Corie Woodman

age: 37 | Third Grade Educator | Red Lick Independent School District

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Currently in her eleventh year of teaching, Corie Woodman has taught all grades from kindergarten through fifth, except first. Once she had her first child, she knew right away that she wanted to love and teach other people’s children the way she wanted her son to be loved and taught.

“My hope in my classroom is to not only help each child grow academically, but more importantly help create kind, productive citizens,” Corie explained. “You can ask any one of the students I have had in the past about Mrs. Woodman’s life lessons. We spend a lot of time discussing how we will impact this ever-changing world.”

Married to Andy, the couple has four children: Drew Woodman (18), Cole Gideon (12), Sarah Jane Woodman (11), and Cade Gideon (8). Being a mother, wife, and friend is by far, Corie’s greatest personal accomplishment. “These are jobs I am most proud of and will always strive to be better than the day before,” Corie said. She and her family enjoy spending their summers at the family lake house or their river cabin, and the rest of the year is mostly spent watching travel baseball and travel soccer since two of their children play. 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“AT THE END OF THE DAY, PEOPLE WON’T REMEMBER WHAT YOU SAID OR DID; THEY WILL RE- MEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.” – MAYA ANGELOU

Corie serves as a committee member for CASA’s Songwriters on the Edge of Texas event and is a member of Women for A&M- Texarkana. She also served as a “celebrity” during TRAHC’s Party with Picassos event and does her best to contribute and volunteer for any organization she can that is outside of school hours.

Professionally, Corie’s greatest achievement is receiving her Master’s Degree in Education and going on to get her Master Math Teacher Certification. Her long-term goal as her kids get older is to teach future educators on the college level. “I want to help instill a love of teaching and remind young educators how crucial their roles are in children’s lives,” she said, adding that she and Andy also look forward to traveling more once all of their kids are in college. 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I spent my childhood showing horses as part of the South East Arkansas Horseshow Association, and I even placed tenth in the state! I learned a lot from those days ... how to love and take care of animals, good sportsmanship, and hard work.” 

Armani Valentino

age: 38 | Publisher, Author, Business Marketing Consultant | College Boy Publishing, LLC & ArmaniValentino.com

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Armani Valentino stays busy running his publishing company, College Boy Publishing, and his consulting business. “I independently became a national bestselling author and therefore have a certain level of expertise when it comes to marketing,” he said. But Armani believes that his own successes allow him to do more than just consult. “If [I had not been successful in publishing my books], numerous other people, especially African-Americans in Texarkana and many other areas, would have never been inspired to go for one of their dreams of becoming a published author,” he said. “Sometimes you have to be the first to do something in order for others to be inspired to know they can do it, too. You know, be a trailblazer and an inspiration. I think I have done that since I was a young child—inspired others to follow their dreams.”

Though he’s most often spotted writing self-help books, managing a publishing project, or consulting, Armani is regularly involved in service work. “Most of how and what I give back people never know about,” he said.

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“WORK HARDER ON YOURSELF THAN YOU DO ON YOUR JOB.” — JIM ROHN

“I tutor and volunteer with many of the youth in different capacities.” These different capacities include volunteering for Bridging the Gaps of Arkansas Ministries, the REACH program at Texarkana ISD, Total Life Changes, The Healing Place, and United Families of America. A father to a son, Armani Christian, Armani enjoys recording/ producing music, speaking/coaching, reading, traveling and “just living life.”

Armani is also proud of the work he’s done in the Beverly neighborhood, helping community members revitalize the struggling area. He calls the initiative #BuyBackTheBlock. “It’s been something that has inspired many in the community to take a more active role in cleaning up the neighborhood, rehabbing the homes, starting a business, and getting to know one another in an attempt to create a community,” he said. “I want to give people the opportunity to rent and eventually own homes in a decent neighborhood with the intent to create a community. Home ownership is the foundation to creating a better life and family wealth in America.” 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I sold my first house to a corporation owned by a famous former NFL Super Bowl and Collegiate National Championship coach!”

Fallon Turner

age: 30 | Barista | Starbucks Coffee

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Perseverance is often defined as “the act or power of continuing to do something in spite of difficulties.” Anyone who knows Fallon Turner would agree that although it hasn’t always been easy, she has molded her story into one of triumph, success, and most of all – perseverance.

Fallon’s greatest professional accomplishment is continuing to work at Starbucks for the past 12 years. “When it comes to choosing a career I love, I am one of the lucky ones,” she says. “I look forward to going to work.”

Fallon’s true “happy place” is on the back of her horse, at home strumming a new song on her guitar, waterskiing at the lake, or lifting weights in the gym.

As part of a therapeutic equestrian program at Circle J Cowboy Church, Fallon enjoys visiting with her “therapy family” while learning horsemanship skills. She feels fortunate to have many great mentors who have ridden horses for many years and “know the ropes.”

A lover of all things fitness, Fallon is a member of Richmond Road’s Anytime Fitness and trains there three times a week. “I am so lucky to have a hands-on trainer, Trey Crow, who always guides me and supports me,” she adds. 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“ALWAYS TRY YOUR BEST TO BE POSITIVE AND POLITE BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING YOU FROM AFAR.” — SUZY AND MIKE TURNER, FALLON’S MOTHER AND FATHER

Another one of Fallon’s favorite pastimes is participating in adaptive waterskiing programs. “I have never really been afraid to try new things, so I became involved with Texas Adaptive Aquatics (TAA) and RISE Adaptive Sports. I love attending their adaptive ski clinics,” she explains.

When asked what her greatest personal achievement has been, Fallon says, “I have been very blessed with caring, compassionate people in my life who have helped me pursue my passions. My greatest personal achievement would be winning 11 National Physique Committee (NPC) Women’s Wheelchair Bodybuilding competitions. Many people in the business took me under their wings and taught me the ins and outs of the sport.”

Spunky and energetic, 30-year-old Fallon Turner is one you never forget once your path crosses with hers. Her infectious smile is contagious, and she is the epitome of one who could have easily given up, but chose to push through, never giving up on her goals. 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“Even though I am not a girly-girl at all, I took dance lessons for five years when I was in elementary and middle school. Yes, I even wore sparkly costumes and put on makeup.”

Dr. Brandon J. Thurston

age: 30 | Principal | Liberty-Eylau Elementary School

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For Dr. Brandon Thurston, it is important that his faculty, staff, and students at Liberty-Eylau Elementary School follow him for the right reasons. “As a campus leader, there is a massive difference in people responding to you because you are the campus administrator and them following you because they support your vision, love you as a person, and trust your judgment and your heart,” he said. “I’m grateful that I have experienced the latter [at the schools where I’ve led].”

Full trust in a leader’s judgment and heart is hard to come by, but Dr. Thurston has the receipts to show his commitment to his post, colleagues, students, and community. He has spent his adult years studying and working to become the best school administrator he could be—and it hasn’t always been easy. “I never thought I was smart enough to actually graduate with an undergraduate degree,” he said. Still, with his mother’s insistence, he attended Henderson State University and, post graduation, earned a master’s from UT-Arlington and a doctorate from TAMU-T. With each pursuit came doubts: “I didn’t think I could do it, but I did,” Brandon said. “These are the lessons I learned [through my experiences in higher education]: hard work does pay off; people will help you if you let them; and, most importantly, don’t quit— keep moving! If I, a black boy from College Hill, can do it, anyone can.” 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“GET YOUR LESSON.” THIS WAS THEIR WAY OF SAYING, “TAKE CARE OF THE IMPORTANT BUSINESS FIRST BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE.” – BILL AND MARY GRADY, BRANDON’S GRANDPARENTS

This perspective makes Brandon an ideal leader in his district. He leads from a place of experience, passion, and hard-earned confidence. But his educational goals are far from completed: he plans on one day attending law school and continuing a career in either public or higher education. He would love one day to mentor administrators and teachers.

For now, though, Brandon’s focus is on the almost-700 elementary children at LE whom he considers his own. His current professional aim is to increase parental and community involvement in his school by forming relationships with local businesses and churches. 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I love onions and The Golden Girls.”

Michael Stephenson

age: 28 | Coordinator of Student Life | Texas A&M University – Texarkana

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Institutions of higher education bolster local economies, empower citizens, and enrich communities. But in order for these schools to succeed, their students must succeed. At TAMU-T, that’s where Michael Stephenson comes in.

“Did you know that 30% of first- year college students drop out? That is why positions like mine exist,” Michael said. “We facilitate activities, programs, and events that foster campus engagement and community. Statistically, students that are more connected to their campus are more likely to graduate. Our efforts facilitate student development in various ways including new student orientation, student organizations, Greek life, and volunteerism.”

A Texarkana transplant, Michael garnered much of his fund-raising and organizing experience at his alma mater, Northwestern State University, where he worked under the Director of Student Activities and devoted countless hours to his favorite national nonprofit, St. Jude. “While I was an undergraduate student, I focused my co-curricular efforts on collegiate fund-raising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Michael said. “Throughout my tenure, I assisted the university in raising over $100,000 for the kids of St. Jude. In addition, I was awarded the Danny Thomas Leadership Scholarship, awarded to only one undergraduate student for their dedication to the mission of St. Jude. All of this cumulated to an internship opportunity where I was given the opportunity to fund-raise on a national level and helped with three Dream Home giveaways.” 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“WE LIVE IN A WORLD IN WHICH WE NEED TO SHARE RESPONSIBILITY. IT IS EASY TO SAY, ‘IT’S NOT MY CHILD, NOT MY COMMUNITY, NOT MY WORLD, NOT MY PROB- LEM.’ THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO SEE THE NEED AND RESPOND. I CONSIDER THOSE PEOPLE MY HEROES.” – MR. ROGERS

These experiences and others prepared him well for his current position. In 2016, he was charged with overhauling the university’s community service programming. His team decided to bring “The Big Event,” a nationwide community service event, to Texarkana, and in April of 2018, the one-day event “boasted nearly 300 volunteers that performed over 1,000 community service hours,” benefitting 25 different local nonprofit organizations. “Being the lead staff member spearheading this event has been my greatest professional accomplishment because it has given me the opportunity to leave my mark at TAMU-T,” Michael said.

Married to Chase, Michael enjoys traveling, shopping at flea markets, antique shops, and garage sales, and renovating or building something at home. In addition to his work at the university, Michael also serves on the board of the Friends of the Texarkana Parks and is a member of Texarkana Young Professionals.

Name something about you that very few people know:
“I like candles (a lot). Some people may consider it an addiction. My candle closet inventory is probably around 50 or more. I just enjoy offering my house guests a diverse experience depending on what room they’re in. I call it southern hospitality.”

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I like candles (a lot). Some people may consider it an addiction. My candle closet inventory is probably around 50 or more. I just enjoy offering my house guests a diverse experience depending on what room they’re in. I call it southern hospitality.”

Rachel Scott

age: 34 | Magnet Director | Texarkana Arkansas School District

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Rachel Scott is in the business of transforming ideas into actions, wishes into goals, and imaginations into realities. “I help make the visions and dreams of students, teachers, and administrators possible,” she explained. Under Rachel’s leadership as the Magnet Director for the Texarkana Arkansas School District, her office “provides support for the magnet programs at College Hill 6th Grade Academy, North Heights Junior High School, and Arkansas High School,” she said. She is responsible for guiding decision-making regarding recruitment, marketing, curriculum and instruction, and community and parent engagement. Rachel also oversees the TASD “Montage Project,” a $14.7 million initiative funded by a Department of Education grant, for which Rachel was on the grant writing team. 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“IF YOU HAVE TO EAT A FROG, EAT IT IN THE MORNING.” THIS MEANS TACKLE THE THINGS YOU DREAD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING, SO YOU DON’T WORRY ABOUT THEM THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE DAY. — RACHEL’S MENTOR, ROBIN HICKERSON

In her free time, Rachel can be found gardening, beekeeping, spending time with her husband, William, and children, Maggie, Emmy Lou, and Millie, or giving back to Texarkana. One way she does this is in her role as board member for the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council. “Serving as a board member for TRAHC has helped me to see beyond just the amazing impact that programs like ArtSmart and the Kennedy Center Partnership have on teachers and students, but to the larger impact of TRAHC on building and sustaining community in Texarkana,” Rachel said. She also is a volunteer teacher with the children’s ministry at First United Methodist Church of Texarkana, Arkansas.

Happy with her life, Rachel hopes to continue serving Texarkana, Arkansas, students for years to come. “I am passionate about magnet schools because I know that they provide public school choice options for students and parents that are engaging while preparing students for post-secondary success,” she said. “In 10 years, I hope to be continuing my work in the TASD Magnet Office to ensure all students have access to high-quality instructional programs.” 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I cannot watch scary movies. I get so anxious that I have to stop. I will try to watch them with my family and never can make it past the first 10 minutes without leaving the room.”

Chalissa Russell

age: 31 | Small Business Owner | Fizz Bizz LLC

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Working with her hands has always been something Chalissa Russell enjoys. And owning her own small business, Fizz Bizz, lets her do just that while making bath bombs.

Chalissa enjoys being the face of her business and seeing the joy her customers get from using products she has created. “We design our products to help as a way to relax and escape from the stress of our everyday lives,” she explained. “And we couldn’t be happier with our results.”

Chalissa also works on Sunday mornings at Williams Memorial United Methodist Church, serving coffee for the church members. She and her boys also enjoy delivering bath bombs to local businesses in town who are nominated to receive them as part of challenges she hosts on Fizz Bizz LLC’s Facebook page. She donates $1 of every item sold back at any local charity event Fizz Bizz participates in. 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“REMEMBER TO CHOOSE YOUR BAT- TLES WISELY, BUT MOSTLY, REMEM- BER TO KEEP YOUR BOYS LITTLE AS LONG AS YOU CAN!” — LACY MCMILLEN, REGARDING MOTHERHOOD

Moving her business into a building of its own is a priority for Chalissa. She works hard to get her brand noticed and looks forward to being able to say she owns a nationally-recognized bath bomb company in the future.

Spending time with her husband, Garreth, and sons, Garren and Stryder, is Chalissa’s favorite pastime – especially on a Carnival cruise ship. Being a mother is her greatest personal accomplishment, and Chalissa cherishes every moment spent with them. “I try to live my best, remembering that my boys are only this little today,” she said. “Tomorrow they will be older and bigger!” 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“Fizz Bizz LLC started as a Bunco gift cop-out and an itch to try something new. We never knew it would go as far as it has! Garreth and I are truly blessed.”

Mason Rostollan

age: 22 | Graduate Teaching Assistant/ Researcher | University of Central Arkansas

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Texarkana native Mason Rostollan epitomizes the adage “think global, act local.” Currently a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Mason volunteers weekly at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and serves as a scholarship advisor for Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at UCA. But while his hands work in Arkansas, his head is 8,000 miles away, as he thinks about his current research project.

“I am currently researching environmental health risks in a small village in Rwanda,” he explained. “I am analyzing the residents’ air and water quality as well as their personal statements to help improve their livelihood and health in the long-term. I hold this project important to myself for its potential to help not just one person, but an entire village to have healthier, longer, and more enjoyable lives. When I visit, I listen to the adults of the village who tell of the struggles they face daily, but also the children who will inherit these burdens if interventions are not made.” 

Best advice you’ve ever received:

“SET YOUR GOALS AND DON’T LET ANYONE DETRACT YOU, AND REMEMBER: IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT.” – MASON’S GRANDPARENTS, CAROL AND GARRY HODGSON

A Texarkana Troop 19 Eagle Scout, Mason exemplifies the values he learned in Scouts every day, as he devotes his time and energy to solving health crises that will never affect him personally. Academia has time and again acknowledged his leadership: he was named the Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year for 2017-2018, for having gone above and beyond in teaching anatomy and physiology labs at UCA. And, just this month, he is attending a by-invitation conference in Vienna, Austria, where he is presenting his research.

Upon completing his formal education, Mason plans to return to Texarkana as a physician. 

Name something about you that very few people know:

“I was a tap and ballet dropout by age 5!”