Wendell Scales Jr., a 2019 graduate of UA Little Rock, is leading a first-of-its-kind initiative to bring social justice courses to the Arkansas Lighthouse Academies’ five charter schools.
In his role as deputy director of innovation, Scales is responsible for launching new programmatic opportunities for the district, including strategic programming, partnerships, development, and funding. He’s also responsible for research and development in education innovations and curriculum.
A native of Lonoke, Scales is leading Arkansas Lighthouse Academies’ (ALA) districtwide launch to reimagine the ever-changing education landscape by promoting cultural competency and academic excellence. ALA is partnering with Frontlines of Justice to bring social justice education programs to its charter schools this fall.
ALA teachers and students will participate in online courses covering social, racial, and educational justice. The curriculum is a collection of digital lessons designed to help teachers and students discover and analyze the history of systemic oppression that has affected justice-impacted people and communities for centuries. Students will learn how to work toward an equitable and just society.
“The teachers will understand the why and push it to the young people who will ultimately be better citizens who will create change for the future,” Scales said. “That wouldn’t have happened without relationships. That’s the key to how we were able to get this initiative off the ground. The teacher piece is in full swing, and the student piece will launch next spring. I’m very excited about this new initiative. It has made believers out of all of our educators.”
In addition to his career as an educator, Scales is an active community leader. He serves as vice president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock, for which he received the 2019 Real Men of Service Award. He was a co-organizer of the educator call to action, “Response to Injustice,” a peaceful demonstration that took place in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He is also a graduate of the Leadership Greater Little Rock Class and sits on the group’s Education Action Committee.
“I’m a first-generation college student,” Scales said. “A lot of the work we do is supporting underserved youth in 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock. I educate community stakeholders about what it takes to create opportunities for underserved communities, both in urban and rural communities across Arkansas.”
Scales earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance from Henderson State University. In 2014, Scales joined UA Little Rock as a recruitment coordinator covering Pulaski County and central Arkansas.
“I had a great experience. I wouldn’t be in the roles and be doing the things that I’m doing for the community without my time as a professional and student at UA Little Rock and the opportunities there,” Scales said. “The doors seemed to open once I stepped into the role as recruitment coordinator. I transitioned to the college counselor at eStem High School. I worked closely with them until I started working for Arkansas Lighthouse Academies.”
Before his promotion in January, Scales worked as the director of college and career advising at Jacksonville Lighthouse CPA. His student support through personalized and supplemental college counseling led to a 97 percent graduate rate and 95 percent college acceptance rate for his students.
Scales graduated from UA Little Rock with a master’s degree in higher education with an emphasis in student affairs in 2019.
“I really care about education, and I really care about our state,” Scales said. “There always seems to be something here for me that is meaningful. I attribute that to my time at UA Little Rock. It opened so many doors. It put me in front of administrators, counselors, and so many people that I still call on to this day and they call on me. I’m very grateful for my time as a professional and a student.”
His advice for college students is to ask questions, investigate opportunities, and make meaningful connections.
“If I was a first-time freshman, I would pull out a map of campus and find spots that I need to familiarize myself with,” Scales said. “There are thousands of opportunities, but you have to seek them out. If you just go to class and then go home, you miss out on opportunities that are right at your fingertips. Don’t be afraid to make meaningful connections. I think that is crucial to success not just as a student but overall as a professional.”