by Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma’s only school for homeless children, celebrated Black History with an assembly in late February.
The observance is one among many notable signs of substance and achievement at a school where the typical student faces challenges nearly unimaginable to most Oklahomans – even here in Oklahoma City, where many public school student begin formal education lacking skills needed for success.
Fourth grade student Antiniya was one presenter at the history assembly, reading a poem by acclaimed poet Maya Angelou. Angelou, who died in 2014, may be most widely remembered for her reading at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
Other students at the Positive Tomorrows gathering – held Friday, February 26 — crafted their own versions of the historic “I Have a Dream” addressed delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, to hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a march supporting jobs and freedom.
Students at the Assembly Positive Tomorrows staff said, focused on how the world would be better without homelessness. Students also presented Black History Month research projects, and the Kindergarten Class sang a short song for the observance.
Earlier in February, National Basketball Association (NBA) star Enes Kanter visited with principal Susan Agel and the vivacious students. He toured the school, visited during class time and then, in what the youngsters considered the highlight of their day, went to recess with students.
Kanter, who is from the nation of Turkey, plays center for the Oklahoma City Thunder squad. Players for the team have forged passionate close ties with the local community, frequently visiting schools, organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club on N. Western Avenue, and Positive Tomorrows.
Recent news coverage focused on the efforts of Kevin Durant, the NBA All-Star and 2014 Most Valuable Player, to help institutions such as Positive Tomorrows.
In recent days, he hosted an evening of jazz at his eponymous restaurant in Bricktown, to support his foundation.
Previously, Durant has made surprise visits to Positive Tomorrows, delivering shoes sized to fit each child individually.
Agel recalled that particular visit this way in an interview with The Oklahoman: “Kevin went from classroom to classroom and got on the floor and helped those children change their shoes. You see a guy of Kevin’s stature in this country, crawling on the floor, going one stinky foot to another, helping tie shoes and change shoes and giving them new socks to wear. That’s something that’s gonna stay with me for a long time.”
There are an estimated 2.5 million homeless children in America, and around 3,200 of those are in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma is designated seventh worst in terms of youth homelessness.
Late last year, students and faculty from Positive Tomorrows celebrated a milestone at the school’s annual Thanksgiving Luncheon, where families and children united to count their blessings and enjoy a traditional holiday meal.
Then, in a follow-up to the school’s celebration of 25 years of service to homeless children, Positive Tomorrows’ patrons were honored in early December at the school’s annual Gold Star Luncheon.
The event was held at the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.
“We are thrilled to have made such an impact in the lives of our state’s most vulnerable children over the past quarter century,” said Agel in a recent press release sent to The City Sentinel.
Positive Tomorrows, located adjacent to the MidTown area of Oklahoma City, is a private school that does not charge tuition. It serves elementary age children, specifically aiming to support homeless children and their families. The instructional pattern is described as affording “an intensive, individualized education while their parents get the support they need to create a better life.”
Positive Tomorrows is an Oklahoma A+ School, accredited by the North Central Association (a regional Accreditation Division of AdvancED).
Explaining his ongoing work supporting the staff and students at Positive Tomorrows, Durant recently told reporter Anthony Slater, in a story for The Oklahoman, that he believed in the school because the institution’s message for students is the same as his: “Get out, be active, strive for their dreams.”