Hope is important to the success of Oklahoma children

The Oklahoma Department of Social Services shares on its website that it is Oklahoma’s first hope-centric agency. Kudos to them for embracing the science of hope and working with their clients (our fellow citizens) to empower them and support them with the tools needed to change their lives for the better.

Children in our state have some of the highest rates of childhood trauma and adverse experiences (SCAs) in the country. The reality is that these children also have parents who likely suffered trauma and adverse childhood experiences, which makes the work of DHS even more important.

Oklahoma is fortunate to have one of the leading researchers in the science of hope and author of the book Hope Rising residing and working in our state. Dr. Chan Hellman is a professor at the University of Oklahoma and has done extensive work on the subject, defining hope as a science that is not only measurable, but also teachable and learnable.

Dr Hellman and co-author Casey Gwinn share that hope is not just an emotion. It is the belief that the future will be better than today and we all have the power to do it. Hope is more than wishful thinking. It is a hands-on approach to the world around us that, combined with the necessary tools, can change the trajectory of lives.

Hope is critically important to the success of our children. Oklahoma City Public Schools is the largest school district in the state and polls students on a variety of mental health topics on a regular cycle. Asking about student hope levels is one of the survey questions, and our students have woefully low hope scores. Many programs have been implemented by the school district to address these issues and OKCPS Compact’s EmbraceOKC is the community-led effort with the same goal.

In addition to meeting mental health needs, all the support provided by our community plays a big role in raising the level of hope for our children. Something as simple as providing a coat for a student in need or supporting a teacher’s class makes a huge difference in helping our students have hope. For more information on how to provide support, visit www.okckids.com.

During this season of hope and joy, it is good to remember that we are all responsible for giving hope to our children and helping them to create lives of hope. If not us, then who?

Mary Melon is president of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

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