Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

It has been just a little over two years since I took over the Tulsa Initiative Blog. One of my first assignments was writing a blog post introducing myself to you, the readers. Now, one of my last assignments is to write a post to say goodbye.

It is time to start the next chapter in my life, and so in a few days I will begin a one year LLM (legal masters) program in Energy and Natural Resources.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed a guest blog and helped us keep the topics fresh. I would also like to thank everyone for their thoughts, ideas, insights and encouragement. My time at CAP Tulsa was rewarding and I’ll carry this experience with me as I move forward.


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A previous blogger, Diama Norris, first wrote about the 20K House Project on our blog back in 2009. The idea behind the project is the creation of affordable housing which serves as an alternative to mobile homes and expands homeownership among low-income individuals. The idea is as appealing now as it was when Diama first discussed it over 5 years ago.house keys

Rural Studio is the program behind the 20K House project. They are an undergraduate program of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. Rural Studio is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has much to show for it. Over the past two decades they have provided practical experiences for students who design and build projects benefiting underserved populations in rural Alabama.

The 20K House Project itself began in 2005, and has produced 12 versions of the 20K house. Each version was given away to residents in need who reside in and around Hale County. Now efforts are underway to take what Rural Studies has learned through this hands-on research project and create a marketable product. This will (more…)

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I first heard about Giving Tuesday last year. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and I was listening to NPR on my way to work. The next day I was posting about it on this blog, and talking to my friends about it on social media. Last year, I was a little late to the party. So this year I want to help build awareness early.

2013 giving tuesdayGiving Tuesday is a movement to create a National Day of Giving to kick off the holiday season. It happens the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, so after shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the giving starts December 3rd this year.

The movement was started by the 92nd Street Y (92Y), a nonprofit community and cultural center in New York City. It has grown to include thousands of partners including the United Nations Foundation.

The idea behind Giving Tuesday is to encourage people to (more…)

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Work support programs are designed to sustain low-income earners and encourage work. In this they have been successful, as SNAP alone lifted an estimated 3.9 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.  And according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ blog “public programs lifted 40 million people out of poverty in 2011, including almost 9 million children.”

Most of us know families must fall below certain income limits in order to qualify for government benefits. In many cases, individual states administer federally funded safety net programs and often set certain eligibility requirements for benefits such as SNAP or child care subsidies. For some benefits, the state or federal government also sets asset limits, meaning in some states even a modest savings account can disqualify families from receiving assistance.

Cliff EffectsYet another harsh side effect of eligibility guidelines is called the “Cliff Effect.” It refers to situations where a small increase in income leads to an abrupt end to a critical benefit. Two work support benefits often associated with income limits are child care assistance, which makes daycare affordable for working parents, and food assistance, which often includes work requirements.

The dilemma posed by cliff effects is that it penalizes people who are slowly working their way out of poverty and into higher income brackets. As income increases, (more…)

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In case you missed it last month, on July 8th Rally4Babies hosted a virtual rally on Google+. Rally4Babies is a partnership sponsored by Zero to Three (The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families). The event, hosted by Soledad O’Brien, featured guests Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department Health and Human Services.

O’Brien and her guests talked about the success of Head Start, Early Head Start, Home Visiting Programs and other programs offering early childhood education.  Secretary Sebelius described how babies are learning every day, and emphasized that a safe, secure and stimulating environment both inside and outside the home can “make a world of difference” in language development and other fundamental skills.  Along those same lines, Secretary Duncan is concerned because low-income children who do not have the advantage of quality early learning experiences can start Kindergarten a year, to a year and a half, behind their peers.


Backed up by research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, we know babies begin developing the skills necessary for lifelong learning shortly after birth. The Center’s InBrief report, Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning, tells us the optimal window for dramatic growth occurring between ages 3 to 5. (more…)

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It bothers me to read recent reports implying the budget sequestration has not been all that bad. While some dire consequences, such as furloughing federal prison guards, air traffic controllers and border patrol agents, have been avoided, one thing is now perfectly clear: poor and at-risk Americans are bearing the brunt of the funding cuts and there is no relief in sight. I want to link readers to a few resources that drive that point home.

Congress moved quickly to end furloughs causing delays at our nation’s airports, but there are still lines of people waiting for housing assistance, job training, or a slot for their child in a Head Start program. All of these programs offer critical services, and all suffered funding cuts due to sequestration.


Greg Kaufman, poverty correspondent for The Nation, and Moyers & Company,  has kept a close eye on how low-income families are faring under budget cuts. Through a series called Sequester Watch, Moyers & Company has tracked the effects federal cuts are having on housing assistance, food programs for seniors, Head Start and job training programs.

I’ll list the articles and some of the interesting issues from the series here:

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Today’s guest post is written by Ken Wenglewski, Manager of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.  Last month, Ken had a chance to see firsthand the challenges and rewards of running a public school.  We thought his experience was a great way to show how people can create and maintain links between schools and the neighborhoods.    

TPSOn April 5th, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Tulsa Public Schools’ “Principal for a Day” at Rogers High School, under the leadership of Stacey Vernon. Stacey was awarded Principle of the Year so it was an honor to shadow her work.

Coming to Rogers was a bit surreal. My wife attended Rogers so walking the halls was very nostalgic.

My day started by working with the Assistant Principal Kendra Bremlett. We talked about her role as support for Stacey. We also spoke of the exciting things that will be happening this Fall with the implementation of College Summit; one of our department’s educational partners.

Later, Stacy took over and we met with April Dalto, a science teacher who had her class cook hotdogs with natural sunlight. The class was energetic, engaged and very creative.

Back in Stacy’s office, I was offered the opportunity to communicate through an Auto-dialer system called School Connects. I read a script out loud, on the phone, telling parents to show up at a bowling event. I had a blast sounding like a DJ for a radio station!

There was another memorable moment back at Stacey’s office. She has a pinball machine in the back office that she likes to use when she isn’t buried in instructional leadership duties. Needless to say, it isn’t used very often.

To that point, the most amazing thing that I observed with Stacey was her ability to know all of the students by name. (more…)

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