This coming Tuesday, May 16 is a special day for Great Plains Technology Center, and also for me. At 7 p.m. at McMahon Memorial Auditorium, we will celebrate about 80 graduating SCORE students who will earn their high school diploma. A program of Great Plains Tech, SCORE — (School of Career Opportunities and Real Education) is a dropout credit recovery program designed to reconnect students to educational and occupational goals. Students attend a half school day on academics and the other half in a career training program.
Seeing these students overcome life’s adversities and challenges and achieve their high school diploma is dear to my heart. These students are bright and talented. Many simply learn differently, or just need extra care to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. “SCORE offers our students grace and second chances and more chances until they get it right,” says SCORE Counselor Valerie Fink. “Our students come here for a variety of reasons, but there is one common denominator, they all want to obtain a high school diploma. Our goal is to create a warm, caring environment conducive to learning. We firmly believe that the success of students stems from people who care about them and want to see them succeed, and our staff is here to provide exactly that to our students.”
Established in 1995, over 1,700 SCORE students have received their high school diploma. There is no doubt, SCORE is a valuable resource for Southwest Oklahoma and so many students. Former GP Tech Superintendent and former Interim LPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Thomas was instrumental in the development of the program. He cites the strong public-school partnerships that have enabled SCORE to grow and serve the number of students it does today. “Many other schools have examined the operation of the SCORE program for possible replication in their Tech Center, but most have not had the close partnership with their partner K-12 schools to make it work. These partnerships are the reason SCORE has been successful over the years and remains so today,” he said.
Dr. Thomas also cites the wonderful teachers and support staff are another reason for SCORE’s success, and I agree. We have incredible instructors, and I am so proud of all of them. SCORE teachers, I think have a special calling, which is why I was not surprised when SCORE Math instructor, Amy Horton was honored with the Teacher Appreciation Award from the Red River Best Chevy Dealers and Classic Chevrolet who sought nominations for the most beloved teachers in Texoma. Amy was one of more than 200 nominations received. She has positively impacted a number of students’ lives and this award demonstrates her care and dedication to her students.
Students in the SCORE program study English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and elective courses such as Tech Explorations and Construction Trades that are taught by highly qualified instructors. They also take life skills classes to be better prepared for the “real” world. These lessons help students transition into adulthood and prepare them for the responsibilities they will encounter. Students have the opportunity to enroll in full time career tech programs such as Nursing Assistant, Welding, Culinary Arts, and Automotive Service Technician. Class sizes are intentionally small so that every student is valued, respected, and receives individualized attention. A traditional high school experience is not for everyone, and SCORE closes the gap.
As I write this, I acknowledge I am a bit biased when I say, SCORE is an incredible resource for our community, our partner schools, and students. So, I’ll let former SCORE student Courtney Aguilar, Human Resources Director for Canadian Valley Technology Center tell you in her own words. “For me, SCORE meant an opportunity to complete high school with employable skills that I could utilize to support my daughter. It was taking a difficult situation and providing opportunities for success and growth that would not have otherwise existed. Through the support of the faculty and staff at SCORE and Great Plains Technology Center, I learned to have the confidence that I could change the course of my life and improve the trajectory of my family’s life. I carried that confidence with me when I went to college as an adult learner to continue providing better opportunities for myself. I do not believe I would be where I am today, without the opportunities that SCORE provided for me.” Wow, I certainly could not have said it any better.
It is with the greatest hope, excitement, and pride that I say congratulations to the Great Plains Technology Center SCORE class of 2023. You did it!
Clarence Fortney is superintendent of Great Plains Technology Center.