Charity, Inc.: Stepping Up for Education

Originally appeared in The Journal RecordMTaylor Photo

In times of need, uncertainty or crisis, the nonprofit sector steps up in a big way. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago at an Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce event, “The State of the Schools.” There, business and civic leaders got to hear an impassioned and thoughtful speech from Oklahoma City’s new superintendent, Aurora Lora.

There she spoke of her background as a hardworking student in El Paso, Texas, her struggles in her first year in college, and her work in Teach for America. She’s the right fit for Oklahoma City, and she brings a pragmatic approach to lead our school system in unprecedented times.

What struck me about Ms. Lora’s presentation was the many partnerships forged between the school system and nearly a dozen local nonprofit organizations. These partnerships are not only enriching the lives of students in our district, but they help to ease burdens of teachers, administrators and parents. The nonprofits are able to fill in some of the gaps created by budget cuts over the past year.

Several of these nonprofit partnerships focus on early childhood education and development. We know that reaching kids from the cradle to five years of age helps to prepare them for learning by targeting developing brains. Smart Start and Educare are leading the way to ensure children get to Kindergarten with the right tool sets for learning and growth.

The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools helps fund needed programs throughout the district that enhance learning once children get off the buses and in the classrooms. Their work has helped thousands of students with opportunities to increase their own knowledge base as they work toward workforce or college preparedness.

Students can also receive enriched artistic experiences with programs such as El Sistema, a music education program that teaches children not just a musical instrument, but the discipline to work as a team. For students into sports, Fields and Futures and Cleats 4 Kids provide better practice fields and equipment that make individual and team sports more rewarding, safe and fun.

And there are countless others I haven’t mentioned.

I’m heartened to know that our philanthropists, community leaders and nonprofits are stepping up to make sure Oklahoma City public school students and their families can have the best experience possible, even with such challenges to our state budget and school funding. I also know that nonprofits will continue to be there for the next generation of children, as we prepare for the future of Oklahoma.

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