OFE News Release
FAME Academy of Comanche to Receive Alternative Education Award
July 3, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has named the FAME Academy of COMANCHE as the recipient of its 2012 Oklahoma Award for Outstanding Achievement in Alternative Education. The $5,000 award will be presented Aug. 25 at the joint convention of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.
|Susie Thurmond (second from right), president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, presents the Oklahoma Award for Outstanding Achievement in Alternative Education to the FAME Academy of Comanche. Among those participating in the presentation are (from left) Foundation President-Elect Patti Mellow, Executive Director Emily Stratton, Comanche Superintendent Terry Davidson, FAME Principal Elizabeth Ressel; and (right) Oklahoma Alternative Education Director Jennifer Wilkinson. The presentation of the $5,000 award took place Aug. 25 at the joint conference of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators.|
FAME (Focusing on Alternative Methods of Education) is a cooperative program serving approximately 50 students from the rural districts of Comanche, Temple and Walters. Housed in the historic 1947 Meridian School building, FAME Academy works to recover former school dropouts and to serve students who are considered at-risk, including pregnant teens, homeless youth, and students who need extra attention. The program emphasizes core academic courses, life skills and fine arts. Last year, FAME Academy had a 97 percent graduation rate and received numerous notable ratings on its state alternative education evaluation.
“FAME’s mission is to empower students to become responsible, enthusiastic and successful learners; to accept the challenge for graduation and beyond; and to reintegrate them into the community in a positive and constructive manner,” said FAME Academy Director Elizabeth Ressel. “They are not only at-risk students. They are at-risk citizens who often live on the fringes of our society. … Our most important job is to prepare them for life.”
Ressel works with incoming students and their families to create an individual education plan to complete course credits and meet personal goals. FAME staff also work together to identify and remove obstacles that have prevented students from being successful in the past. Each student is assigned a homeroom teacher who monitors progress, watching for possible obstacles that may occur. The staff meets daily to discuss students’ individual needs and challenges. “A problem taken care of right away is often a problem that goes away,” Ressel said.
FAME’s flexible schedule and curriculum give students opportunities not always available in traditional schools, Ressel said. Individual instruction, computer-based instruction, peer tutoring and self-paced study give students with different learning styles the opportunity to learn. Faculty offer thematic units to help students connect core subjects to their daily lives. For example, during science class, students have worked with a Department of Environmental Quality representative to collect and test water samples for chlorine and other chemicals. In English class, students have used their writing, art and design skills to create memory books.
All students at FAME participate in the arts. With support from Oklahoma Arts Council grants, students have created a variety of visual arts from pottery and mosaics to jewelry and murals. Students have benefited from guest artist presentations and have had their work displayed at the nearby Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Each year, the students host a schoolwide art show and invite the community to participate. Recently, the school received a six-station electric guitar lab, where students can play individually or as a group. Jason Hawkins, who teaches music and math, uses the guitar lessons to tie in instruction to math, history and other core subjects.
FAME Academy art teacher Glenna Pace works with student Jarrod Rounds on a slab construction project using clay. The FAME Academy , which serves schools in Comanche, Temple and Walters, has been named the recipient of the Oklahoma Award for Outstanding Achievement in Alternative Education presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. One of FAME’s strengths is its arts education program, which also integrates core concepts in math, literacy and science.
"The work we do with the arts encourages academic excellence,” said Terry Davidson, superintendent of Comanche Public Schools. “Students who are actively involved in the arts achieve at a higher level. Many, many times we discover that these students who have been very unsuccessful in a traditional school setting have special talents that have never been discovered."
FAME has also developed partnerships with local businesses, churches and civic groups to meet student needs. Halliburton Energy Services supports the school financially by providing FAME hoodies and T-shirts for all students, as well as holiday gifts, emergency funds for clothing and necessities, and school snacks. Every Friday, volunteers from Women’s Haven speak to FAME students about relationship skills, sexual abuse and self-esteem. Local ASCOG (Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments) representatives mentor students about resume preparation and job interview skills.
FAME students have learned the importance of giving back to the community through service learning projects. Students maintain a school clothes closet, crochet items for a local nursing home, participate in Main Street beautification efforts, and maintain the community’s emergency storm shelters. “Service learning projects are just one way that students learn to become positive members of their community,” Ressel said.
Diane Thomas, whose grandson Jarrad graduated from FAME, said he began to love learning, attended school regularly and had a more optimistic attitude after attending FAME. He even made the Tribal Governor’s Honor Roll. Today, Jarrad is a successful oilfield worker for Halliburton Services.
“The school embodies the spirit of alternative education by giving hope to children who would have otherwise given up on their future,” Thomas said. “The Academy provides them with academic, social and community support to succeed in school and in life. I am grateful to FAME and the positive influence it has had in my grandson’s life.”