Planting Seeds for a Future, Successful Generation
Community: We Are Okmulgee What is ‘community’ and how would you define it? In short, community means a unified body of individuals, according to Merriam – Webster Dictionary, and can be defined by a common characteristic or interest. How would you define Okmulgee as a community? You start with its people, someone who embodies the community spirit in active form.
• Member of the Okmulgee Rotary Club
• Okmulgee Bulldog Quarterback Club
• Annual Bulldog Rummage Sale
• Be My Valentine
• GCTC Medical Assistance Instructor
• COVID-19 Easter Bunny Visit and egg delivery in 2020
• All around Okmulgee Pride Who fits that description?
Meet Jennifer Foster.
Many of you have come across her at one of the many community events, especially if it had anything to do with the elderly, youth and or football. She’s a member of the Rotary Club, and a football mom through and through.
Foster is active in the Okmulgee Football Booster Club and Okmulgee Bulldog Quarterback Club, where she is known for their annual Bulldog Rummage Sale. The sale is put on to help raise funds for the football teams.
In February, for the third year in a row, Jennifer linked up with Ryan Fulton, manager of Family Dollar and her mother Terri McCalip, to provide Valentine greeting cards and treats to our area nursing home residents.
An Okmulgee native and OHS graduate, and now Green Country Technology Center Medical Assistant Instructor, says that her passion came through experience.
“I lived in Morris and Okmulgee my whole entire life,” she said. I was born in Pawhuska, but I have lived here my whole life. I’ve always been a very nurturing person. And I had my oldest daughter in high school.
“And I think that’s why I’m so passionate because I am not a saint … if there were some things that I could take back on how I done things, I would and if I could be that someone a kid looks up to and they’re like, ‘Okay, well, you know, Miss Foster, or Jennifer,’ they call me Jan Jan, ‘she spoke truth to me today.’ I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through. I don’t want them to have to go through what I put my kids through … as a young mom and gosh, young and dumb.”
Foster is big on the education of our youth and not just in academia, but also with life skills and who better to educate than one with experience.
“No one taught me about credit and doing this and don’t do that,” she said. “You know, I’ve never had that and I feel like for our kids, that should be a requirement in high school. You need to take this financial class, you need to take this family planning class, you need to know what credit is and why it’s so important and money.
“You have repercussions for not paying something, things like that,” she said, continuing. “I didn’t have that. So there’s just so much that I want to try to stop the cycle on. I can’t do it all by myself, but I feel like even if it’s one or two people and there’s so many amazing people out here, my son, he looks up to so many. We have so many of our older generation that add a lot to benefit with these kids. We just need to all pull together and get them as right as possible.”
According to Foster, putting youth in the best position possible is the number one way to break cycles and give them the advantage they may not have had otherwise. Sometimes that is done through purposeful exposure.
“We had the ‘Acts of Kindness’ at the school,” Foster said. “I had my girls write on postcards and things like that. [They would say] ‘Miss Foster, this is stupid. I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to do this. I don’t know these people,’ and I’m like ‘that’s the point.’
Foster explains, “Don’t give it to your friend if that makes you too comfortable. You need to be outside of your comfort. So they did it and they saw these reactions. And it changed the way that they thought they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, they really liked it or they were smiling and that was fun.’ And I’m like, ‘okay, when you can push past your comfort zone, that’s when you’re really going to find who you are and what you can do.’ So I think that was a good lesson. And I hope that it taught them just a little.”
Who you have in your community matters, Foster said. Identifying the good they bring and in turn utilizing them is priceless.
From Easter Egg deliveries due to Covid-19 restrictions to providing uniforms for youth – be it for football or for school – Foster is always looking to see how she can be of help.
“Well, here’s the thing. Because I am so proud of this town, like I don’t want to go anywhere. Like I would rather stay here and live humbly, than venture off and be a millionaire or whatever. Because there’s so much potential in this town, we need to focus on our youth a whole lot more because we’ve lived our time and our life. You’ve got to teach these kids what’s right and you’ve got to show them compassion. You’ve got to show them what it’s like to be a human being. A good human being. And then when they venture off into the world, they’re going to spread what we implanted in them and they’re going to plant it somewhere else and then that will grow and it will be spread.
“We need to do awareness, we need to teach them what is socially acceptable … I feel we need to focus on our youth, because they are the future … live, learn, accept and fill as many voids as you can.”
It’s through the uplifting of our youth, Okmulgee is and will continue rising.