HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – In less than 24 hours, Hot Springs School District will unveil a new school, arena, and auditorium. In the midst of all this growth, the district is preserving the legacies of two of its biggest influences.
Joyce Craft spent more than 40 years shaping the minds of the students in Hot Springs. She started behind the desk then worked her way up.
“Who would’ve thought a barefoot, cotton picking little girl would be superintendent of the school,” Craft said.
She was not only the first female, but the first African American superintendent for the district.
“One of the African American students said ‘did you say you were superintendent?’ and I said ‘yes’ and she said well I haven’t ever seen anyone who looks like you in my area,” Craft said.
She left many lasting legacies.
“Her famous quote was be a difference maker,” HSSD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Nehus said.
That quote will soon sit outside the new auditorium named Joyce L. Litteton Craft.
“I couldn’t believe it.. I said ‘oh my this is just unimaginable.’ I was so humbled,” Craft said.
It won’t be the only new facility keeping a memory alive. The weight room will now be named after Coach Aaron Cooper, who died suddenly in May.
“Our students and our athletes were in shock,” Dr. Nehus said.
Coach Cooper only spent two years with the district. While he didn’t have quite the tenure as Mrs. Craft, he had the same impact.
“They all want to be the best that they can be because of what he did to support and encourage them throughout the process,” Dr. Nehus said.
That support even came off the court.
“A kid’s mom called him at midnight and he was missing. The kid was in a rough side of the town and he rode around in Hot Springs until 5 o’clock in the morning to find him,” Coach Cooper’s dad, Raymond Cooper, said.
Cooper said his son wanted to push his athletes to be better day after day.
“They mean everything to him,” Cooper said.
Now seeing the weight room, a place where those athletes work to reach their full potential, be named after his son is just overwhelming.
The grand opening is tomorrow. The auditorium dedication ceremony is at 10:00 a.m. The weight room dedication ceremony is at 2:00 p.m. Tours will happen all day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is come and go to help with social distancing. Masks will be provided.