Street School serves Thanksgiving meal to students, families
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 8:26 AM
Lunch at Street School on Tuesday was a lot like a family Thanksgiving, but with several hundred people around the dinner table.
For the 31st year, the alternative school hosted a Thanksgiving meal for its students, their families, alumni, school donors and supporters.
Serving the food on two buffet lines were community and state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, state Superintendent Janet Barresi, state Sen. Gary Stanislawski, state Rep. Pam Peterson, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his wife, Victoria Bartlett, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard and Tulsa Public Schools board member Ruth Ann Fate.
About 50 volunteers set up, cooked, served and cleaned for the more than 350 people who came for the free lunch Tuesday, and all the food - including 20 turkeys - was donated, said Kelly McElroy, community relations director for Street School.
"It's become a tradition for us," said McElroy, who noted that about 76 percent of the students who attend Street School live below the poverty line. "Some students have brought their entire family because this is their Thanksgiving."
Any leftovers from the meal were sent home with students to have over the holiday break.
Street School is a nonprofit organization that serves about 140 students ages 14 to 19 who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out because of homelessness, abuse, family dysfunction or poverty.
The combination of alternative education classes and therapeutic counseling has become a national model for helping at-risk youths.
It was the third Street School Thanksgiving meal Ballard has attended.
"I absolutely love this event," he said. "This place has a special spirit. To see alumni coming back and community leaders, it's a good experience."
Senior Rommie Gorrell loves the annual meal, and every year, he brings his parents, who also attended Street School.
"I think it's awesome," he said. "I love the food. It's delicious. It's like a Thanksgiving at home. This school is like a second home."
That feeling was shared by many at the dinner.
"We are a community, and we're a family," said Lori McGinnis-Madland, executive director of Street School. "We treat them (the students) with respect and create a close-knit family."
The event also gave community leaders and lawmakers - especially those who determine funding for education - a first-hand look at the alternative school.
"I think it's a good idea for anyone to see a program in action," McGinnis-Madland said.
Barresi, who had never been to Street School's Thanksgiving before, said the meal is a great tradition and outreach for the school, evidenced by so many alumni returning to celebrate.
"The connection is so strong," she said. "This school was so important to them."
After the school's funding was cut by the state school board in fiscal year 2012, private donations helped it stay open. Funding was restored for this year.
The positive statistics demonstrate how important the school is, Barresi said.
"It's an investment that's really worth the money," she said.
Original Print Headline: Street School gives thanks
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
State Superintendent Janet Barresi (right) serves Sharon Gallagher of the Tulsa Area United Way during Street School's annual Thanksgiving meal Tuesday. More than 350 Street School students, their families, alumni and guests were treated to a meal at the school. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Street School senior Rommie Gorrell (left) laughs next to his mother, Angie Baxter, during Tuesday's Thanksgiving meal at the school. Baxter also attended Street School. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (center, facing) chats with other servers at Tuesday's Thanksgiving dinner at Street School in Tulsa. The meal gave community leaders and lawmakers a chance to get a first-hand look at the alternative school. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World