JR's Scott Carpenter on Southeast High School Key Club

Fourth Reading: Seed reaps shining harvest

By: M. Scott Carter The Journal Record April 10, 2014 0

The Key Club at Southeast High School has more than 60 members.

Two years ago, it didn’t exist.

Created with the assistance of Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Noma Gurich, Southeast’s Key Club has become a thriving, student-oriented service organization. Student members are active, engaged in the community and spend a great deal of time volunteering to help make their corner of Oklahoma City a little better.

It is, in many ways, a typical student-run organization. Unlike other groups at Southeast, however, the club and its supporters had to fight to get there.

Two years ago, a Kiwanis Club group led by Gurich sought to establish a student club at Southeast. Many in the Kiwanis Club of Oklahoma City supported the effort. Others weren’t so excited. The club, some thought, might have to deal with gangs at the school or, worse yet, one of its members might hold up a pharmacy.

That didn’t happen.

The organization and the Kiwanis Club held a joint lunch meeting Tuesday. The meeting went smoothly, awards were given and lunch was served.

The most impressive thing, however, wasn’t the unending supply of pizza or the joint meeting of the clubs. The most impressive fact of the day was the students, themselves. Jason Sell, Key Club president, earned a Kiwanis scholarship. Sell told the group he was going to college. Three of the club’s other officers, Wendy Ramirez, Catalina Cardenas and Evelyn Lopez, told me they, too, would be attending college after graduation.

Two years ago, Southeast’s critics tried to convince people the school was a haven for gangs and criminals.

Today, those critics were shown, once again, to be wrong. About 700 students strong, Southeast earned new life after reopening in 1994 as a magnet school with a focus on technology. Working hand in hand with the state Department of Career and Technology Education, Southeast developed new classes from graphic design to digital video production.

In 2012, the school earned a B ranking from the state Department of Education.

The students there are as smart as they come.

Funny, articulate but, at the same time, serious about their future, the members of Southeast’s Key Club have worked hard and have plans for their future. They told me about their service projects, what types of careers they wanted and just how they planned to get there.

Two years ago, only a handful of people believed in them. Today, Key Club members at Southeast High School would make any teacher or school administrator beam with pride.

They shine like gems in a state where all too often, public schools are vilified, financially strangled and held up as examples of bad public policy. At Southeast, they push back hard against the ongoing myths that Oklahoma’s schools are failing and that students – especially those from urban, inner city schools – are nothing more than future criminals or gang alumni.

When she first pitched the idea of a Key Club at Southeast, Gurich encountered opposition from those who believed in the myths. Yet Gurich isn’t easily moved off course. She pushed, lobbied and twisted arms until the Key Club was born.

Today that same club thrives.

Gurich planted the seed, but it took sponsor Mary Cloos and a group of smart and immensely talented students at Southeast High School to make that seed bloom. It’s a great lesson for all those who previously bought into the myths.


Ret. 4-12-14