The University of Central Arkansas is taking on the Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute that was previously run by the Conway Area of Commerce.

Chamber Chief Operating Officer Ed Linck said the chamber took on the youth group, formally known as the Faulkner County Youth Leadership Institute, in November 2016 and changed the name in April 2017 to mirror the adult group, Conway Area Leadership Institute, which was changed to be more inclusive and reflective of the Conway region.

While he said the chamber has done a good job facilitating CAYLI throughout 2017, it quickly realized the extent of the training it would need to be able to perform at a level that the program needed.

Linck said the adult program is absolutely in the realm of what chamber officials do daily but that the youth area was outside of that scope.

After conversations between Brad Lacy at the chamber, Shelley Mehl and Houston Davis at UCA and others, the UCA Division of Outreach and Community Engagement will now lead CAYLI

“UCA is perfectly equipped,” Linck said. “I can’t wait to see them take it to a whole other level.”

Mehl said UCA not only has the resources to move the program forward physically but also through relationships with faculty members and students, nonprofits in the area, the availability of the UCA Makerspace and more.

“It’s getting fresh eyes on it,” she said.

Mehl said the positive reactions from all the volunteers have been overwhelming.

“Had we not gotten that reaction, I would have been hesitant to say ‘yeah we can do this,’” she said.

UCA Outreach and Community Engagement Vice President Shaneil Ealy will lead the program. Ealy said when Mehl originally brought the idea to her, she was excited.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” she said.

Ealy was a part of the first, inaugural FCYLI class more than 20 years ago and said she is excited for it to come full circle for her to give back and invest in the community.

“I’m always excited about a new challenge and this is certainly one,” she said.

CAYLI is currently accepting applications from 11th and 12th grade students for the 2018-19 school year, noting applications are available online at

Applications are due by March 31.

“Leadership development is a critical component of developing our youth. UCA can bring additional resources and expanded opportunities to this long-standing program for high school students,” UCA President Houston Davis said in a news release.

For more information, contact Ealy at 501-450-5275 or