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Business and Economy

Oklahoma City Nonprofit School Helps Homeless Children

Boys and girls at Positive Tomorrows, a tuition-free private school in Oklahoma City for children whose families struggle with homelessness, recently welcomed a group of special visitors, players on the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.
(Courtesy Positive Tomorrows)
Boys and girls at Positive Tomorrows, a tuition-free private school in Oklahoma City for children whose families struggle with homelessness, recently welcomed a group of special visitors, players on the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

The new campus for Positive Tomorrows, an Oklahoma City nonprofit school for homeless children, opened Dec.2.  The school enrolls students who struggle with homelessness, helps them and their families, and eventually intergrates them into public school. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how the $15 million project was financed and how Positive Tomorrows was designed to fit the specific needs of its students. 



Full Transcript:

Drew Hutchinson: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Journal Record reporter Steve Metzer wrote that a new private school campus opened in Oklahoma City this week. But unlike most schools of its kind, this one is tuition-free. It’s called Positive Tomorrows, and it was built especially for homeless children -- and in Oklahoma City, the number of homeless children is estimated to be around 6,000. Construction of the school started in July of last year, and total costs were around $15 million. 

Ray: Well that's right. About $10.5 million was raised in donations from private and corporate supporters and in grants from community foundations to fund the school, which is overseen by a board of directors. It also received about $3.5 million in tax credits to help cover the total $15 million cost of construction. Now, Positive Tomorrows is the only school of its kind in Oklahoma.  The new school will be about 40,000 square feet, much larger than the 8,000 square foot building they’ve been in for many years.  

Hutchinson: And the school’s ability to offer free tuition is rare not only in Oklahoma, but in the United States. According to a website called Private School Review, there are only a few free private schools in the country, and many of them are funded by trusts. As you mentioned, Positive Tomorrows itself isn’t new. The nonprofit school was run for years out of that smaller facility in Oklahoma City. But the school’s new campus, which has an enrollment capacity around 210, was built to accommodate the specific needs of its students. The goal is to take in children, try to help them and their families, and then get them into public school when the time is right. And lots of services are in place to accomplish this. 

Ray: Well that's right. School leaders planned the new campus to have room to take in donations of clothing or other things that kids, their siblings or family members might need. The school also includes space that will allow for family case managers to help people with shelter, transportation, employment or other needs. The school will also partner with the Regional Food Bank to provide bags of food to help children and their families through the weekends.


Hutchinson: Kids were even asked to submit their ideas for what they wanted to see at the new campus. And some of those ideas ended up being put into action. The school now has things like a kitchen where families can bake together, and an art room where drawings from the kids have been turned into a special wallpaper. School officials say they want Positive Tomorrows to feel as normal as possible, so like most other schools, there’s a gym, a music room and playground equipment. But like we’ve mentioned, the school is for kids who experience homelessness to some degree, and that’s definitely reflected in some of its amenities. 

Ray: That’s right. There are facilities that will allow kids to do what most other children normally get to do at home, like wash clothes or take a shower. In fact, one room was designed especially for the care of younger siblings not yet ready for school.

Hutchinson: And even the pick-up routes are intentional. Drivers and school vehicles are available to bring students to Positive Tomorrows, but by design their routes are flexible. This is because these students may not live at a particular address for very long. 

Ray: Well, yes. These children and their parents move from place to place on a monthly, a weekly and even a daily basis. And so as a result, bus routes and destinations change quite frequently. These children face a lot of challenges other metro school students don’t have to deal with. But with the help of this school, many children and their parents are overcoming these obstacles. And that is the ultimate goal.

Hutchinson: To learn more about Positive Tomorrows, you can visit the organization’s website at PositiveTomorrows.org or email info@positivetomorrows.org. Russell, thank you for speaking with me today. 

Ray: My pleasure, Drew. Thank you. 

Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.


The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

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