MONDAY, OCTOBER 27
Arts management students in costume lab courses at Oklahoma City University have turned their hands-on learning projects this semester into a chance to share some fun and laughter with homeless children at Positive Tomorrows.
As OCU students filed into the grade school last week with custom youth Halloween costumes in hand, it was easy to see the joy in everybody’s eyes.
“I don’t know who has the biggest smile, the one who made the costume or the kid who gets to keep it,” said Sandy Thomas, volunteer coordinator at Positive Tomorrows, a privately-funded Oklahoma City school for children in kindergarten to fifth grade who are currently homeless.
Fourteen OCU students from two lab classes delivered costumes to all 24 children at the school last week. Students visited the school in September to measure the children and talk to them about what they wanted to be for Halloween. Requests included super heroes, princesses, tigers, ninjas and ghosts.
Arts Management Costume Lab Co-instructors Melanie Shelley and Janet Best directed the project as part of a service learning course at OCU. The idea came out of a casual conversation Shelley had on Halloween Day in 2006 with OCU Director of Academic Services Mary Benner. Benner had just finished mentoring a student at Positive Tomorrows who told her he couldn’t go trick-or-treating because he didn’t have a costume.
“We decided to make this a service-learning component to our class and let the kids keep their costumes,” Shelley said.
Thomas said the gesture goes much farther than giving a small student a big smile on Halloween.
“The kids are so surprised that someone who didn’t even know them took that much time to show they care about them,” Thomas said.
Positive Tomorrows Development Director Kay Bonebrake said about 85 percent of the children at Positive Tomorrows have never before had a Halloween costume or the opportunity to celebrate any holiday. Bonebrake said helping the children take part in activities like celebrating Halloween has been a successful educational component. The school had a 69 percent success rate last year in helping families find a home and a job and the school has an 88 percent attendance rate, the highest in the metro area.
“We appreciate OCU helping us in our mission,” Bonebrake said.
OCU Entertainment Business Senior Matthew Sipress said his service project was among the most fulfilling tasks he’s ever done.
“Even having worked in professional theatre, nothing has felt like this,” Sipress said.
Dance Management Junior Patrick Galvin said the costumes were his first clothes to make.
“This was my first time to sew. It’s really nice to see the final product like this and see these kids so happy,” he said.
Shelley said students were required to implement all of their sewing lab skills into the costumes.
OCU is offering more than 20 service learning courses this year to assist metro organizations.