May 2, 2018:
On Monday, April 23, the Brighter Futures Foundation in Wagoner celebrated its first anniversary with stories, cupcakes, games, laughter and lots of learning.
The Foundation, also called BFF, is a division of Eternity Fraternity, a Christian teen 501©3 organization. It began as a Christian-based literacy program serving the Autumn Woods Apartments on Mondays.
“We started BFF on April 17, 2017, with three children, of which two of them didn’t really want to read,” said Dr. Suzanne M. Salichs, co-founder and Brighter Futures Foundation Educational Coordinator. “We made reading fun by encouraging daily reading, bringing stories to life, introducing a variety of reading materials and having adult volunteers read one-on-one with the children.”
John W. Jones, son of Wagoner Public Schools educators Wanda and Ronald Jones, and Jonita Criddle Ford, a retired Tulsa educator and Sports Hall of Fame recipient, joined Dr. Salichs on that first Monday. What those three began that April grew into a full day program with an average of 35 children attending daily.
Over the summer, BFF added additional components to the literacy program including art, Spanish and special presentations on safety, wellness, and financial literacy.
Volunteer coaches also challenged the students to read 500 books as part of the Wagoner City Public Library Summer Program and took part in many fun and learning events. The children ended up reading 520 books, took pride in their accomplishments, improved their reading skills, and increased their love for reading.
“Some of the students who just two months earlier were shy about reading were now raising their hands and volunteering to read aloud. They were excited and proud of their accomplishments,” Dr. Salichs said.
BFF soon outgrew the space at the Autumn Woods Apartments and in August of 2017, they found a new home two blocks away at the vacant Lincoln School, at 902 MLK Boulevard. With the support of the Wagoner Public Schools Board of Administration and community volunteers, they cleaned, repaired and prepared the school for use. On October 9. 2017, the Brighter Futures Foundation, opened the Wagoner Enrichment Center at the Lincoln School to all Wagoner Public Schools students.
The free Monday program operates from 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and uses Oklahoma Academic Standards curriculum, focused on improving student achievements, student motivation and engagement.
To date, BFF has served over 160 students and their families.
BFF, still an all-volunteer organization, continues to expand its services in conjunction with The Lincoln Community School Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on creating a community center at the Lincoln Community School.
Upcoming activities include the creation of a Learning Garden which will be unveiled later in May, a Young Men’s Mentoring Program and mini-sports camps to take place during the summer.
For more information about The Brighter Futures Foundation or The Lincoln Community School, call (918) 807-0262.