Street School turns 40
Street School Executive Director Lori McGinnis-Madland (third from left) walks with students Anthony Pelletier, Jordan Porter, Bianca Gray, Isreal Bringas and Kevin Mehloff. Street School is Tulsa Public Schools’ only tuition-free, nonprofit alternative high school of choice.
For 40 years, Street School has given hope and education to Tulsa’s forgotten kids.
“We take students who have the light dimmed in their eyes,” says Lori McGinnis-Madland, the school’s executive director. “But they still want a high school education. They want to belong. We see that light reignited here.”
Street School is Tulsa Public Schools’ only tuition-free, nonprofit alternative high school of choice. The school has embedded a therapeutic counseling program to address the problems that led teens there.
“We help them pick up the pieces of their lives and become productive members of our community,” McGinnis-Madland says.
With one in 10 Oklahoma ninth- through 12th-grade students dropping out of school, destinations like Street School are needed, but rare. The students who attend can’t graduate from traditional schools because they face significant difficulties, including academic deficiencies, behavioral and emotional issues, family struggles and teen pregnancy. Each student’s story is unique, often heartbreaking.
“The average Street School student comes from a home where there’s a lot of neglect, where one or both parents are in prison,” McGinnis-Madland says. “There is drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness.
“You can see through everything dealt to them, school has taken a back seat,” she continues.
So, the students act out or stop showing up to class.
“We have kids, teenagers, who have always had to take on more adult roles, and they’ve suffered a lot of abuse,” she says. “But they are amazing kids.”
As they walk from class to class, the students appear average, happy. Despite all odds, they are here, getting an education, showing up. The light in their eyes is bright; they are engaged with energetic teachers in small classes of about 13.
Instead of dropping out, 120 teens (ages 14-19) enrolled in Street School last year, according to Street School’s 2012-13 Report Card. Ninety percent of last year’s seniors graduated with a high school diploma.
Six counselors are on hand at Street School to provide individualized counseling. Every student participates in weekly group meetings that shed light onto topics like parenting, healthy living, art therapy, and grief and anger management.
The key to Street School’s success is in focusing on what each teen needs to be a success — not to emphasize what’s wrong or different or bad.
“Then change comes,” McGinnis-Madland says.
Street School needs to expand to help more students. The waiting list to get into the school sometimes tops 100, McGinnis-Madland says.
After students graduate, many start their college careers at Tulsa Community College or Tulsa Tech, enter the military or find employment.
Street School’s approximately $1.3 million budget is funded through state appropriations, the Tulsa Area United Way, donations from individuals and foundations, and TPS. The district supports Street School to the tune of about $8,000 through “in-kind monies” that pay for four teachers, a health assistant, custodial and security services, and building maintenance, McGinnis-Madland says.
Over four decades, Street School has grown to become a lifesaver for Tulsa teens in need of a diploma — and a helping hand. Since 1999, it has graduated 402 students.