Monday June 15, 2020

Diversity advancement program has long-term goals for OKC Public Schools

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This is a powerful concept to think about given the current visibility of long overdue changes needed in our country regarding racial inequity and social injustice.

The quote is well known, but especially poignant as part of an email signature from a participant in the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public School’s Diversity Pipeline Program.

Ebony Williams is a paraprofessional teaching assistant who has worked with Oklahoma City Public Schools for more than 12 years. She has been a participant in the Diversity Pipeline Program since it started in 2019.

The program is designed for paraprofessionals of color who are working in the district and have the desire to become teachers. It covers 100 percent of participants’ tuition, books and fees as they complete their degree and become certified teachers for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The program is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for OKCPS, the school district and higher education partners University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University-OKC, Oklahoma City Community College and Rose State to build a diverse teacher workforce for OKCPS, with all partners understanding that growing the number of teachers who look like our students will help them succeed.

It is also a critical piece of building equity in our system, as the program not only provides our students with role models to emulate, it is helping raise our participants’ education and socioeconomic levels.

When asked what the program means to her, Williams said that she sees the program as a tremendous way to reach her goal of becoming a teacher and also feels a “fire rekindled to see change in our beloved students of all color, as well as put me in a place to create change and see change happen in my community.”

Another Diversity Pipeline Program Participant, Lenina Wright, sees the program as a way to bring balance and equality to the educational system and to make a huge difference for students of color.

Another translation for this quote states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” Ebony and Lenina are taking their steps. It’s up to the rest of us to add our own feet to this journey, in lockstep with theirs.

Read Mary Mélon’s original Oklahoman editorial.

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