Jenks Alternative Students Take On The State Legislature
By Ashli Sims, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Some Tulsa students are taking on the state legislature on Monday.
Superintendents and principals lobby state lawmakers every year to preserve education funding. Now the ones hurt the most by budget cuts are taking their case to the legislature. These aren't your typical students and they're fighting for a special kind of school – the Jenks Alternative Center (JAC).
"This program is the most important part of my life," said Ashley Osborn, a JAC junior.
"Since my enrollment this school year, I've not only become a better student, but a better person," said Joshua Cotto, a JAC sophomore.
"In all honesty, my life without this school would be somewhere else. I might not even be here, ya know," said Spencer Hererra, a JAC senior.
These statements are so heartfelt that it's almost hard to believe they're talking about school. The students say the Jenks Alternative Center is a special place and the word "school" doesn't even begin to cover it.
"Thank God I got into this place. Ms. Hardy took me in. She listened to my story. Now it's not even a school. It's like another house that I go to," said Hererra.
Some of the students attend JAC because they fell behind due to an illness, some because they didn't make the grade and others just didn't fit in at their old schools. Inevitably, they all say the same thing.
"Cause I wouldn't be in school right now," said Cotto.
"I was gonna drop out," said Shamika Pasley, a JAC Senior.
Three years ago, Pasley was introverted, angry and at risk of believing the worst of herself.
"I was told that I couldn't graduate, that I wouldn't make it pass my ninth grade year at all. Now I'm in alternative and I'm a senior and I'm graduating," said Pasley.
And the girl, who says she never fit in, who didn't know how to cope, has found the support she needed.
"I have anger. I let it go. If I have any issues going on outside, I tell them and they'll fix it for me. They'll help me get rid of it. So I come here. This is my family. This is who I fit in with," said Pasley.
Now these students see their surrogate family threatened by budget cuts. JAC's principal says alternative education can be expensive with their smaller classes and extra benefits, like counseling and therapy groups. So the students got together to pour their hearts out in letters to their lawmakers.
"It did. It did save me. There's no doubt about it," said Hererra.
"Each day that I come to school, I'm ecstatic to be here. I'm not just coming to school. I'm coming to my second home," said Osborn.
The students hope the legislators will hear their stories and see these aren't just dollars, but lives, at stake.
"I think they should, and if they don't, then there's something really wrong with the system," said Cotto.
Monday morning a delegation of students is in Oklahoma City at the state capitol to talk to state lawmakers face-to-face.