Families came for the free school supplies. They stayed for the wealth of information.
Sixth-grader Corey Payne made sure to be at the front of the line at the 15th annual North Tulsa Parent and Community Enrichment Extravaganza on Tuesday. The first 200 students who arrived at the back-to-school event at McLain High School received a backpack filled with essentials.
“I just needed some school supplies, and that’s all,” Corey said.
But he and his grandmother, Ruby Carlis, stayed longer than intended as they walked from booth to booth to learn about the school offerings and community organizations in north Tulsa. He was particularly drawn to an information booth for Langston University, the state’s only historically black college.
Carnell Allen was at the high school for band practice when he heard about the extravaganza and decided to take his daughter, Olivia, who is about to begin kindergarten.
“I’m trying to get her prepared and ready for a bright future,” Allen said.
Having never been before, he was surprised by the magnitude of the event. For one, the line of students and family members wrapped around the building as volunteers prepared to open the doors and invite them inside, where principals from throughout the McLain feeder pattern waited to answer questions.
The free supplies, along with drawings for prizes, were a bonus.
“This is a big opportunity that brings everybody together and gives them a chance to learn about the schools,” Allen said. “It also gives the kids a chance to get some supplies and be prepared for school.
“That helps the parents, who don’t have to have so much pressure to get their kids something. You can get it here if you don’t have the money right off the bat. You can at least get your kids started.”
Former Tulsa school board member Lana Turner-Addison, who is president of the North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative, started the extravaganza 15 years ago to help families prepare for the school year.
Turner-Addison said the goal is to ensure that students, many of whom come from low-income homes, have the resources needed to maximize their learning.
The community response has been tremendous, with attendance always reaching more than 1,000 and sometimes exceeding 1,500. Parents often reach out to say how much they look forward to the event every August.
“When we say ‘extravaganza,’ that’s what it is. It’s an extravaganza,” Turner-Addison said. “It’s not a traditional event where somebody’s just coming to get a backpack and some school supplies. Many of the families come for the entertainment and the information.”
Students and families also heard from a panel of speakers who highlighted the benefits of attending Tulsa Public Schools and how education paves the way to success.
Marquay Baul, a financial adviser who attended school in north Tulsa, asked several students what they would do if he placed $1 million in a locked room. One said break the door. Another suggested kicking the door.
Baul’s favorite answer came from a girl who said she’d find the key that unlocks the door.
“What would you do if I told you that the key to accessing that million dollars was your education?” he asked. “Education is the key to everything.”
Planning the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre history center