Second-year student Aaron Kennard has been selected as the recipient of the Amanda Harris Memorial Scholarship.
The Amanda Harris Memorial Scholarship was established in 2019 by Professor Emeritus Christina Standerfer in the memory of Clinton School graduate Amanda Harris, who passed away in September 2016. Now in its third year, the scholarship is annually awarded to a student committed to working with a community partner organization on a Capstone project focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
“I am honored to be taking up the mantle from previous recipients Savanna George and Mac Bolt, and humbled to have the opportunity to carry on Amanda Harris’ legacy of inclusion,” Kennard said. “LGBTQ people in Arkansas experience so many barriers in their lives, and I am thrilled that this scholarship will allow me to break down at least one of them.”
In partnership with The Centers for Youth and Families, Kennard’s Capstone project will collect data on the number of LGBTQ+ foster parents in Arkansas and the barriers they face in trying to enter the foster care system. That data will be used to create a program, service, training, or other intervention strategies against that barrier so that Arkansas can increase the number of foster care parents to meet the number of children needing foster care homes.
“There’s a very real need in Arkansas to expand the number of foster homes to accommodate the number of children in the state’s foster system,” Kennard said. “Because of this scholarship, I will be able bring LGBTQ equality to the system, and help youth across the entire state find welcoming homes while they’re in foster care.”
Kennard’s Capstone project comes on the heels of his work with Arkansas United over the summer. He completed an audit for the immigrant rights organization on compliance with best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Kennard is a graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin where he earned a degree in interpersonal and organizational communication.
“Aaron is very deserving of this scholarship,” said Interim Dean Susan Hoffpauir. “He has been an excellent voice for LGBTQ+ students on our ad hoc DEI Climate Survey committee and is doing critically important work for The Centers for Youth and Families in identifying the barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ people from being foster parents in a state that desperately needs loving foster homes.”
Harris was one of the first openly gay students to enroll at the Clinton School of Public Service. Her field service work included work on community development, women’s empowerment, and rural heritage development in the Arkansas Delta region; an independent study of LGBTQ rights and advocacy in the Czech Republic; and various work with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force/Policy Institute. She graduated from the Clinton School in 2009.
A native of Lonoke, Ark., Harris earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Central Arkansas. Before enrolling at the Clinton School, she participated in the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, a two-month long bus journey to promote equal rights in public schools throughout America.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.