Thursday, September 27, 2018

STAAR Foundation's Recovery Mentoring

Quality mentoring works regardless of age and life experiences. STAAR (Services That Assist And Redeem) Foundation has added mentoring to the Firstep Men's Recovery Program in addition to STAAR's youth mentoring and other initiatives.

Firstep Men's Recovery Program is a 15-week, 100-hour long program. This post features the program's first graduation class. The second session started soon after.

Firstep Men's Recovery Program
Graduation Celebration
We asked Gerald Scott, founder and executive director of STAAR Foundation, to share this story. All that Scott has experienced as well as his passion for helping others made this program happen. Gerald Scott:

Gerald Scott
"Since 1995 I have been a Department of Corrections (D.O.C.) volunteer. Just as much as I have a passion for mentoring, I have always been dedicated to seeing effective programs involving skill development for those incarcerated. 

I was a volunteer for the Clara Waters Minimum Security ten-module, 100-hour reentry program for four years. The program was founded by Sheila Alford, Ph.D.

I also taught Deterrent Thinking patterns, three-hour training, that taught the inmates how to change the way they thought in order to benefit them as they reenter society. 

Talented performer

Last summer Dr. Alford gave STAAR Foundation the copyright of these 100 hours, and this year STAAR Foundation formed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with OKC Metro Alliance and Firstep Men's Recovery. 

Tiffany McCollum, dependable coordinator on the reentry side, Katawna Stephens on the mentoring side, and I worked together to provide 20 men battling with addiction the 100 hours of life skills over 15 weeks at Firstep Men's Recovery located off Draper Lake.  

The young man playing the guitar skillfully and singing with a beautiful voice was also a class participant.

At the graduation ceremony, Jed Chappell, founder of City Center and a STAAR Foundation partner, gave the keynote address.

Gerald Scott, Jed Chappell and
Tiffany McCollum

Each participant was given a certificate and opportunity to share from their hearts how they benefited from the program. 

Tiffany McCollum listening
to participants speak.
Listening to and understanding
the speakers' messages.
Tiffany McCollum receives recognition 
from STAAR Foundation.

All elements of the graduation we replicated to honor how Clara Waters celebrated graduation.....years ago. Changing lives one week at a time."

Some of the deserving Firstep graduates with their certificates.


Katawna Stephens receives an award
for her excellence in mentoring.
Katawna Stephens, a passionate,
innovative, determined mentor and
mentoring strategist for all ages

Another STAAR Foundation Mentoring Program, Third Grade through Senior Year 

Katawna Stephens, the vice president of STAAR Foundation, is now taking the youth mentoring program to a new level, a next phase.

She has created an evidenced-based "mentoring system," that starts at the third grade, lasting until the mentee reaches his/her senior year.

After graduation, the mentee will have opportunity to stay on with STAAR Foundation and be actively involved in peer-to-peer mentoring and leadership. 

Thanks to Gerald Scott, founder and executive director of STAAR Foundation, for sharing and for continuing to use his gifts and intellect to help others. Photographer, Sara Wynn

Monday, September 24, 2018

BEST! Kickoff, Cache

Harder to do than it looks!
Toilet paper races?

Mentoring and Leadership Event A Huge Success

After months of planning and organizing, 20 amazing youth were matched with a specially-chosen mentor.

Over 12 months ago, the planning began for the development and execution of a community-based mentoring and leadership program for the youth of Cache. The hard work and commitment to our youth was rewarded on Tuesday evening, August 21st at the BEST! (Building Extraordinary Success Today) Mentor Match Event. Twenty  5th-8th grade youth who were selected to participate in BEST! met with their chosen mentors for the first time.

Donors, their mentees and their families, mentors, school administrators, and other supporters of the program came together and enjoyed a great dinner. In addition, mentors and mentees participated in several fun leadership, team building, and get acquainted activities. Participants in this program will meet regularly with their mentors and participate as a group in leadership and enrichment activities.

Rhonda Clemmer, program coordinator, shared that one in three youth grow up without a mentor and BEST! is designed to do its part to change that statistic for the better. She also stated that she likes to call the mentors "nurturers of possibilities" because she believes the mentors can plan an instrumental role in their success as they navigate the next 5-10 years.

In personal conversation, Clemmer added that the games included an egg toss, toilet paper games and signs. The signs had activities and mentors and mentees had to sign if they had ever performed one of the acts, e.g., toilet papering a house or tree, making a prank phone call, etc. Mentees learned they had much in common. 

Thanks to Rhonda Clemmer for the photos and press release.

Applause for Cache's BEST!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Frederick's Bomber YELL

Describing Frederick's Bomber YELL, Youth Engaged in Leadership and Learning, critical thinking/mentoring program neither adequately reflects what occurs nor the excitement with which it is delivered and absorbed.


In August of 2016, when Roxanne Hill became a consultant for Vernon College, she began volunteering more with the community and began working with Lance Bohannon, who already had launched the Big Topics critical thinking mentoring. In 2017 Hill proposed the idea of Bomber YELL. 

"The first Bomber YELL program was held last summer with 11 participants. The idea was an inspiration from most notably from the work of John W. Gardner and the work from the Gardner Center, Stanford CA. The curriculum in the handbook is in-depth in areas of soft skills but lacked in areas of values, morals and ethics," said Hill. This is the piece upon which Bohannon and Hill collaborate symbiotically and synergistically.

Lance Bohannon and Roxanne Hill,
Bomber YELL co-founders and mentors.
In the fall and spring, Hill continues to meet with the Bomber YELL group once a week at the middle school, carry on discussions and perform community projects. Projects include volunteering at the food bank, delivering meals on wheels to the elderly and providing goodies to local first responders. This year the current Bomber YELL participants will be working directly with the Frederick chamber director on a town marketing website.  

Session, 07/16/18
According to Bohannon, "Our approach this summer in incorporating the kids' request to study mythology is to examine the mythological allusions commonly used in our speech as part of the fabric that makes English so extraordinarily powerful and nuanced."

Both Bohannon and Hill, "one firecracker mom," prepare extensively before the meetings, which begin in Bohannon's home. To pull history and culture together for this session, Bohannon had prepared a timeline for discussion.

An avid reader, Bohannon has a liberal arts undergraduate degree and an MBA, which combine with world travel to produce his love of learning and business acumen. Hill's depth of education and technology as well as her experiences allow her to create and apply innovative teaching techniques and youth opportunities. Hill is also a perfect complement for Bohannon.


Having studied Chinese while in the
military, Bohannon shares a lesson 

about Chinese characters and an 
appreciation of English. The 
characters represented "mad 
octopus," the image for black.
At each session, mentees receive
points for participation which ranges
from answers and comments to
questions. Eventually, points
can translate into scholarship money.

Participants voluntarily dedicate the remaining three weeks of summer and once a week during the school year to learn, grow, think and serve. 

Hill stated rules and the location of the restroom. 
  1. Don't interrupt. 
  2. Raise hand before speaking; be recognized.
Mentees received notebooks in which they wrote new vocabulary words (to spring on their parents), questions and ideas.Cell phones were collected at the door. Dictionaries were passed out for quick research, e.g., for the word capricious. Once discussed and used in context, the word was written in each notebook. 

No doubt a key question for past, present and future thinking: "Does it serve a social or intellectual purpose?"

Both Bohannon and Hill are quick to seize teachable moments, e.g., on manners. Even if the discussion seems to veer from the topic, the change is welcomed, discussed and brought back to the plan. All questions and comments are positive.

At the end, Hill guided the wrap-up and let the youths discuss.

Learning and discussion were from 10 a.m. to noon. Lunch was provided, and Bomber YELL participants then proceeded to the high school gym where they performed community service of painting the metal railing. As leaders in school, these young people will share their pride in what they have done at school and in the community.   

Bomber YELL Community Service 
Doug Ade, Morningstar Construction owner and civic leader, instructs the
Bomber YELL mentees on painting technique.

Roxanne Hill, M.Ed.
Cindy Ade teaches etiquette to
Frederick critical thinkers. 

Bomber YELL Summer 2018
(L-R) Kynlea C., Sydney M., Rebecca B., Amery N., Ellie A., Quinn J., Rachel S., Lily Marie F., Orlando M., Brinlee H., Easi R., Raegan H.

Visiting the Robotics Lab 
The Bombers robotics program, led by Dr. Robert L. Woods, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering at the University of Texas Arlington, has exploded in interest and learning.

Tom Hensley, robotics instructor, and Lance
Bohannon in the highly organized robotics lab.

Hensley, a retired military air traffic controller, is a key part of Frederick Public Schools' forward momentum. The military instills much leadership, mission-orientation and discipline in its people, and Hensley brings these gifts to his teaching.

3-D printer
Bomber Robotics' bulletin board, i.e., pride & motivation
Work bench & tools
Regulation competition area improves performance. 

Gift from the 2018 Bomber YELL mentees to Beverly-- a t-shirt!

Back of shirt with names of 2018 Bomber
YELL theme and mentees' names--priceless

For more about Rotary, alumni and other community/school funding: 

More about Roxanne Hill
As of July 2018, Hill serves as a consultant for Vernon College. Her duties include working with faculty in regards to course quality and rigor as well as consulting on instructional technologies. In a nut shell, she analyzes course(s) and program(s) along with the faculty and assists them with instructional design of their  courses and/or provide training and onboarding of educational technologies deemed beneficial and feasible for attaining course/program outcomes.

She also serves as the Canvas learning management system (LMS) administrator for Vernon College. Having her as a leader and servant in Frederick's critical thinking initiatives and community is essential. 

Cheers for Frederick's Bomber YELL!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When a Small Town Grasps Its Future

At the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Summer Leadership Conference 2018, Shannon Vanderburg, superintendent of Frederick Public Schools, when asked if his school had a mentoring program, enthusiastically shared much information and said to contact Lance Bohannon. Lance was encouraged to share Frederick's story as a multi-faceted model for other rural communities. 

In 2006, members of the Frederick Rotary Club were discussing the town’s past and its future. Like so many small, rural, agriculture-based towns in southwest Oklahoma, Frederick had a "golden age" from the 1940s to the 1960s. Now, it seemed the town’s best days were behind it. The question was asked, “If we achieved excellence once, why can’t we now?”  And in a defining moment, a group of Rotarians decided to reach beyond what seemed possible and craft a plan to once again “own” the city’s future.  It wasn’t a matter of asking for permission from the government, or finding grants or benefactors.  It was a matter of identifying and prioritizing those factors that would make people want to live in our town, and raising private, local funds to make those factors real.  We began the hard work of becoming more than we were.

We began with our schools. We believed that people move to different neighborhoods and even to different towns to get their kids into top-tier schools. We believed that we could make Frederick Public Schools a regional magnet. Professional people could continue to work in the three larger cities around us but live in Frederick and put their kids in Frederick Public Schools. The goal for us was to provide a superior education, along with a superior learning experience for our kids…to equip them to compete aggressively and confidently in a big world. Along with that we became intentional about leveraging some of the natural benefits to kids from small-town living…strong identity and accountability, more leadership opportunities, more one-on-one mentoring/teaching access, and greater safety. In 2018, we believe that we are winning.  We can point to one set of factors and four initiatives that have made the difference:

1.  We started with a school administrative team that is extraordinarily gifted in vision, creativity, flexibility, resourcefulness, good management, and integrity.  Shannon Vanderburg is our superintendent; Randy Biggs, our high school principal; Jeremy Newton, our middle school principal; and Kay Cabaniss and Janice Crume, our elementary and pre-k directors. The room for improvement was largely in the faculty. Through natural attrition, well-recruited/vetted hires, and, some believe, a good bit of Providence over a period of about six years, our faculty is now made up (almost entirely) of over-achievers and super-stars.  We treat our teachers as heroes in our town because we know that all they have to do to get healthy pay raises is to drive 30 miles (to Texas). 

2.  We understood that offering a “superior” education meant offering learning opportunities well beyond those required for state and federal compliance. These have fallen into four initiatives:  
A) Big Topics is a weekly discussion group, sponsored by the Rotary Club, for high school students designed to help them develop their skills in critical thinking.  We treat topics that may be controversial or hard to treat inside the classroom:  American exceptionalism, the effect of political correctness on our decision-making, the proper role and scope of government, race, religion, and current events.  It is a privately funded scholarship program that, in seven years, has collected and distributed $70,000 in scholarships. Last year, we introduced the concept into middle school-age kids with a pilot “summer academy” we call “Bomber YELL”.  We began with two hours of lecture/discussion in the morning, followed by lunch and life skills (budgeting, sewing, changing a tire, etc.) in the afternoon, and ending at the municipal swimming pool.  It was more successful than we anticipated, and we continued the initiative into the school year with so many kids signing up for it, we had to offer two sessions.  Two Rotarians lead these initiatives:  Ben Crawford leads Big Topics, and Roxie Hill leads Bomber YELL.    

B) Robotics  - In 2011 a Frederick High School alumnus from the class of 1963 was
Team 7506, Aug. 2018
named the top engineer in the world by the international Society of Automotive Engineers.  Dr. Bob Woods has been a professor of engineering at the University of Texas for over 30 years.  When we asked him if other FHS alums had followed the path that he had blazed his answer was, “No”.  That conversation gave rise to the establishment of a robotics program in Frederick High School that, from its very first year of competition, has earned high honors at state and regional level, beating out bigger, richer, more established schools in specific areas as documentation and programming.  The program has opened the door to a whole new career field for our students that was closed to them before 2011.  Dr. Woods continues to mentor and encourage our students with periodic visits and evaluations. Tom Hensley, a retired air traffic controller from the U.S. Air Force, is our gifted robotics coach.

Clint Reid, FB photo
C)  Art  -  A few years back a young art instructor, Clint Reid, joined the faculty.  Traditionally, art in the district was built largely around art history and some coaching in different media…oils, watercolor, and pencil. Clint introduced a new career path to our kids in graphic arts and commercial design. They have established a money-making business by designing and crafting silk-screened T-shirts and apparel for custom orders. This spring, one of our students was named one of the top ten finalists in the nation for graphic/commercial design.

Carisa Schreiner, FB photo
D) Music – Frederick has a deep musical heritage dating back to the 40s and 50s when the city boasted 13-14 private piano/voice teachers. Frederick schools have been competitive at the district and state levels for many years, but never on such a large scale as now. Carisa Schreiner is the music director for all the schools (working with 400 students/day). Every year, she leads musical productions for both the middle school and the high school. The art department builds the sets, the jazz band provides the accompaniment and the choir perform the roles. Last year, with a total high school population of 200, 120 kids participated in the musical. At district and state competitions FHS “punches above its weight” competing successfully against larger, richer schools. FHS graduates are frequent recipients of music scholarships to colleges and universities.

Performance of Carisa Schreiner's students, FB photo

Concurrently with the initiatives to make our schools a regional magnet, we began an effort to develop a deep bench of young leadership in the community to drive the various projects we needed to ensure the bright future we envisioned. There was an existing effort called Leadership Frederick that we resurrected and re-energized. For many years, much of the leadership in the community had been provided by two extraordinary men who brought talent and resources to the community. Bill Crawford was a regional leader in banking and investments, and Loyd Benson was the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. They, however, had not planned for their own succession. They were very helpful in bringing Leadership Frederick back to life. At the last Chamber of Commerce banquet, I asked Loyd to count the number of heads at the head table that was over 45 years old. There were two…the keynote speaker and his wife. And the room was filled with 30- and 40-somethings who were energized and committed to the vision of making the town better than it is.

In addition to developing young, local leadership, we have been intentional in cultivating the interests and support of Frederick High School alums that live away from Frederick. We have asked them to help with finding solutions to local challenges. We have found they are pleased and complimented to be asked and have contributed both financial and intellectual heft to our projects. The class of 1963 has been unusually generous.      

Twelve years after that original conversation among that group of Rotarians, Frederick has a new confidence and optimism that we can grasp our future, that we can pass along big dreams from a little town. And we believe that our experience can serve as a replicable template for other small towns aspiring to be better than they are. We’d welcome the opportunity to visit with anyone who wants to join us in the satisfying task of re-building our communities and, in fact, the nation.   

Lance Bohannon                                                                             

Personal communication June 13, 2018  

Some photos from

See Clint Reid's The Tillman Project, his personal artwork

Two visits to Frederick revealed much civic pride, love of its young people and excitement. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Bomber YELL mentees and the community and school people we met.