Wednesday, May 22, 2024

America’s Promise

Getting involved:

When the Oklahoma Bankers Association joined America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth in June 1999, then-OBA Chairman Terry Hague already understood the positive impact the program would have on our country’s children. He also knew that Oklahoma would be at the forefront of the program’s success.

“America’s Promise is what Oklahoma banks have done for decades,” said Hague. “We support Little League, Junior Achievement, student mentoring programs, school career days, kids clubs, academics and so on – America’s Promise is an organized way to do all these things and do them better.”

Throughout the nation, banks of every size have teamed up with public, private and not-for-profit organizations with one clear goal in sight: to empower today’s youth so that they can secure a better future for themselves tomorrow. Founded by retired Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America’s Promise is mobilizing the nation to fulfill five basic promises to young people:

  1. An ongoing relationship with caring adults – parents, mentors, tutors or coaches.
  2.  Safe places with structured activities during non-school hours.
  3. A healthy start and future.
  4.  A marketable skill through effective education.
  5. Opportunities to give back through community service.

To date, more than 115 banks have joined America’s Promise. OBA America’s Promise Coordinator Ann Marie Brown said much of the state’s success can be attributed to the giving nature of Oklahoma bankers.

“Oklahomans are very committed to anything that improves the lives of its children,” Brown said. “The people here have always been quick to step up and do whatever it takes.”

Many Oklahoma banks have become deeply involved in the campaign, sponsoring after-school mentoring programs, running carnivals, providing educational field trips, adopting and improving local parks, providing employment and teaching money management skills. The list of programs is endless, and many banks have created programs to meet their community’s specific needs.

“We’ve always been very active in our community, and we really jumped out of the gate for this program,” said Mary Caughron of Citizens Security Bank in Bixby, whose employees alone recently reached nearly 3,000 local students on National Teach Children to Save Day. “Students even started catching us if we forgot to wear our little red wagon pins – and when the kids start recognizing your symbol, you know you’re doing something right.”

The little red wagon, often recognized as a symbol of childhood, has now come to signify hope as the symbol of the America’s Promise campaign. Its popularity has increased as more banks have jumped on board the wagon to influence the youth in their community.

“We got involved when the program first started, and our employees have made a whole-hearted commitment,” said Marcella McKnight of First National Bank in Vinita. “We’ve participated in child safety seat inspections, offered after-hours private tutoring at our bank and even donated personal food, toys and money for local DHS kids.”

First National is not alone in its “hands-on” commitment to children. Heritage Bank in Mannford, Yale and Cleveland offers personal tutoring in all three of its branches and allows students the opportunity to “shadow a banker for a day.” Republic Bank in Norman has become a partner in education with two local elementary schools and even funds an artist in residence for a school art program. Other banks have donated time and money by sponsoring reading programs and special events that benefit children in their area. Albert “Kell” Kelly, Oklahoma Ambassador for the America’s Promise campaign and president and CEO of SpiritBank, said his employees alone donated more than 10,000 hours of service in their first year with America’s Promise.

“If each of us would strive to help one kid every day, our county would be a better and stronger place,” Kelly said. “It takes a helping hand to pull a red wagon, and many hands can pull many wagons.”

If national statistics are any indication, Oklahoma bankers have certainly pulled their share of wagons, and the benefits can be seen in the lives of children all over the state.