New Partnerships, Same Purpose

New Partnerships, Same Purpose

In the 2017-2018 school year, we are going with “others” and are pumped about the potential for each new partnership. Our purpose is the same…to increase access and opportunity for every student we serve.

New Partnerships

We are very excited to announce new partnerships with Sheridan High School, Hope Public Schools, and Virtual Arkansas. In addition, we are adding to our capacity at eStem Schools, which has been our flagship partner since launching Noble Impact in 2013. At eStem Schools, and through the leadership of CEO, John Bacon, we will continue our curriculum innovation process while increasing our scope with a school wide implementation plan, including the new Office of School Culture.

Sheridan High School

Spearheading our new partnerships is Charlie Kinser at Sheridan High School. Both a high school coach and teacher, Charlie is a veteran Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher and has been following Noble Impact since the beginning. His interest has led him to reach out to us, observe our classrooms, and even serve as a mentor at many of our events. In fact, his student team from Sheridan recently won the University of Central Arkansas High School Startup Day. Combining his industry and educational experience provides tremendous value as a Noble Impact facilitator.

Below is a picture of the Sheridan High School Startup Day Winning Team and Charlie at their photo shoot with professional photographer, John David Pittman. The prize for winning High School Startup Day was receiving professional headshots taken by JDP.

Words from Charlie…

“Introducing Noble Impact to the Sheridan School District and our community will allow our students to participate in a cutting edge education model.  After witnessing the student experience of Noble 101 at eStem High School in 2013-2014, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Noble Impact educational movement. Through this state of the art program, student interests’ drive the curriculum, and the community reaps the benefits of employable, credible, and prepared young adults.  It had been an exciting time watching the momentum of Noble Impact during this past semester.  I can’t wait for all the successes and stories that will begin in the fall of 2017, where almost 100 Sheridan High School students become novice Noble Scholars.”

The most exciting thing to me about the partnership with Sheridan High School is related to their enthusiasm and excitement about bringing Noble 101 to their classrooms. They even created a partnership logo and flyer to get the word out about Noble 101. Limitless potential!

What is Noble 101?

Noble 101 is an introductory course for the Arkansas Career Education Noble Impact program of study, which engages students at the intersection of entrepreneurship and public service. Industry concepts and Silicon Valley case studies are used to foster collaboration and competition with classroom experience and community events, i.e. High School Startup Day. The understanding of social emotional learning (SEL) is central to the curriculum and promotes the primary skills of listening, storytelling, and reflecting. The course includes guest speakers from for-profit companies and non-profit organizations who will share their personal journey to success. Students will connect with one another through their personalized platform, which will provide an avenue to capture experiences and events while building social emotional competencies, for example – High School Senior, Andrew Rickard. Each semester will end with a culminating event to connect students across the state and upon completion of the Noble 101 course, students will have increased access and opportunities throughout their local and statewide community.

Hope Public Schools

In the 2016-2017 school year, Hope Public Schools partnered with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service to launch the Hope Academy of Public Service (H.A.P.S.) for grades 5th-9th. Through their work with a Clinton School practicum team, H.A.P.S. has developed a public service curriculum which will be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

In January, I was connected with one of the pivotal people in that development, the Principal of H.A.P.S., Carol Ann Duke. Carol heard of our partnership with the Clinton School and was curious to know more about Noble Impact, so I drove out to Hope for a meeting.

I love the character of old buildings and as I walked through the doors of the administration building, I was welcomed by Carol and Hope Public Schools Superintendent, Bobby Hart. Listening to Bobby explain his passion and purpose for the Hope School District was an awesome experience and it only took me five minutes to understand that we were on the same page. Discussing social emotional skills, student led projects, and service learning experiences…I knew that a partnership would be valuable and mutually beneficial.

Through the leadership of Bobby Hart and Carol Duke, our Noble Impact identity portfolios will be complementing the Clinton School curriculum created by the practicum team to capture students experiences while building individual identity. The Hope School District has also committed to adopting the Noble curriculum at Yerger Middle School and Hope High School.


Words from Carol…

“We are looking forward to adding Noble to our campus. We believe the partnership will strengthen our mission of purposeful Service Learning that allows all our students to actively engage with both the local and global community.”

Going Virtual

When I first reached out to Cathi Swan, I had no idea how Virtual Arkansas worked, but it seemed like an interesting platform to pursue our purpose of increasing access and opportunities for students throughout the state. Cathi is the Digital Learning State Coordinator for Virtual Arkansas and after meeting with their team, my mind was blown. As soon as I left the meeting, I sent a text to our team…”Crazy potential.” Since that initial meeting, we’ve had several more meetings and even another one this morning as we were introduced to ZOOM, which is an awesome platform for high level communication.

Words from Cathi…

“Virtual Arkansas makes it a practice to explore and discover new opportunities to offer Arkansas students.  We believe that ANY type of learning can be delivered digitally and look forward to working with Noble Impact to meld their opportunities into the digital landscape…further knocking down the barriers of time and place. This new partnership with Noble Impact is one that we hope will produce graduates that are connected to their communities and prepared to make a difference wherever their journey takes them.”


Change is happening and we are very enthusiastic about pursuing our purpose through these new partnerships.

Education is being delivered in many different ways and through many different mediums. In the coming school year, we will continue to stretch the walls of our classrooms in Little Rock to bring on these new partnerships that include new facilitators, new students, and new avenues of engagement. We are also looking forward to stretching ourselves in ways we deliver content to facilitators and students throughout the state. In the coming weeks, we will begin our professional development experience for our partners and are pumped about the 2017-2018 school year. If you’d like more information, please feel free to shoot me an email,

As change remains constant, one thing will remain the same at Noble Impact…we will continue to increase access and opportunity for every student we serve.

The #NobleJourney continues.

Tuning In: A Culture of Identity

Tuning In: A Culture of Identity

 John David Pittman is more than a photographer, he’s a storyteller.

I met JDP in the spring of 2014 as we hosted the first ever High School Startup Weekend at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. He volunteered his time that day because of his connection to education and his interest in what we were trying to accomplish over a 3-day period with 80+ high school students. His work was awesome and it made me think about more ideas for collaboration.


Both of JDP’s parents are retired educators. His father was a high school teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent. His mother was a high school english teacher, gifted and talented coordinator, and elementary librarian. And his brother is currently a high school teacher and coach in Gravette, Arkansas. That’s just his immediate family.

When you start talking education with JDP, he has many opinions and also connects his current occupation of photographer to the possibility of utilizing it for the education sector, specifically K-12.

Since our first encounter, we’ve talked about doing projects together that would be mutually beneficial while serving a higher purpose and we’ve managed to do that through a couple different avenues, one being our Noble 301 Apprenticeship Course.

He’s also volunteered his time to provide our students with an opportunity to visit his studio and receive professional headshots of their own. We’ve seen our students use these headshots on their social media pages and in applications for college. 

In addition to projects with Noble Impact, JDP has been a guest speaker in many of our classrooms and his message of being “tuned in” resonates with me every single time I hear it.

“Being tuned in is being aware of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your environment, and how you fit into your environment…it’s a sense of hyper-awareness and not just walking through life half on.”

JDP connects the “tuned in” message to photography in many different ways but he’ll be the first one to tell you that it all starts with a professional headshot.

“Whether it be an athlete, an artist, or a teacher, I want everyone to be invested as a human…in themselves and their own identity, which connects to others through story.”

As we embark upon our most recent collaboration, I’m very happy to again focus our efforts on education while attempting to lift the teaching profession to new heights. With a professional headshot as the beginning, we’ll be laser focused on building a culture of identity. We both believe in the power of teachers and we also believe it’s a profession that has been slighted. In fact, one of the problem statements from this past summer’s Noble Summit was this…“The problem with education is that teachers are undervalued.”

The purpose of collaborating with JDP is to put teachers first while making sure that value is communicated at a very high level. A professional headshot signifies the importance of identity building and is an industry standard that most companies adhere to. Why not schools? Therefore, professional headshots for every single individual contributing to the organizational school culture should be non-negotiable. Here are a couple takeaways that connect JDP’s words to the significance of a professional headshot…

“This is important. This is a big deal. Research shows that people make snap judgments about who you are as a person within two seconds of looking at your headshot.”

“Handshake to headshot, people judge everything.”

“I want their ZMOT (zero moment of truth) to be confident and approachable.”

“Your headshot is the first line of your story…that’s the way I look at it.”

As we continue our series of professional development workshops with eStem Schools, the individual identity workshop will add significant value to cultivating a healthy school culture. We believe that individual identities feed into the collective identity, and it starts with valuing teachers for who they are.

As JDP would say, “It’s time to get tuned in.”


Building Culture By Getting Out Of The Building

Building Culture By Getting Out Of The Building

Education-PioneersThis post originally appeared on the blog of Education Pioneers, where Noble Impact’s VP of Product Erica Swallow served as a Fellow this summer. This blog post is a reflection of her summer experience, in particular regarding culture-building.

Culture isn’t a decree from on high. It can’t be implemented with the simple swoosh of the CEO’s hand.

Instead, it has to be built by and for the entire team it represents. Rather than having executives write handbooks, we should empower teams and individuals to interpret and define the essence of an organization’s culture. And often, some of the best culture-building happens when we literally get out of the building.

There’s a ton of literature on building culture – heck, I’ve even written some of it! But it wasn’t until this summer that I realized how crucial time outside of the daily grind is to creating a healthy organizational culture.

Both with Education Pioneers and my partner organization, Noble Impact, I took part in and facilitated a number of culture-critical experiences. Above all, I learned that real cultural strength happens when leaders hand over the reins and intentionally make room for culture-building.

Handing Over the Reins

The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.
― Sir Ken Robinson, educator and speaker

Addressing the Opportunity Gap EPU Event
The Noble Impact team and I were empowered to host a capstone event with 50+ students and “Little Rock Nine” member Minnijean Brown Trickey through EPU programming.

At Education Pioneers, we build culture in many ways; my favorite is Fellow-organized events, which we call EPUs (Education Pioneers Unplugged). A zip-line excursion, a panel on entrepreneurship, a tour of Nashville’s foodie spots: These were all “Unplugged” experiences created and organized by Tennessee cohort Fellows this summer.

Little Rock Central High School EPU
Tennessee EP Fellows visit Little Rock Central High School.

I organized a Little Rock, Arkansas EPU (my Fellowship was unique in that I worked in Little Rock, but my EP experience and cohort were based in Memphis and Nashville), to share my city and its history with the Tennessee cohort, introduce my EP colleagues to the work I was doing, and bring us together through a day of meaningful activities, which included:

The events were powerful from a programming experience – Little Rock has a deep history in education, both from the painful memories that happened at Central High School during the era of desegregation, all the way up to the innovation that’s happening at the Clinton School with its focus on public service.

While growing up in Arkansas, I took for granted and even underestimated the national spotlight that my state has and continues to hold within the education sector – in both positive and negative lights. Education Pioneers and the EPU experience empowered me to explore and share those stories with my cohort.

Plus, I expanded the work that Noble Impact does in the classroom – it’s an education nonprofit that aims to provide a relevant and purpose-driven education to all students through entrepreneurship and public service learning. More than 50 high school students in the Noble Impact program joined our EPU to help them build culture in the classroom, even though the work the students participated took place on the weekend, outside of the classroom.

For the EP cohort members who joined, I believe it brought us together like never before. Walking through the halls of Central High, seeing where Minnijean Brown Trickey’s “chili incident” took place, and then sharing lunch, hearing her life story, and witnessing how it resonated with students – that was powerful. To visit a classroom of eager students together, and then join forces with them to propose ideas for solving the opportunity gap – that was inspiring. And to stay up late over pizza and intriguing conversation – that was bonding.

It all started with an EPU – in which Education Pioneers empowered us as Fellows to define our experience, to define our culture.

Making Room For Culture

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
― Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator

Business often focuses on efficiency, and we forget to take time out to “build culture.” Taking a team retreat or spending a day with colleagues, just shooting the breeze, can seem counter-productive. From what I’ve experienced, though, it’s important.

Erica Swallow and Chad Williamson in a Waterfall
Noble Impact teammates Erica Swallow and Chad Williamson in a waterfall.
A week or so after I started my EP Fellowship, the Noble Impact crew took a team retreat to the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean Mountain. We shared an apartment, hiked in the woods, stood under a waterfall together, shared our personal stories with one another, and spent time (in between outings on the mountain) defining our mission and values.

That three-day trek set our team up for optimal efficiency. Prior to the retreat, we didn’t have a set idea of how to describe Noble Impact’s work, and given that I was new to the team, my role and summer project hadn’t been 100% defined. Furthermore, I didn’t know much about my teammate’s lives – where they came from, what they care about, why they do what they do. The retreat helped me get closer to some of these answers. By the end of the trip, we had also defined our core values and mission statement, as well as connected on a personal level, understanding each other’s backgrounds and ambitions.

Today, I’m more capable of doing every single aspect of my work because I understand my teammates and our mission together. As a Fellow it’s helpful, but it’s even more crucial now, because post-Education Pioneers, I’m working full-time at Noble Impact.

Tying It All Together

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead, anthropologist

Every day in the office, out to lunch, or on team outings, our culture is being built. It happens whether we plan it or not. But what would it look like if we built intentional culture exercises into our organizations, such as EPUs and team retreats?

I challenge you to think about ways to enhance your organization’s culture intentionally. How can you hand over the reins and empower your team to create a lasting culture that will drive your work?