Jimmy Warren II has been someone I have watched the past few months who is very involved in our community. He has hosted a couple of events where the community shared conversations. He hosted Community Mixtapes, a discussion about diverse communities, in early September. It was at that meeting that he announced a partnership with Old Chicago to launch a literacy rewards program for a local school.
In July, he hosted “big facts. A Conversation About Culture, Community, and Conway,” an event that discussed the future of Conway for local minority-owned businesses. Members of the panel included Kim Lane (Conductor), Mayor Bart Castleberry, and Sandstone Real Estate’s Korry Garrett.
To say that Warren has had an impact in Conway is an understatement. Recently, Warren was named Outstanding Young Minority Professional by the Chamber of Commerce.
He was formerly the membership director and currently serves as the Program Director for the Pulaski County Youth Services.
CS: What does it mean to win the award for Outstanding Young Minority Professional award in 2018?
JW: It means a lot, especially when you receive it from the community in which you reside. To be recognized for your contributions is certainly amazing and humbling. I realize that this is only accomplished by God. I can’t even take credit for the miracles he has performed.
I also think a large part of it is due to the strong circle of my family around me. My wife, Shakira who gets to hear every random idea and thought I come up with. If I tell her I want be Superman, she’s checking Amazon to have me a cape here by Wednesday.
And then my daughters Amaya and Alivia, who keep me knowledgeable in Youtube, the latest dance moves, and issues that are important to the youth, such as creating slime from glue.
CS: What would you like to see different in our community regarding businesses, especially minority-owned businesses?
JW: Intentional support, it’s so important. I had a conversation with a well known local Conway leader. And he was telling me about how he visited Las Delicias, how amazing it was and how he posted on Facebook about it. Little did he know, I had already seen the post and because of his “public buying”, other people felt comfortable going to the restaurant.
Fast forward a few months later, and I’m having lunch with (Las Delicias’s) the owner, Francisco Yarez and he’s telling me how that one post changed the whole trajectory of his business.
Simply put, the minority businesses in our community have great products and services, we just need open-minded people to be intentional and support them, and then spread the word about how great of an experience you had.
CS: How are you working to make the change you wish to see in Conway?
JW: Just constantly working and talking to people. For the most part, I try to listen a lot. I don’t have all the answers and rarely have some of them, but I listen to the questions and try to take them to who may have them or can provide clarity. I’ve become a professional dot-connector, basically linking the right pieces together
CS: What are things that we can do as a community to help make the changes you wish to see?
JW: Support. Support.Support. Word of mouth is great. Social Media engagement is phenomenal, but at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to circulating dollars THROUGHOUT our entire community.
CS: You have been involved in and have lead various community discussions in 2018. What do you hope to accomplish using these discussions?
JW: Just engagement amongst our citizens, taking conversations from social media and actually making them happen in person.
CS: What are some of your hopes and dreams for Conway in 2019?
JW: Inclusiveness. This election cycle has been crazy. I hate to see that good people are discredited for having a D or R behind their name, that’s the same with being a certain skin complexion, from a different country or living below what society says you should have in your bank account.
I just want to see this city flourish and I truly believe that if we work together, we can cover a lot of ground. There’s so much more that connects us, than what our differences are.
Can you give us an update on the literacy project you are working on with Old Chicago Pizza?
JW: Absolutely! We’re still working with Conway School District on the right way to roll it out. So far people are really excited about it, so much so that we’re getting more requests for it and we really want to make sure it’s done properly. We’re open to St. Joseph’s and Conway Christian as well if anyone has contacts there.
CS: Why was this project important for you?
JW: I always love to read and it’s upsetting that the school age based literacy level for Arkansas is underachieving. I really want to do my part and help our community when it comes to innovative ways to get youth to read. Old Chicago and especially their GM Charles Frost really bought into this whole “it takes a village to raise a child” concept and really wanted to do their part to embrace the community, especially youth and teachers.
CS: What is your goal with the Old Chicago Literacy Project?
JW: Simply put, Create an outlet for teachers to reward kids who are reading, increase the number of books kids are reading, and encourage kids to read with members of their family