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What does a comprehensive approach to providing social and emotional support for Tulsa kids look like? The presence of caring, empathetic adults has always been an important piece of wraparound support. But in the age of COVID, researchers are re-emphasizing the importance of support and education for adults who interact with students at school, afterschool programs and in their communities.  

The conversation on social and emotional learning (SEL) generally centers on the K-12 implementation, but the importance of SEL for adults is a critical piece often missing from the conversation. The Opportunity Project, a Tulsa-based non-profit, is one of the organizations connecting families, educators and allies with the tools and expertise to become a stronger support system for the kids in their lives.    

As the country enters the third school year affected by the coronavirus, community-led programming is more important than ever. “Children need time and space to process experiences and caring, consistent adults to help them thrive again,” said Caroline Shaw, executive director of The Opportunity Project, during a May presentation to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. “The single best way schools can help young people emerge from the COVID-19 crisis is to build and strengthen relationships, foster engagement with caring adults and peers, and focus on healing.”

opportunity project racism education
Students with Tulsa’s Opportunity Project.
Students with Tulsa’s Opportunity Project.

One way The Opp seeks to promote growth is through an “Ally Cohort”. Following the lead of Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, owner of Fulton Street Books & Coffee, participants read two books written by people of color or other marginalized authors and participate in guided discussions over the topics. Asamoa-Caesar has shown her business to be true to its stated mission “to build community and to change our city through civic discourse.” Their nationally acclaimed Ally Boxes have inspired thousands to educate themselves in the short 13 months since they first opened.

 Participation open to all

If participants truly commit themselves to the work, they can steer away from performative allyship seen too often in social justice book clubs. Guided conversations in The Opportunity Ally Cohort focus on “tangible action items participants can tackle in their personal lives, professional roles, and other circles of influence to actively fight racism.” A participant of a past Ally Cohort session reflected on the experience, saying “I definitely listen/view/read things through a different lens now. There is so much of history that I need to relearn from perspectives other than that of the dominant white perspective.” 

Participation is open to all who are interested, but the deadline is fast approaching. Register for The Opp’s third Ally Cohort by end of day on Sunday, Aug. 29. The introductory launch is Friday, Sept. 10 at noon. Space is limited.

For more information on youth programming supported by The Opportunity Project, visit Tulsa City of Learning is a citywide interactive website connecting youth and families to high-quality camps, clubs and after-school programs.

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...