Q&A - May 27, 2016

I am so impressed with the Okmulgee Public Schools for their announced plans to implement one of the state’s first personalized learning high school programs. The Okmulgee Advanced Contemporary Education (ACE) High School will be an innovative learning environment designed to prepare students for success both in the classroom and in life.

This empowering instructional model that will focus on teaching students how to learn will be piloted in the fall. When we get our schools right, when we empower teachers and administrators and give them the freedom and flexibility to drive real change in the lives of students, then our schools can and will fulfill their fundamental promise to be gateways to opportunity.

Q: So many in Okmulgee live in poverty. What, if anything, can be done to improve this?

Many would argue, myself included, that chronic unemployment is one of the primary contributing factors to poverty in America. These conditions occur when good people who want to work are unable to find suitable employment. When this happens, one can either take a defeatist attitude about unemployment (e.g., “there are no jobs out there, and there is nothing I can do about it”) or an aspirational attitude (e.g., “if I improve myself, I can improve my employment status”). The first personal response can lead to apathy and in extreme cases, to generational poverty. The second response can lead to personal goal attainment and a real way to escape the cycle of poverty.

It was Horace Mann who stated, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” The right kind of education can inspire students and help hard-working young people to overcome the social or economic challenges of their upbringing. It can help place them in the workforce and firmly on the path to success. Personally, I have watched this scenario play out countless times in the lives of students during my career in higher education. So, I have come to appreciate the immense value of placing a student in a hands-on learning environment that emulates the real world and trains that student to use the tools and technology of their desired industry.

With Okmulgee being home to both Green Country Technology Center (GCTC) and OSUIT, there is little reason for local residents not to avail themselves of the outstanding training opportunities right here in our community. Together, GCTC and OSUIT provide world-class career and technical education and work skills preparation year-round for high school students and adult learners. Both institutions are convenient and affordable, but more importantly, both institutions get impressive results. Our graduates get jobs! They use their training to support themselves and their families. With their education, our graduates overcome the social and economic challenges in their lives and break the cycle of poverty. Education is the “great equalizer,” and Okmulgee has exactly the kind of educational opportunities that can help students aspire to more in life.

This was an excellent question, and I hope my response emboldens many local residents. Please continue to send your questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu.