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UA Little Rock Alum Wendell Scales Competes for $1 Million Yass Prize

Wendell Scales Jr.
Wendell Scales Jr.

UA Little Rock alumnus Wendell Scales Jr., deputy director of innovation at Arkansas Lighthouse Charter Schools, is competing for the biggest award in American education on behalf of his employer that would fund a program designed to expand student mindsets on what it means to have a career in agriculture.

The $1 Million Yass Prize celebrates the country’s education provider which best demonstrates the STOP (Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding, Permissionless) principles. The annual award was established in 2021 to reward educators who delivered exceptional experiences for students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Knowing how important agriculture is to the local and state economy, Scales, a 2019 UA Little Rock graduate and Lonoke native, said Arkansas Lighthouse plans to continue developing their unique AgriSTEM initiative to build Arkansas’s first K-12 Ag/STEM school.

“The Yass Prize award is an amazing opportunity to amplify the work we are doing in Arkansas,” Scales said. “Cultivating the next generation of diverse agriculture professionals for an agriculture state is very important. I was honored to pitch our AgriSTEM initiative at Arkansas Lighthouse at the 2nd Annual YASS Prize Accelerator and Pitch Competition.”

Originally selected as one of 32 semifinalists who will each receive a $200,000 grant, Scales represented Arkansas Lighthouse during an accelerator program and pitch competition earlier this month in New York City.

“Connecting with a phenomenal group of 32 individuals and organizations who have made it to the semi-final round, competing for the 1-million-dollar prize for their ideas around Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding, and Permissionless education, has also been very rewarding,” Scales added.

The prestigious $1 million Yass and the six amazing innovator-finalists, who will each receive a $500,000 prize, will be announced to a packed house of past and present winners, judges, supporters, and friends on the evening of Dec. 14.

Before that, you can cheer on Scales during the Yass Prize Semifinalist Summit from Forbes Media in New York City. The event, which celebrates American education’s hidden heroes who are doing what’s right for students of all ages, will be livestreamed at 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CST in Arkansas).