other exceptional families.


Pamela Hill-Pearson

Pamela Hill-Pearson lives in West Memphis and is the parent of two children with disabilities. She is a stay-at-home mom with work experience in the school system as a volunteer and substitute teacher. She saw first-hand that students with disabilities desired to feel accepted and valued. She learned to advocate for those students to receive the best education possible to reach their potential. Pamela dedicates her time to helping those who need assistance with special education issues in the school system.


Bethany Rice

Bethany Rice is an elementary school educator with years of experience teaching and advocating for students with disabilities. She is also the mother of four children, two of who are neurodivergent. Those different perspectives give her the ability to view advocacy from many sides of the table. Bethany and her family make their home in Hot Springs, in the South Central region of the state.


Skip to content