The eighth annual Jazz and Juleps event raised more than $54,000 for audiology and speech pathology students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The May 25 event, which was held at the Clinton Presidential Center, honored Cassandra Steele, director of special programs for the Little Rock School District and a 1988 graduate of UA Little Rock. All funds raised from the event will go toward an endowed scholarship fund in Steele’s name.

In her role at Little Rock School District, Steele oversees nearly 60 speech pathologists and more than 200 special education teachers. They provide services to about 2,700 students who receive special education lessons within the district.

During her speech, Steele gave one recent graduate of the joint UA Little Rock-University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences audiology and speech pathology graduate program the surprise of a lifetime.

Celebrity auctioneer Craig O’Neill takes pictures with the upbeat crowd at the 8th annual Jazz and Juleps event at the Clinton Presidential Center. Photo by Nelson Chenault

During the 2016-17 academic year, Steele helped establish a partnership in which 10 audiology and speech pathology graduate students from UA Little Rock and UAMS earned professional experience and stipends by serving as interns with Little Rock School District.

Steele asked one of the interns, Madison White, to come to the stage during Jazz and Juleps. Believing that she was there to tell the crowd about her experiences as an intern, White was quite surprised when Steele offered her a job as a speech-language pathologist with Little Rock School District.

“As I walked to the front and stood next to her, I was thinking about what I would say about my intern experience,” White said. “So I was completely caught off guard when she offered me a job. I was overwhelmed by the immediate amount of support and encouragement I received from everyone at the event, and I was so flattered that she would honor me in that way during her speech as the event honoree.”

Jazz-Juleps-2-254x300Cassandra Steele (left) celebrates Madison White’s (right) acceptance of a job offer as a speech-language pathologist with the Little Rock School District. Photo by Nelson Cheanault.

After congratulating White, Steele encouraged UA Little Rock alumni to find ways to give back.

“When you graduate from the department, you know that you are equipped to be the best in the profession,” Steele said. “As you delve into life after school, never pass on an opportunity to teach, mentor, or to serve. Together, we can accomplish so much for those with speech and hearing difficulties.”

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