Executive Director, Co-Founder, ACCESS
Sometimes an idea can start small then expand well beyond original expectations. Such is the case with ACCESS. Executive Director Tammy Simmons began her career as a speech-language pathologist 30 years ago. In 1994, she and two colleagues formulated and launched a preschool for seven children with speech disorders and special needs. Twenty-four years later, ACCESS, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has grown to serve individuals with language and learning disabilities from birth to adulthood through evaluation services, therapy, education, vocational training, and more.
Simmons has a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders, with minors in music and psychology, from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a master’s degree in communicative disorders from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. With the help of her management team, Tammy is responsible for the success and growth of the organization. ACCESS employs more than 220 staff members and serves more than 780 families each year.
Hometown: Pine Bluff, moved to Little Rock in 1983
First job: Clerk at the Social Security office in Pine Bluff the summer before college.
What attracted you to your career? I have always had a passion for helping others and consider myself very creative. I have been able to combine these passions in building ACCESS. I am fortunate enough to help individuals with special needs expand individual potential everyday through the innovative instruction our team uses.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? I am most proud of making a difference in the lives of others. As co-founder of ACCESS, I have witnessed thousands of individuals in our community find purpose and independence. The growth of this organization over the past 24 years has been an answer to what parents desire and dream for their children. I would have never imagined this mission would grow to have an outreach serving more than 33 counties in the state of Arkansas as well as families in our bordering states.
What’s something others would be surprised to know? Often times I will burst out in song when a word or phrase reminds me of a song lyric or tune. Don’t watch too closely, I might throw a dance in there, too.
What quality do you most admire in other women? I admire confident, dedicated women that display perseverance and a commitment to excellence, but also are able to show kindness, love and acceptance.
Do you have a personal motto? Little girls with dreams become women with vision. Chase the vision, not the money, and true wealth ends up following you.
Tell us a little more about yourself: I love dogs and have two of my own, Gabe and Pansy. Gabe is an educational assistance dog, and he volunteers at the ACCESS Stella Boyle Smith Early Childhood campus working with preschool-aged children with special needs in their classrooms, as well as therapy sessions.
Hobbies: I am drawn to activities that involve a creative process. I like acrylic painting, even though I have no artistic talent. I am also an avid gardener.
Favorite food: Cheese dip. We do live in Arkansas!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I love the beach, but there is no other place I would rather live than Arkansas. It’s home.