A $10,000 grant will pay for new solar panels to power the McLain High School student-operated commercial greenhouse, the latest success story for a local foundation that was established last year to provide financial assistance to the north Tulsa school.
State Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa, one of the leaders of the foundation, said the foundation -- known as the McLain Initiative -- was established in 2010 to help raise money to fund programs at the school and to lobby on its behalf. The organization pushed for McLain to be included in a Tulsa Public Schools bond issue and succeeded in that effort, meaning the school will have a new football stadium built soon.
The McLain Initiative has experienced success in other areas, as well. Scott said the group held its first fundraiser last fall and raised $10,000.
And last week, the group found out that AT&T had awarded the organization its $10,000 Henry Bellmon Sustainability Award for the solar panels, which will provide the student greenhouse with a renewable energy source. Scott said the project was nominated by officials from the Indian Health Care Resource Center and Sustainable Tulsa.
Scott said the panels will be installed this spring in the greenhouse, which provides students with a hands-on learning experience. Scott said students learn food preparation and sell what they grow at the greenhouse at local farmers markets. That strategy is part of Scott's effort to make healthy food more widely available in north Tulsa, which has been classified by the state Health Department as a "food desert" -- an area in which residents do not have reliable, convenient access to nutritious food.
Scott said the grant was another indication of the kind of momentum the McLain Initiative is building.
"Everyone's starting to see we've got a lot of different partners at the table with this initiative, and the students are winners," he said.
He credited McLain co-principals Ebony Johnson and Brian Stone for the work they have done at the school
"They're doing a very good job, and they deserve the best," he said. "And this is part of that. The students are gaining access to ideas and jobs that are the future."
Scott said more positive developments are on the horizon for the school. In April, the Center for Energy Excellence at Tulsa Community College's northeast campus will being providing satellite feeds to McLain classrooms for energy-related curricula.
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