By DAVID LLOYD JONES
STUDENT FASHION: The “Fantastic Four,??? specially selected for their good citizenship and studies at Celia Clinton Elementrary School, display their new t-shirts to go along with their uniforms. Pictured are, from left, Fernando Rey, Reyna Avelar, Sione Byrd and Stephanie Cuevas.
Jerry Cornelius for GTR Newspapers
This year the students of Celia Clinton Elementary School, one block north of Pine Street on Harvard Avenue, will “dress for success.”
The plan is the latest collaboration between Principal Cindy Taylor and the Rotary Club of Tulsa, which adopted the school a decade ago. The teamwork has led to a series of changes that has transformed the ancient (it replaced an older school of the same name in the 1950s) educational facility. A complete makeover is in the works in the next few years but before that students will have to be taught in a building just holding its own.
For years Celia Clinton was an “at risk” school, testing below the norm in reading and math, but after years of arduous work the students, the teachers and the Rotarians, many of whom serve as mentors to individual students, raised the test scores to acceptable levels.
“We have over 20 adults working one-on-one with individual students,” says Taylor, “and in each and every case the students test scores were raised. A little individual attention does an awful lot of good.”
Under the leadership of Rotarian Mike Chittom, whose enthusiasm for the school and the students has become legendary, the Rotary Club of Tulsa does far more than simply offering academic support for students who usually come from families with incomes below the poverty level. Clothing and food has been provided for children who have none and many a child who is found shivering because all they have are T-shirts go home with a warm coat.
In short, thanks to firm but friendly leadership and a dedicated staff of educators, Celia Clinton is once again making strides to improve.
Which brings us back to dressing for success.
Kids, being kids, tend to come to school in a variety of outfits. Some, because of economic circumstances, are dirty or in poor repair. Students have been known to stay home because they were ashamed to come to school in the clothes they had.
Last year Taylor had an idea: school uniforms. Not the full uniform that calls for a head-to-toe approach but at least something that tells the student that he or she is on a mission, has a job to do, is part of a team of strivers. The affordable answer: T-shirts.
The shirts are in the school colors with a red background and gold lettering and give each student encouragement to excel.
“A scholar,” says Taylor, “is dressed for success. The children will be ready to do their jobs as students.”
The school is providing the shirts free of charge with the help of donations from Rotary Club of Tulsa and other organizations. The plan is to have the students go to their homerooms on Monday mornings and put the T-shirts on over whatever they are wearing. On Monday evenings they take off the shirts and drape them over their chairs. Tuesday the same routine is followed except that at the end of the day the shirts are placed in a pile for cleaning. Wednesdays and Thursdays will be a repeat of Mondays and Tuesdays. Friday is casual Friday with the students dressed however they like.
“I wondered if an approach like this would work,” says Taylor, “so I visited another school more or less in our same economic circumstances that had uniforms and asked them how they liked them.
“’They’re great,’ I was told. ‘Now we’re as good as the private schools.
“I think the shirts will go a long way in fostering school pride and my students I’ve talked to are enthusiastic about the idea.”
So if all goes according to plan the students will arrive at school, get ready for the working day by donning the shirts, and because everyone will have the same look a sense of common purpose and school pride will be enhanced.
The plan does take volunteers. The shirts have been donated as well as washing and drying machines and the detergent needed to wash them, but volunteers to help in the washing and sorting are always welcome.
Celia Clinton has come a long, long way since it was a crumbling at-risk school. A few volunteers could be vital in speeding it along its way to success.