Monday, November 2, 2015

Okemah Public School Foundation

When at the Fall Forum 2015 we heard how this local education foundation raised and spent money, we asked Denise Riley, president of the foundation, to share. Congratulations to Okemah, Oklahoma, and its Okemah School Foundation, an outstanding partnership.

Screen shot from the foundation website

The Okemah Public School Foundation was established in 1990 by a small group of concerned citizens. Okemah is a small community of around 3,000 people located in one of the poorest counties in Oklahoma. What should have been an almost impossible job of fundraising has become a true success story for our community and, most importantly, our school system. Loyal alumni and community members contributed the majority of the early funding with a local bank matching donations up to a yearly total of $10,000 for the first ten years. Memberships and donations continue to be a part of financial contributions, but the majority of funding for the past ten years has come from our “Tee Up for Education” golf tournament held each August. It consistently brings in around $20,000 with major donations coming from local businesses, alumni, and community members.  Community support and strong leadership in the form of Marilyn Franklin, our “Tee Up” chairperson, can be accredited with this success. 

The Foundation began funding our Minigrants-to-Teachers program the first year it was in operation. Each grant can be no more than $350 per teacher with the ability to award more money for grants which involve multiple teachers. While this does not sound like a great deal of money, the programs that our faculty and staff have put together over the years have been truly outstanding. During the past ten years alone, the Foundation has awarded over $112,000 dollars to place technology, books, incentives, field trips and many other programs in classrooms in every school in our district.  In addition to these classroom grants, the Foundation also awards a Professional Development Grant to each school.

Early board members soon saw a need to add a local scholarship for our young people and began the Sophomore Challenge Scholarship Program in 1996. After a local workshop conducted by the Foundation, Okemah Sophomores complete scholarship applications. Students chosen receive a base scholarship of $1,000 and are challenged to remain in school and maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average in return for an additional $1,000. Funds are given when the recipient enrolls in the technical institute, college, or university of his or her choice. During the last ten years, we have awarded 67 scholarships for a total of $118,000. We feel that this program serves a need in our community to make our students aware of scholarship opportunities available to them while showing them the need to strive for academic excellence.

With continued growth in membership and the support of our community, we will be able to continue projects as we grow to meet the needs of the students and teachers of the Okemah Public Schools as they strive for success for all students.

Denise Riley
President of Okemah School Foundation   

From the website

To learn more about the Okemah Public School Foundation's Golf Tournament, Sophomore Challenge, or its Minigrants, click upon:

Okemah Public School Foundation

Foundation Facebook page: 

Okemah Public School Foundation attendees at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence's Fall Forum 2015 were Marilyn Franklin, Lyn Franks, and Denise Riley.

Handing out Fall Forum packets and greeting at registration
are Marilyn Franklin, Okemah, and Lynda Barksdale, Okmulgee,
members of the Local Education Outreach Committee,
which plans and executes the Fall Forum.

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