Kumba is a mother of five children, two with disabilities. She is a strong advocate who works tirelessly to make sure that her children have the best education possible. A native of Sierra Leone, West Africa, Kumba moved to the United States almost 20 years ago to pursue the American Dream.
However, she has never forgotten her homeland, its political injustice, extreme poverty and failing education system. Kumba has created an organization focused on changing the educational outcomes for children in Sierra Leone and is currently working to open an elementary school there.
Sondra is a native of Gosnell, Arkansas. She graduated with a Bachelors of Science in English Education from Arkansas State University in 2004.
Sondra has taught English and Journalism at Armorel High School and currently teaches tenth grade English and pre-AP English at Gosnell High School. She also works with the Area 13 Special Olympics and co-sponsors a special athletes club at Gosnell High School.
Sondra is married with three daughters. Her middle child, Lila, has Down syndrome. Since Lila’s birth, Sondra has educated herself and those in her community about the importance of inclusion. She’s very passionate about helping those with disabilities succeed.
Julie, a California native, has lived in north central Arkansas for the last 10 years. She received a CNA certification from Arkansas State University Mountain Home. Due to her son’s rare birth defect — Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum — Julie quickly realized the importance of social media among families with special needs children.
Julie is a creator and administrator to a Facebook support group for families with special needs children with over 350 members.
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 special needs including autism. Since Jonah’s birth, Mary Helen has learned first-hand the importance of advocacy in the life of a special needs child and has dedicated her time to both of her children as well as helping other families who are new to the special needs world.
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 special needs. She is passionate about the special needs community and strives to raise awareness and help promote acceptance.
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 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 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 is a strong advocate for persons with disabilities. She has worked in the field of disabilities for many years, as a special educator, a special education consultant and currently as 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.