From ignorance to awareness to action: How kids' stories gave me purpose.
I am a die hard, unashamed lover of Tulsa. I've traveled and am aware of what other cities across America have to offer. Yet, despite the benefits of other places, I’m certain Tulsa will forever be my home.
When I describe Tulsa to those who are unfamiliar, I try to paint a picture of a community that has a natural inclination to help one another without expecting anything in return. There are good people here who promote good values. Because I was baptized in this ethos of virtue, I have always wanted to help my hometown in any way I could. Tulsans just aren’t the kind of people that can consciously ignore the needs of those in less fortunate circumstances.
Most locals will agree that our city creates quality citizens. But, because my I lived on the southern side of town, the disappointing reality was I was unaware of the needs of the entire community. I didn't know about the lives - just down the road - marked by triumph, courage, and resilience that many of Tulsa’s youth lived daily. I was ignorant of the circumstances and challenges that caused many young people to be underprepared for college and their careers.
I couldn’t offer support to those who needed it the most, because I didn’t know who was lacking and what they needed. Naturally, this ignorance prohibited me from participating in the development of our city in a meaningful way.
I remember when I first heard about Together Tulsa. Brooke texted me on a late summer afternoon about forming a nonprofit publication agency aimed to share the stories of Tulsa’s underserved high school students to the entire community. She shared her vision of how these students would be responsible for the entire production of a 150 page print publication. She described how the agency would equip them with the critical skills required for today’s college and career readiness.
She told me how her world was shaken from witnessing her students’ incredible narratives unfold before her daily after spending two years teaching at Hale Junior High. She demonstrated her passion for bringing awareness and understanding to resolve the long-held stereotypes of the community that prevented positive change. She was compelled to reverse the cycles of poverty by giving these students an opportunity to own their stories. Brooke dispelled my ignorance and made me aware.
With this awareness, I have a Tulsa-ingrained sense of responsibility to help. I feel an inspired obligation to share the untold stories that Tulsa’s students live daily and to bring awareness to others who lack understanding like I once did.
I believe that by bringing this awareness through sharing these narratives, our citizens will become even prouder of who we are. These stories will cause us to identify ourselves as people who choose to rise above defeat, who seek to lend a hand to our fellow Tulsan, and who actively overthrow systemic cultural stereotypes. I believe this shared identity will forge a deep sense of unity that will awaken the community to the higher levels of virtue it is capable of reaching.
Together Tulsa will empower the underserved youth of our community to tell their stories by putting the pen and camera in their hands. Our mentors will teach these students that their future is a blank canvas waiting to be colored, rather than a predetermined picture of hopelessness. Tulsa is going places; our future looks bright. By donating to Together Tulsa, you can make it look brighter for all of us.
Robert Redmond is a Founding Board Member of Together Tulsa. His story is part of our Story Series, where people from our community and in our organization share their experience and their dreams for our city. If you'd like to share your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.