Board & Staff

Literacy Action of Central Arkansas Board of Directors 2016-2017

Mary Waldo, President

Lee Hartz, Vice President

Deborah Sallings, Secretary

Bill Foster, Treasurer

Caley Hawkins

Zachary Riley

April Phillips-Perry

Lisha Earhart

Cathy Schwartz

Matthew Caston

Chris Murray

Phyllis Haynes

Ghaidaa Albayati (ESL Student)

Ashar Abd (ESL Student)

Allen Glover (ABL Student)

Warigia Bowman, Ph.D.

Teresa Preston, Ph.D.


Literacy Action of Central Arkansas Staff

50a8e5d3-3d9c-4e02-9c72-8cc1ee6f29c8Sara Drew, Executive Director

Sara Drew joined Literacy Action as the Development Director in November 2013, and was promoted to Executive Director in October 2014. She has 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector, including programming, education, fundraising, facilitation, marketing and management. Sara started out in web design with Aristotle, Inc., moved on to historic preservation with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), spent six years running the Study Tours Program for Heifer International and then helped open the ESSE Purse Museum in the SOMA area of Little Rock, before joining Literacy Action of Central Arkansas.

Sara received a B.A. in History from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 2003 and a M.A. in Public History from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2010. Sara lives in North Little Rock with her amazing husband of 11 years, 5 year old son and 1 giant rescue dog.

Sarah Standridge, Director of Adult Literacy Programs

Sarah grew up in Northwest Arkansas and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of Arkansas in 1995. After working in the corporate world, she began tutoring at the Ozark Literacy Council in Fayetteville and went on to work there as an administrator and an English as a second Language (ESL) teacher. Following her family’s move to Little Rock in 2003, Sarah spent years working and volunteering with young children. She received her M.A. degree in Teaching from the University of Central Arkansas, with special training in ESL, in 2013. From 2013 to 2015, Sarah worked as an instructor in the Intensive English Language Program at UALR. In her free time, Sarah loves to read, hike, do yoga, and spend time with her husband and two children.

The Director of Adult Literacy Programs is responsible for developing, implementing and administering Literacy Action’s educational programming. The Director is also responsible for tutor training, and supervision as well as client intake, evaluation, and assignment of services for all of our programs.

Julie Payne, Development Director

Julie Payne joined Literacy Action in August 2015, as a VISTA Member in our Little Rock office. In August 2016, she was promoted to Development Director. She has been in the service industry since she was old enough to work and feels that she is finally able to pursue her dreams and serve with a nonprofit. Julie has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with a focus on English, Nonprofit Leadership, and Psychology from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. Her hobbies include reading, baking, and gardening. Julie’s personal mission statement is to try to see the good in every person and improve the community to the best

This VISTA position was responsible for working with Literacy Actions ABL and ESL satellite programs – studying these programs that vary in their development stages, helping them grow to help more students and train more tutors. The outcome for this VISTA position will be a solid first draft of Literacy Action’s standard operating procedures on how we work with satellite programs.

Aaran Mattson, Program Coordinator, ConwayAaran Mattson

Aaran joined Literacy Action in August 2016 as the program coordinator for our Conway office.  Aaran earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Spanish from the University of Central Arkansas, which led to teaching junior high and high school. After four years of teaching in a small public school, she moved to Fayetteville, where she received a master’s degree in communication from the University of Arkansas. For several years after graduate school, Aaran worked as a full-time proofreader in the fast- paced world of shopper marketing. In 2006, she returned to her hometown of Conway and has since taught in both University College and the Communication Department of UCA while continuing to write, edit, and proofread as a freelancer.

In her leisure time, Aaran hangs out with her wonderful husband and two goofy kids, reads fiction until the wee hours, and watches way too much Netflix. She loves to travel and prefers gray, rainy days to those full of blinding sunshine (yes, she’s a pluviophile).

DSCN1235Dale Pekar, AmeriCorps Member, Little Rock


  • Intake and testing students
  • Coordinating facilities (classroom location, dates, time)
  • Recruiting Tutors
  • Curriculum design/development
  • Tutors several one-on-one students

Dale is going on his thrid year as an AmeriCorps Member with Literacy Action. Originally from San Antonio, he received BA and MS degrees in Economics from Trinity University, and served with a variety of federal agencies as an Economist and as a Natural Resource Planner until his retirement from US Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany. He lives in the Quapaw Quarter of Little Rock, where he rehabs old houses with his wife and one son. His other son is a Social Worker at a Seattle hospital.

Jenifer Hamel, AmeriCorps Member, Little Rock

As an AmeriCorps Member, Jenifer will tutor one-on-one with adults and teach ESL classes.  Jenifer Hamel received her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, from the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Arkansas Tech in Russellville. After receiving her TESOL, Jenifer worked in Nanjing China for Disney English. Being overseas was a magnificent opportunity, and Jenifer has spent over 30 years acting in, writing for, and producing plays in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Little Rock. Jenifer writes and performs poetry. Her poetry motto is “get in, be funny, get out.” Jenifer prefers nonfiction, strong coffee, vintage clothes, and cats.

20161024_105326Michael Siniawa, AmeriCorps Member, Conway

Michael is from the small town of West Fork, Arkansas in northwest Arkansas. He moved to Conway to attend UCA, and is currently pursuing a degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a Linguistics minor. Michael has enjoyed languages since he was young, which allowed him to gain a cursory understanding of many languages and appreciate cultures. He learned that he could combine this interest with science, which lead to his choice of major. After learning about Literacy Action, Michael was excited to pursue a volunteer position in Conway related to his passion, and he eventually took the step to become an AmeriCorps Member. He is excited about this opportunity!

Additional tidbits are that Michael enjoys hanging out with friends, collecting and using fountain pens, the outdoors, spontaneous misadventures, and learning new things to challenge himself and improve his skills.

Morgan O’Neil, VISTA Member, Little Rock

Morgan grew up in Southern Illinois and received a B.A. degree in English, Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of the Ozarks in 2013. She received her Master’s degree in English from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 2016. While in graduate school, she taught freshmen-level composition courses and realized how much she enjoyed working with students to achieve their educational goals. Through the VISTA position at Literacy Action, Morgan is able to combine her passion for education with her teaching, writing and researching experiences. Some of her hobbies include playing soccer, reading, being outside, and playing with her dog and three cats.