2010 Outstanding Program Award Winners
Diamonds in the Rough, Chickasha Public School Foundation
Helping boost self-esteem and support girls’ dreams for the future is the focus Diamonds in the Rough, a new student leadership and community involvement effort sponsored by the Chickasha Public Schools Foundation. All fifth-grade girls in the district were invited to a formal luncheon at University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma campus, where each was paired with a local woman community leader. The community volunteers asked girls about their future aspirations and spoke to the girls about their own education and career choices. The volunteers also sent a follow-up note of encouragement to their assigned student at school. As part of their commitment to the program, community participants were asked to become a member of the Chickasha Public School Foundation.
The event also included a keynote address by Lt. Gov. Jari Askins about careers and goal setting, as well as a presentation by an etiquette expert. “Fifth grade is such an awkward age, thus the title Diamonds in the Rough,” said Lou Christian, executive director of the Chickasha Public School Foundation. She added that for many of the students the event was their first opportunity to attend a formal meal and learn about etiquette. “Overall, it was an incredible day and an opportunity for our community to convey to these students how important they are to our future.” At the conclusion of the program, each girl received a “diamond” and a pair of sunglasses as a keepsake. “The last thing we told them was that their futures are so bright they would need ‘shades’ to see it” Christian said.
How Does Your Garden Grow, Grove Education Foundation for Excellence
The Grove Education Foundation for Excellence (GEFFE) planted seeds in 2001 that continue to produce a great harvest for the science program at Grove Middle School. That year, the foundation awarded a $9,438 grant for a project titled “How Does Your Garden Grow,” providing funds to build a GEFFE Greenhouse outside the Grove Middle School science classrooms. This school year, sixth-graders learned about plant reproduction by planting geraniums and begonias from seed, ferns from cuttings and heirloom tomatoes. The green house not only provides a living laboratory for students to grow their own plants and do hands-on science projects, but it also provides a long-term opportunity to help support the school science budget through an annual plant sale.
“It’s like getting a grant every year,” said science teacher Ed Trumbull. “Proceeds from our spring plant sale provide up to $2,000 each year to help fund our science fair and lab materials.” Trumbull says he keeps a surplus in his program budget to replace parts and maintain the greenhouse. The annual middle school plant sale is promoted by the local newspaper and radio station, as well as mass emails from Trumbull. He said some customers return each year to share cuttings for students to propagate new plants. “The plant sale has been a huge boost to our science program,” Trumbull said. “We would not have a budget for our middle school science program if it weren’t for proceeds from the annual plant sale and GEFFE grants to teachers. We really appreciate all that GEFFE has done for us.”
Competitive Edge, Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools
The Competitive Edge program sponsored by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools provides funding for students to participate in academic and artistic competitions. Studies show that participation in such competitions is an essential ingredient of a well-rounded education. Recognizing that 90 percent of its district’s students live at or below the poverty level, the Oklahoma City foundation created Competitive Edge (formerly Student InCENTives) to provide up to $1,000 per student to cover such costs as registration, transportation, lodging and meals. When teachers identify a competition that meets the creative and learning needs of their students, they complete a simple application on the foundation’s website. The funding cycle is open throughout the school year, and grants are awarded on a first-come basis as long as funds are available. This school year, the program has awarded more than $80,720 benefiting more than 2,842 students attending 108 competitions. Funding for the program is provided by community donors, partners and through “Team Campaign” workplace donations from faculty and staff.
Following competitions, teachers complete evaluations to help track results and measure student outcomes. Foundation trustee Helen Sullivan said the Competitive Edge Program encourages academic excellence by helping students apply what they learn in the classroom and receive critical feedback for improvement. It also provides a benchmark for students to compare their performance with others outside the district. “By ensuring that students have the opportunity to compete, Competitive Edge plays a critical role in positioning Oklahoma City Public Schools to receive top honors and build pride in our district,” she said.