Douglass High School
Barely a dry eye could be found on May 14, during the last minutes of the Senior Celebration for Douglass High School. As a student performer - Richard Williams - and his mother took the stage the Celebration found its climax.
As she told the story of how she learned it was possible her son would not graduate, due to circumstances which were beyond his control, the crowd drew a collective breath. The breath was released as she began to express her feelings of gratitude toward the people who took the reins and made it possible for her son to finish school this May.
When she began to sing the entire room was listening. The song spoke to everyone who had taken part in the journey from scandal to solution then on to success. It simply said "I wouldn't have made it without you." However, the real event began as Williams started playing his saxophone. He played with heart and visible emotion.
When he finished playing his sax, he grabbed the microphone. According to his classmates and teachers, Williams is very reserved - so this was an unexpected turn of events.
"I'm going to sing a little," Williams said.
Sing he did. He turned to his mother and belted out the words of the song. She wept openly and without a second thought in the world. He then turned to a table near the front of the room and repeated the line to his principal, and then his vice-principal and class sponsor in turn. His sincere song spoke to the core of the people in the audience.
"I haven't felt that much emotion in a long time," Bas Werner, okPORK Board President said. "I have no words to describe it. It was such a phenomenal experience."
The 2013 senior class from Douglass High School were put in a situation to not be able to graduate on time by someone in a position of power within their school. They did not learn of it until part-way through the first semester of their senior year.
Since then, those students have worked late into the evenings, through weekends and during holidays to make up their unfinished credits. They have persevered through hardship and have shown their determination. In a tough situation they have made their historic school proud.
Even with all of the hard work, some of the students will still have to attend Summer school or the fall semester in order to finish all of their credits.
"The senior I sat with is one of the ones who will have to continue with school," said Dottie King, okPORK Board President-Elect. "She has to attend classes all summer, but then she will start nursing school at Northwestern Oklahoma State College in the fall. I am so glad we chose to honor these kids for all of their hard work."
Since learning of the events at Douglass High School, the okPORK team has been looking for a way to recognize these outstanding individuals. As people who live life with a set of ethical principles, which include investments into our communities, the okPORK members chose to hold a celebratory event and recognize this set of high school seniors for everything they accomplished during the year.
"I think everyone who attended, from the students and parents to the faculty and dignitaries, were impressed with the event," Tina Falcon, okPORK Board Vice-President, said. "I think it was a huge success. The student I sat with wants to be a veterinarian and she was interested to know more about my farming."
Those in attendance included the senior students and their families, faculty, staff and alumni. In addition, State Senator Connie Johnson, who won the title of Miss Douglass High School in 1970, and State Representative Anastasia Pittman both came to speak to the class. Even Oklahoma's own Lt. Governor Todd Lamb addressed the students.
The Lt. Governor stressed his wish for the students to stay in Oklahoma. He asked them to invest themselves in Oklahoma. He explained how they could be a part of an renaissance in Oklahoma.
As members of okPORK, we can all agree. Investing in our communities - from the local one to the global one - is something in which we can believe.