Tyler Pearson of Conway graduated May 10 from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

A University of Central Arkansas graduate with a degree in international studies, Pearson worked a year as an Americorps literacy tutor at Mayflower Elementary School before going back to school to earn his Masters of Public Service.

"My whole life, my mother instilled the passion for service and volunteerism," he said. "I remember doing CAPCA and meals on wheels and things with our church. I grew up with the volunteer spirit."

Working as a literacy tutor inspired him to continue on the road to public service, he said.

"I felt like I was making a difference in people’s lives — that what I was doing really mattered and that I was serving my local community. Despite having a degree where I studied the global political environment, I really wanted to make a difference in my home community more than anything else."

He applied to the Clinton School of Public Service and was accepted into the two-year program, starting in the fall of 2012.

"It was an exciting and very unique program. I was thrilled that it was in my backyard, so to speak," he said. The rigorous course work included classes on leadership, law and ethics, communications and public advocacy, he said.

Pearson worked on three major projects. One was a group project in which the team conducted a statewide civil legal needs assessment to determine the unmet needs of low-income Arkansas residents. They surveyed more than 1,200 people, including potential clients and members of the legal community.

"It reinforced the power of teamwork," he said. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish a lot."

On another project, Pearson worked with Heifer International in Cambodia studying the chicken trade in 10 provinces and checking the process for inefficiencies in an effort to maximize profits to the farmers.

For his third project, he conducted an internal audit, as a staff member, for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation’s centennial campaign.

"It was a great experience because I am a former patient. I felt like I was giving back to an institution that really helped me a lot. To be on staff there, and not just as a student, was very rewarding professionally."

He said his projects led him into the field of nonprofit consulting.

"I intentionally diversified my experience at the Clinton School. In today’s economy you have to diversify your skill set to be successful. I enjoy learning about a wide variety of things in the world."

Pearson has also announced in March that he is running for State Senate District 35. Asked why he wanted to run for office, he said, "Running for public office is a great way to serve your community. A state legislature has to have a knowledge of a wide variety of things. I enjoy seeing how all the different aspects of our society come together to make it function as it does."

He continued, "What I’ve learned from the Clinton School (is) you might not know how you’re going to get there, but you just have to want it really badly and work really hard and take it one step at a time. I’m doing that with public service and running for office because I believe it can better people’s lives. It’s a good way to use my passion and my intellect and my desire to serve."

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson may be reached at 501-505-1236 or rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net)