Three Public School Foundation Programs To Be Recognized For Outstanding Achievement

A community engagement event, a literacy initiative and a Pre-K transition camp have been selected as recipients of the 2022 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the State of the Schools Luncheon sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation, ReadOKC Literacy Initiative sponsored by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation and the Union Pre-K Transitional Camp sponsored by the Union Schools Education Foundation.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “In addition, we plan to share their success stories so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these programs in their own school districts.”

State of the Schools Luncheon
Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation

Just as government leaders hold State of the Union or State of the State addresses to inform citizens about goals and achievements, the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation began hosting a State of the Schools Luncheon five years ago to educate and engage community stakeholders in their school district.

“The State of the Schools Luncheon is more than a luncheon. It is more than a fundraiser,” said Blair Ellis, executive director of the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation. “It is a community engagement and education advocacy event that the foundation hosts the week before school starts. … By partnering with our district, the foundation has grown this event to be something our attendees look forward to each year.”

The State of the Schools Luncheon is held in the Bartlesville High School Commons and features a keynote address by Superintendent Chuck McCauley, who reviews the past school year and gives an overview of the district’s priorities for the year ahead. Approximately 250 district stakeholders attended this year’s event, including business leaders, parents, school board members, educators, state and community policy makers and local college and career-tech leaders.

“We have found that by increasing our community’s awareness of all there is to be proud of in our district and of our challenges, it increases the likelihood that they will engage in our school system, offering their time and financial support, and – perhaps most importantly – serving as advocates for our district,” Ellis said.

The State of the Schools event has become one of the foundation’s largest fundraisers through ticket sales, table sponsorships and an online auction – all of which support teacher grants in the fall. A text-to-give matching challenge is hosted by the presenting sponsor. The foundation also provides information on its programs during the event and provides information to attendees on how they can volunteer and get involved in the district. One of the greatest results of the program has been the increase in community engagement, Ellis said.

“So many great partnerships have arisen from this luncheon – businesses reaching out to host high school interns after learning about our internship program; experts in fields like STEM and aeronautics who offer to come in to visit with students; and reading tutors at our elementary schools,” Ellis said.

ReadOKC Literacy Initiative
Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation

ReadOKC is a districtwide literacy initiative with the mission of instilling a love for reading in students of Oklahoma City Public Schools and in the community. The initiative was started in 2017 by the OKCPS Compact, comprised of the school district, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, City of Oklahoma City and United Way of Central Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation oversees and leads all aspects of ReadOKC, including program management, volunteer engagement and fundraising.

“To accomplish its mission, ReadOKC works toward three primary goals: hosting reading challenges during each school break, increasing access to reading materials, and recruiting volunteers to serve as Reading Buddies,” said Abbie Vaughan, director of Community Outreach for the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

Through its Reading Challenges, all OKCPS students are encouraged to read at least 20 minutes each day during school breaks. Students who meet their reading goals receive a backpack button that says, “I met my goal!” Those who log the highest number of minutes receive prizes donated by the community, such as zoo passes, RIVERSPORT Adventure passes or bookstore gift cards. The school with the highest number of reading minutes logged receives a coveted traveling banner to hang outside its building.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation also helps recruit Reading Buddies who volunteer once each week to read with a small group of students. These volunteers help instill a love of reading and foster a mentoring relationship with students. More than 500 people have volunteered as Reading Buddies since the program’s inception.

ReadOKC also improves access to reading materials through 69 Little Libraries, free public bookcases which are located outside each OKCPS school building and in many city parks. The libraries are stocked and maintained by volunteers, and students are encouraged to “Take a Book, Leave a Book.” The initiative also offers ReadOKC On the Go!, a school bus that has been retrofitted as a moving library. The bus visits each OKCPS school site and invites students to choose a brand-new book to take home as their own.

Since 2017, ReadOKC has hosted 23 reading challenges, with more than 72,000 students reading for over 30 million minutes. ReadOKC On the Go! has distributed over 22,000 new books to students since July 2021. Preliminary data shows a connection between high performing reading challenge schools and improved benchmark scores for students in those schools.

“Literacy is the foundation of learning and student success in academics,” said Mary Mélon-Tully, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation. “All aspects of ReadOKC strive to improve student literacy by creating lifelong readers and a culture of literacy in our schools.”

Union Pre-K Transition Camp
Union Schools Education Foundation

Union Public Schools’ Pre-K Transition Camp is a summer program that gives incoming Pre-K students the opportunity to experience “school” before the beginning of the formal school year. Students are introduced to school personnel, peers and the routines of each school day. The camp also gives parents the opportunity to participate in parent education programs and to get acquainted with teachers.

“Pre-K can sometimes be an overwhelming transition for some students,” said Shea Ludwig, executive director of the Union Schools Education Foundation. “Union’s Pre-K Camp is designed to ease students and families’ anxiety about this new transition.”

Taking place before the new school year, Pre-K Camp gives teachers the opportunity to lead students through routines of the school day and immerse them in opportunities to develop literacy, math and socio-emotional skills. Meanwhile, parents are invited to attend educational sessions on topics such as establishing healthy sleep habits and reading with children. Parents learn how they can partner with teachers to support their child’s educational goals.

Union began offering a Pre-K Camp in 2012 targeting Title I schools that served many low-income and immigrant families. The success of the program quickly caught the attention of the Union Schools Education Foundation Board of Directors, who sought to support and expand the program to all elementary schools in the district. The foundation provides materials for each Camp, including supplies and, beginning this year, gifting each student with a book titled “The Night Before Pre-School.”

The foundation seeks to measure outcomes of the program through attendance data, parent and child surveys, and reports from teachers on how Pre-K Camp participants adapted to school compared with peers who did not participate.

“Pre-K Camp serves as a crucial first step in building relationships with children and families to promote good behaviors that lead to academic achievement throughout school,” Ludwig said. The positive implications of this preparation are immense. On the first day of school, preschoolers will be ready and confident to begin their journeys as students. Families will also benefit from learning about strategies to support their child’s development.”

Students line up to participate in Union Public Schools’ Pre-K Transition Camp, which helps prepare children and their families for a successful transition to Pre-K. The program is sponsored by the Union Schools Education Foundation.

Bartlesville Public Schools Superintendent Chuck McCauley speaks to community stakeholders during the State of the Schools Luncheon, a community engagement and fundraising event sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation.

Tyniyah, a student at Adams Elementary School in Oklahoma City, displays her Outstanding Reader sign she received as part of the ReadOKC Literacy Initiative. The award-winning program is sponsored by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

Fifth and Eighth-Grade Teachers Encouraged to Apply for Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute

Applications are now available for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers interested in attending the 2023 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute next summer in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia. The fifth-grade institute is scheduled June 4-10, and the eighth-grade institute is scheduled June 11-17, 2023.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence coordinates the selection of Oklahoma teachers to participate in the renowned teacher institute. Applications are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Feb. 1, 2023.

The fellowships cover all program activities, airfare, lodging and most meals. Each teacher also receives a $300 stipend for classroom materials. While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers will have the opportunity to meet character interpreters of 18th-century people and be immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events. Participants also will meet daily with a Master Teacher to discuss interactive teaching techniques and develop creative lesson ideas based on their experiences.

“No textbook can replace the inspiration and knowledge gained by walking in the footsteps of early Americans, both famous and ordinary,” said Teacher Institute alumna Linda Goodnight of Wewoka. “Visualizing George Washington and his troops at Surrender Field, debating in the very courtroom where Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry pled the cause of liberty, and learning to make rope by hand in Jamestown colony will ignite my teaching – and my students – forever.

“The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute is by far the finest, most comprehensive teacher training I have ever attended,” Goodnight added.  “I am a better American and a better teacher because of it.”

Oklahoma’s fifth-grade teacher institute is open to fifth-grade social studies/history teachers and resource teachers, such as school librarians or gifted-talented teachers, who plan to teach U.S. history in their schools in 2023-2024. Their sessions will focus on the daily life of colonial Virginians and the transition from subject to citizen that occurred during the Revolutionary War period. Teachers will be immersed in content and hands-on activities that highlight the stories of the people who lived and worked in 18th-century Williamsburg.

Oklahoma eighth-grade classroom teachers who will teach U.S. history as part of their social studies curriculum can apply for fellowships to attend the Teacher Institute’s program for secondary teachers. Their sessions will examine how the concept of American identity began in the colonial period and continues to evolve and transform with each generation. Through inquiry-based analysis of primary sources, teachers will explore how that identity influenced American citizens to shape and change the Republic through the 1860s.

The fellowships are available to public and private school teachers. The Teacher Institute requires participants to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated prior to attendance. Participants are asked to share materials, skills and experiences with fellow teachers through two workshops or in-service programs upon their return from the institute.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has coordinated Oklahoma’s participation in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute since 1993. The program is made possible through the leadership and support of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III, who was an active supporter and former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Joullian was also a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the fellowship program, which has served 922 Oklahoma teachers to date.

For more information, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org or call Brenda Wheelock at (405) 236-0006, Ext. 11.

Clinton teacher Allison Resendiz meets a historical interpreter portraying Founding Father James Madison during the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Applications are now available on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to apply for summer 2023 teacher institute fellowships.

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Seeking Submissions for 2023 Academic All-State, Educator Awards

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is seeking submissions for its 2023 Academic Awards, which honor five exceptional educators and 100 outstanding high school seniors in Oklahoma’s public schools. Awards criteria and online nomination/application forms can be accessed on the foundation website at www.ofe.org.

   Founded in 1985, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Awards totaling $175,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 37th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 20, 2023, at the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa. The celebration has been described as the “Academy Awards for public education in Oklahoma.”

   “Oklahoma public school educators and students need and deserve our recognition and encouragement,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “We are calling on Oklahomans to help recognize extraordinary educators in their communities by nominating them for Medal for Excellence Awards and to encourage eligible students to apply for Academic All-State Awards. Together, we can shine a bright light on students and educators who go above and beyond to achieve academic excellence in our public schools.”

   Nominations are now being accepted for Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Awards, which recognize public school educators for their passion and innovation, commitment to professional development, and extraordinary impact on student learning. Awards will be presented in each of the following categories: Elementary Teaching, Secondary Teaching, Elementary/Secondary Administration, Regional University/Community College Teaching and Research University Teaching. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 cash award and an etched glass Roots and Wings sculpture.

   Anyone – including colleagues, parents, students, former students or community members – can nominate a public school educator for an Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Award. Nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29. Nominators are encouraged to complete their nomination statement early so nominees will have time to provide information and collect letters of recommendation prior to the Nov. 29 deadline.

   The foundation is also accepting applications for $1,500 Academic All-State Awards, which recognize 100 exceptional public high school seniors for academic achievement, leadership and community service. To be eligible, students must meet any one of the following criteria: a composite ACT score of at least 30, a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370, or be selected as a National Merit Scholarship Program semi-finalist. Academic All-State applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.

   Awards recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee comprised of business, education and civic leaders, as well as former Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence winners. Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded more than $5.2 million in academic awards.

   For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

CONTACT: Brenda Wheelock, Communications Director (405) 236-0006, Ext. 11; bwheelock@ofe.org

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces 2022 Academic All-State Scholars

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the recipients of its prestigious 2022 Academic All-State Awards. These 100 top public high school seniors, selected from 397 nominations statewide, hail from 75 schools in 67 Oklahoma school districts.

The 2022 Academic All-State class is the 36th to be selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.  Since the award program’s inception in 1987, some 3,600 high school seniors from 333 school districts have been named Academic All-State scholars. Three high schools will celebrate their first Academic All-Stater: Heavener, Le Flore, and North Rock Creek high schools.

Each of this year’s All-Staters will receive a $1,000 merit-based scholarship and a medallion. The All-Staters will be recognized at the foundation’s 36th annual Academic Awards Celebration on Saturday, May 21, at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel.

David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, describes the selection of the scholars as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic awards selection process.” To be nominated for Academic All-State, students must meet one of the following criteria: an American College Test (ACT) composite score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship.

This year’s All-Staters scored an average of 33 on the ACT, with six recipients scoring a perfect 36. The students’ average GPA was 4.22. In addition, 28 of this year’s All-Staters are National Merit semifinalists, and one student is a National Hispanic Scholar semifinalist.

 Academic All-Staters are selected based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community involvement, as well as letters of recommendation and an essay submitted by each nominee. The selection committee, which is chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, works independently of all other foundation activities. The committee members are a diverse group of business, education, and civic leaders, as well as past Academic Awards Program honorees.

The awards ceremony will be televised statewide May 28 and 29 by OETA, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. For more information, call the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence office at (405) 236-0006 or visit its website at www.ofe.org.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Program is the Oklahoma’s premiere awards program honoring academic achievement, innovation and leadership among students and educators in our public schools,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Inbody. “By working together to give outstanding students and educators the recognition they deserve, we send a strong message to our state and to the nation that Oklahomans value academic excellence.”

Founded in 1985, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has provided more than $5.1 million in merit-based scholarships and awards to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

(EDITORS: The 100 Academic All-Staters are listed below alphabetically by school district, school and the city where they reside. For more information on a particular student in your area, contact Brenda Wheelock at 405/236-0006.)

*Indicates the All-State Scholar is the family member of a previous winner.

Name

School District

School

Hometown

Lakota Tolloak

Ada

Ada High School

Ada

Reagin Roudebush

Altus

Altus High School

Altus

Carson Kinder

Arapaho-Butler

Arapaho-Butler High School

Arapaho

Matt Fries

Bartlesville

Bartlesville High School

Bartlesville

Morgan King

Bartlesville

Bartlesville High School

Bartlesville

Stephanie Thanscheidt

Bethany

Bethany High School

Oklahoma City

Kyler Cagle

Big Pasture

Big Pasture High School

Randlett

Landen Plumlee

Bixby

Bixby High School

Bixby

Lauren Hsieh

Bixby

Bixby High School

Tulsa

Evan Kamriguel

Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow High School

Broken Arrow

Josh Mooney

Burns Flat-Dill City

Burns Flat-Dill City High School

Burns Flat

Jayden Collier

Cashion

Cashion High School

Cashion

Jessica Brannon

Chandler

Chandler High School

Chandler

Leah Brannon

Chandler

Chandler High School

Chandler

Shelby Elliott

Charter

Santa Fe South Pathways Middle College

Norman

Lake Lyon

Cherokee

Cherokee High School

Cherokee

Elizabeth Bain

Chisholm

Chisholm High School

Enid

Anna Dewey

Choctaw-Nicoma Park

Choctaw High School

Midwest City

Sean Sumrell

Choctaw-Nicoma Park

Choctaw High School

Choctaw

Layne Havlik

Coweta

Coweta High School

Broken Arrow

Kyler Baldwin

Davis

Davis High School

Wynnewood

Crayton Haney

Deer Creek

Deer Creek High School

Edmond

Julia Harper

Deer Creek

Deer Creek High School

Edmond

Nina Bugg

Deer Creek

Deer Creek High School

Edmond

Campbell Christensen

Edmond

Edmond Memorial High School

Edmond

Irene Cui

Edmond

Edmond Memorial High School

Edmond

William Loughridge*

Edmond

Edmond Memorial High School

Oklahoma City

Christopher Lee

Edmond

Edmond North High School

Edmond

Sydney Saenz

Edmond

Edmond North High School

Edmond

Jaclyn Fan

Edmond

Edmond Santa Fe High School

Edmond

Alyssa Johnson

Elgin

Elgin High School

Elgin

Madeline Benton

Elk City

Elk City High School

Elk City

Krystal Archer*

Enid

Enid High School

Enid

Eden Gray

Eufaula

Eufaula High School

Eufaula

Makaela Krebs

Fairland

Fairland High School

Fairland

Sawyer Hutchison*

Fairview

Fairview High School

Fairview

Sydney Martens

Fairview

Fairview High School

Fairview

Caleb Campbell

Fletcher

Fletcher High School

Fletcher

Gavin Sonnenberg

Frederick

Frederick High School

Frederick

Paul Oakes

Guymon

Guymon High School

Guymon

Sean Miller

Heavener

Heavener High School

Poteau

Levi Carter

Hooker

Hooker High School

Guymon

Jonathan Menzel

Inola

Inola High School

Inola

Chansong Won

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Ezra Power

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Haeyn Seo

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Ignacio Yockers

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Kayla Cao

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Katon Lunsford

Kingfisher

Kingfisher High School

Kingfisher

Elizabeth Crawford

Latta

Latta High School

Ada

Justin Strickland

Lawton

Eisenhower High School

Lawton

Emily Masters

Lawton

MacArthur High School

Lawton

Marshall Barnett

Le Flore

Le Flore High School

Wister

William Reece Conway

Lone Grove

Lone Grove High School

Ardmore

Luke Tolle

Marlow

Marlow High School

Marlow

Allison Bond

McAlester

McAlester High School

McAlester

Eric Nguyen

Miami

Miami High School

Miami

Stephanie Trejo

Midwest City-Del City

Midwest City High School

Midwest City

Alex Ho

Moore

Moore High School

Moore

Ashton Key

Moore

Southmoore High School

Oklahoma City

Braxdyn Huber

Moore

Southmoore High School

Oklahoma City

Lindsey Michael

Muldrow

Muldrow High School

Muldrow

Kylee Mitchell

Mustang

Mustang High School

Mustang

Lexi Lindemann

New Lima

New Lima High School

Seminole

Chloe Woodruff

Noble

Noble High School

Norman

Sydney Pierce

Norman

Norman High School

Norman

Grace Qi

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Syed Aslam

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

William Noah McMullan

North Rock Creek

North Rock Creek High School

Shawnee

Aishwarya Swamidurai

Oklahoma City

Classen School of Advanced Studies at NE

Oklahoma City

Amelia Oei

Oklahoma City

Classen School of Advanced Studies at NE

Oklahoma City

Katherine Schein

Oklahoma City

Classen School of Advanced Studies at NE

Oklahoma City

Anna Boevers

Oklahoma City

Harding Charter Preparatory High School

Oklahoma City

Ronald Walker

Owasso

Owasso High School

Sperry

Gracie Meade

Piedmont

Piedmont High School

Piedmont

Madison Lake

Piedmont

Piedmont High School

Piedmont

Jenna Stockton

Ponca City

Ponca City High School

Ponca City

Emma Taylor

Pond Creek-Hunter

Pond Creek-Hunter High School

Pond Creek

MaKenna Bailey

Pond Creek-Hunter

Pond Creek-Hunter High School

Pond Creek

Mason Pendley

Pryor

Pryor High School

Pryor

Raven Parkhurst

Sayre

Sayre High School

Sayre

Jaxon Smith

Seminole

Seminole High School

Seminole

Taylor Wise

Skiatook

Skiatook High School

Skiatook

Noah Thompson

Stigler

Stigler High School

Stigler

Connor Zamborsky

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Lenna Abouzahr

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Nicholas Belden

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Elizabeth Kipps

Tecumseh

Tecumseh High School

Tecumseh

Makayla Greening

Thomas-Fay-Custer Unified

Thomas-Fay-Custer Unified High School

Fay

Haley Nettleship

Tulsa

Booker T. Washington High School

Tulsa

Michelle Woolridge

Tulsa

Booker T. Washington High School

Tulsa

Miles Udwin

Tulsa

Booker T. Washington High School

Tulsa

Joshua Le

Tulsa

Tulsa Memorial High School

Tulsa

Sarah Estes

Turpin

Turpin High School

Turpin

Meghana Venkatesha

Union

Union High School

Broken Arrow

Graham Curtsinger

Verdigris

Verdigris High School

Claremore

Shelby Russell

Wagoner

Wagoner High School

Wagoner

Taylor McConnell

Wellston

Wellston High School

Wellston

Don’Derek Lane Jr.

Yukon

Yukon High School

Yukon

Kinley De Leon

Yukon

Yukon High School

Yukon

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces Boren Mentoring Initiative Grant Recipients

To help support the growth and development of K-12 mentoring programs in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the recipients of its first Boren Mentoring Initiative start-up grants and opportunity grants totaling $15,000.

The announcement coincides with National Mentoring Month in January, a campaign that aims to celebrate the power of mentoring relationships and raise the awareness of the importance of youth mentoring around the United States.

Two start-up grants of $3,000 each have been awarded to BEST! (Building Extraordinary Success Today) Mentoring, a community-based mentoring organization sponsored by the CACHE Schools Education Foundation; and Positive Presence, a mentoring program serving students ages 5-19 in WILSON Public Schools. Start-up grants are awarded to organizations in their first three years of operation and are designed to encourage communities to establish quality mentoring programs.

Six opportunity grants of $1,500 each were awarded to existing mentoring programs to help fund programming, training, materials or other needs that advance excellence in mentoring for K-12 students. Recipients are Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma in BARTLESVILLE, which serves children ages 6 to 18; Volunteers for Youth Pal+ Program of CLAREMORE, which serves youth ages 6-18 in Rogers County schools; One True Light Inc., which serves DUNCAN K-12 students through Summer Feeding and Link One Mentoring Programs; Freedom City, which helps at-risk OKLAHOMA CITY Public Schools students catch up academically through in-school and after-school programming; Thunderbird Challenge Program in PRYOR, a 22-week program for high school dropouts sponsored by the Oklahoma National Guard; and Oklahoma State University Reading and Math Center and Pre-Service Teachers Program in STILLWATER, which provides mentoring and literacy help to Upward Bound high school students.

“We are excited to announce our first Boren Mentoring Initiative Grant recipients and to watch how this year’s recipients will use their funds to strengthen mentoring and impact student growth in their communities,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “We look forward to sharing success stories from each of these programs in the coming year.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. The David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative – one of the foundation’s five programs — promotes the growth and development of quality mentoring programs in Oklahoma. The initiative grew out of the Borens’ own commitment to mentoring and the proven impact that mentoring can make on a student’s success in and out of the classroom.

In addition to awarding grants, the Boren Mentoring Initiative provides on-call support and resources for mentoring organizations, school districts, businesses and others seeking information on how to start or strengthen their mentoring program for K-12 students. For more information, visit www.ofe.org or contact Program Director Katy Leffel at (405) 236-0006.

###

(EDITOR: Boren Mentoring Initiative Grant recipients are listed below by the city in which they serve. Each listing includes a brief description of how the Mentoring Program plans to use its grant funds.)

 

BARTLESVILLE – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma provides fully vetted, caring mentors for children 6 to 18. Its mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. The agency’s Bartlesville office will use its opportunity grant funds to help revitalize its school-based mentoring program in Dewey Public Schools, recruiting and training high school volunteers to serve mentees in need.

 

CACHE – The BEST! (Building Extraordinary Success Today) Mentoring Program, sponsored by the Cache Schools Education Foundation, focuses on leadership, career exploration and life skills education for middle school and high school students. Start-up grant funds will be used to support group Lunch-and-Learn events, a spring leadership event at Skills for Life Academy, a Mentor Appreciation Day as well as marketing materials for recruiting and retaining volunteers.

 

CLAREMORE – Volunteers for Youth’s PAL + Program serves youth ages 6-18 in school systems in Rogers County. The mentoring program provides at-risk youth with positive adult leadership. As part of the mentor training process, volunteers complete a six-hour pre-match training addressing topics such as how to respond if a youth is engaged in substance misuse, mandatory reporting, effective communication techniques and motivational interviewing. The PAL + Program will use its Opportunity Grant funds to purchase updated training materials and resources for mentors.

 

DUNCAN – One True Light Inc. was founded in 2012 with the mission of “linking generations to learn, love and live together.” Its focus is to unite the community to meet the physical, emotional and academic needs of K-12 students in Duncan through a Summer Feeding Program and Link One Mentoring Program. One True Light plans to use its opportunity grant funds to purchase sensory chairs and cushions and sensory-rich bucket kits for each of the seven school sites to help enhance sensory input to promote self-regulation, behavior and attention. They also plan to incorporate STEM educational toys that will help students develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Freedom City works with at-risk students in Oklahoma City Public Schools, helping them to catch up academically through in-school and after-school programs, with a special focus on reading and math. The program will use its opportunity grant funds to help cover after-school staff expenses and purchase supplies for math and reading instruction.

 

PRYOR – Thunderbird Challenge Program provides 16 to 18-year-old school dropouts with the opportunity to gain control of their lives. The program, a division of the National Guard and National Guard Bureau Youth Challenge Program, utilizes a structured approach to self-discipline, improving self-esteem and physical fitness to address the needs of the whole person. The program plans to use its opportunity grant to provide mentor appreciation gifts and prizes to be awarded during mentor training events. Mentor appreciation is critical to mentor retention and the program’s success.

 

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State University’s Reading and Math Center and Pre-Service Teachers Program provides mentoring and literacy support to Upward Bound high school students. The program will utilize opportunity grant funds to purchase materials benefiting mentees such as journals, curriculum materials and assessments. They also plan to use the funds to host closing events in fall and spring for mentors and mentees.  

 

WILSON – Positive Presence matches positive adult role-models with Wilson students ages 5 to 19. Mentors will read with students, participate in game nights, talk about careers, provide tutoring and simply spend time visiting with their mentees. Start-up grant funds will be used for volunteer background checks, for activities such as the School Unity Project, and for mentoring supplies such as books and games.

Foundation to Honor State's Top Educators, Students at 35th Academic Awards Celebration May 22 in Tulsa

Five outstanding Oklahoma educators will be honored along with 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence hosts its 35th Academic Awards Celebration at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the Cox Business Convention Center, 100 Civic Center.

Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, attendance for the 2021 Academic Awards Celebration is limited to honorees and their registered family members. The public is encouraged to view the awards ceremony broadcast at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 29, or 10 a.m. Sunday, May 30, on OETA Public Television. The broadcast will also be available on the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org.

“Rising Above, Going Beyond” is the theme for this year’s celebration, which will feature a keynote address by award-winning teacher and education activist Erin Gruwell. She is the collaborative author of “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around them.”

Emmy Award-winning television journalist Scott Thompson – an Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustee – will serve as the emcee for the afternoon ceremony honoring “the best of the best” in Oklahoma’s public schools. Foundation Trustee Ken Busby, executive director and CEO of the Route 66 Alliance, serves as chair of the event.

“The Academic Awards Celebration is such an inspiring, entertaining, and important event for public education in Oklahoma,” Busby said. “Some have described it as the ‘Academy Awards’ of public education in Oklahoma because we really roll out the red carpet to honor extraordinary teachers and students. Top that off with an inspiring address by educator Erin Gruwell, and you have a very memorable celebration.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1985 by then-U.S. Sen. David Boren to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has awarded more than $5 million in merit-based scholarships and cash awards to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

The foundation will present its 2020-21 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Award in Elementary Teaching to Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore; in Secondary Teaching to Shelley Self, an art teacher at Coweta High School; in Elementary/Secondary Administration to Chuck McCauley, superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools; in Regional University/Community College Teaching to Dr. David Bass, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; and in Research University Teaching to Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. The honorees, who were unable to be recognized in person in 2020 due to the pandemic, will receive awards at this year’s awards ceremony.

Each Medal for Excellence recipient receives a $5,000 cash award as well as a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture. With support from scholarship sponsors, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will also present merit-based Academic All-State Scholarships of $1,000 each and medallions to 100 Academic All-State Scholars.

The 2021 Academic All-State class hails from 77 schools in 69 Oklahoma school districts. The honorees were selected from 379 nominations in what is described by Boren as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic awards selection process.”  Four high schools will celebrate their first Academic All-Stater: Davenport, Porum, Soper and Stigler high schools.

For more information on the Academic Awards Celebration and this year’s honorees, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.