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I am a first generation Oklahoman

By Jack Malone Jack Malone is a 22-year-old senior at Oklahoma City University. He is earning his degree in Mass Communications with a minor in History.

and Oklahoma is my home. My family moved to Oklahoma in 1987. Although I had yet to be born, my family recalls the time period quite well. While everyone else seemed to be moving out of the state, my family was moving in. The oil bust of the late 1980s devastated the economy, building construction had halted, and the lavish lifestyles of the 1980’s oil boom had come to a halt. Banks had closed, young people were leaving in droves, there was a Galleria Parking Garage but no Galleria, and beautiful historic buildings had been torn down for new construction that would not happen for another 20 years. My mother’s family, from the East Coast, referred to Oklahoma as the dark side of the moon and could not imagine why anyone would want to move to such a place. My family, who loved to travel, viewed this as a learning experience and was excited for the new adventure to explore this strange land and planned to experience everything Oklahoma had to offer. Four years later my family had planted their roots in the community and in 1991 I was born. Oklahoma will forever be my home.


I learned at a very young age that one of Oklahoma’s greatest resources is its people. Through good times and bad, oil booms and busts, natural disasters, including tornados, wild fires, too much rain, and too little rain, Oklahomans always have proven to be generous, unselfish people. They rise to any event with a determination to make the best of situations and to lend a hand to anyone impacted by hard times. One of my earliest childhood memories was the unspeakable tragedy of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, a day that no Oklahoman will ever forget. The events of that day shook our nation and deeply affected our state. Countless families were affected and Oklahoma City was forever changed by that day. As a four year old I could not understand the severity, but I do recall feeling the blast and knowing that something awful had happened. I remember the panic and the shock on my family’s faces; I will never forget where I was at that exact moment in time. Although nothing could undo the horror of this act of terrorism: the loss of life, the injured, the destruction, the feeling of grief and anguish that leaves a void in our hearts still to this day, there was an incredible outpouring of love and support from emergency responders, volunteers, adults, and children from around the world. This response gave our state hope and made us all even stronger in the face of such evil. It was a tragic situation but our state rose above the violence and showed the nation what Oklahoma spirit truly meant. It is something that no one can explain, yet it is the driving force in our state. Oklahomans have that special quality—the catalyst for progression in our state. Another life changing memory was the destruction of the May 3, 1999 tornados. Once again in the face


of death and destruction, Oklahomans rallied together to support people who had lost everything. During this time students and parents at a local high school in my hometown realized that students affected by the tornado were not going to be able to have their prom that year. Their homes were gone, their schools damaged or destroyed, and prom seemed pretty low on their immediate list of needs; unless you were a high school senior and had been looking forward to this day for four years. Volunteers organized an event that met all of the affected students’ prom needs, including a “store” where they could shop for prom clothes, shoes, and accessories. Local merchants generously donated free salon services, makeup, corsages, meals, venues, and transportation in order to make the evening as memorable as possible. While attending prom might seem like such a small priority after experiencing such destruction, this event once again offered hope to these teenagers that life could be fun and normal again.

Growing up in Oklahoma gives children nu merous opportunities to learn valuable life skills starting at a young age. Although I was very young during these two tragic events and could not fully comprehend the magnitude of devastation that had occurred, I was able to understand the importance of community. The Oklahoma spirit was prevalent on these days just as it is every other day. When called to action Oklahomans are able to rise above and meet the needs of those affected even if it just means throwing

Located in northeast Oklahoma City, Science Museum Oklahoma, formerly known as The Omniplex, moved to its current location in 1978.

a group of teenagers a prom that they will never forget. These values that are instilled in Oklahomans, coupled with hard work, perseverance, and visionary leaders, are some of the qualities that have made Oklahoma the great state it is today. Growing up in Oklahoma gives children numerous opportunities to learn valuable life skills starting at a young age. These skills include volunteerism, leadership, and service. Some organizations that I have had personal experience with have taught me the life skills that I continue to use to this day. The people involved in these organizations have been amazing mentors to numerous young people and have instilled a quality in them to continue to teach others as they become the next leaders of Oklahoma. There are so many wonderful organizations throughout the entire state that offer invaluable training to young Oklahomans. I wanted to highlight some of the organizations that I have had personal experience with beginning at a very young age. Science Museum Oklahoma, formerly The Omniplex, offers the youngest children an opportunity to be on their

Children’s Advisory Board. This fun program offers young children an opportunity to contribute their ideas to a museum that provides education and innovative learning to the community. This first taste of volunteering plants the seed for future community service. One of my most important leadership experiences as a young person was through the Boy Scouts of America. This experience has laid the framework for all of my other volunteer and leadership activities. The skills and life lessons I learned as I grew through Scouting helped me to become a strong effective leader in

Incorporated on February 8, 1910 under the laws of the District of Columbia, the Boys Scouts of America celebrated their centennial in 2010. By 2011, more than 50,000 young men had earned the organizations highest advancement with the rank of Eagle Scout and nearly 3-million were participating in the Scouting program. Courtesy Boy Scouts of America.

all areas of my life. From camping to volunteer work and leadership, Scouting has been a concurrent education for numerous Oklahomans. As in life, Scouting has taught many that each skill mastered and each position held responsibly leads to larger leadership roles and accomplishments. Scouts are given the opportunity to explore every corner of Oklahoma and the vast natural beauty that our state has

to offer. Some of the places Scouts utilize for their activities include the Wichita Mountains, Turner Falls, Alabaster Caverns, the Illinois River and Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma at 5,700 ft. As a Cub Scout camping gave me a great sense of accomplishment and independence; as a Boy Scout I learned even more as I loaded my 40-pound backpack and trekked through the mountains for ten days; and as an Eagle Scout I had the opportunity to attend a national leadership conference and be involved in the restoration of the First Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. One troop in Edmond alone has more than 160 Eagle Scouts who each have contributed a service project benefiting our state. Throughout this time I had exposure to many great volunteer leaders. This experience created my foundation in service and has led to many other opportunities outside of Scouting. Designed for high school age students, Oklahoma City Youth Leadership Exchange offers classes and programming to shape young people in the community. The program is designed to teach students how to be better community leaders through service. Classes include exposure to community organizations as well as lessons in practical life skills Many graduates of this program have found this experience to be an invaluable lesson in leadership, community service, philanthropy, and fundraising. This is yet another example of an extracurricular activity that is actively shaping the lives of Oklahoma youth. For a graduating high school senior, Oklahoma Boys and Girls State is designed to reinforce the subject matter taught in high school civic classes. This program instills a working knowledge of the operations of state and local government. This

program gathers students from every corner of the state for a week-long training session that not only connects you to your peers but also reiterates the importance of community leadership and education.

All of these organizations have many things in common, they are fueled by incredibly generous people who give up their time to make Oklahoma the vibrant state it has become... Another statewide education program is the Oklahoma Heritage Association Teen Board. This board offers students the opportunity to promote pride in the community and state, while at the same time learn valuable real-world skills. Students also have the opportunity to meet notable Oklahomans and participate in Association and Museum programming. The Teen Board is responsible for planning and implementing an annual fundraiser to benefit the education programs of the Association and Museum. The money raised funds free student admission to the Museum and a scholarship through the Association’s annual scholarship competition. This opportunity not only promotes and educates students about Oklahoma’s diverse history through the states iconic people, but also teaches students lifelong lessons and prepares them for a future of giving back to Oklahoma. These are just a selection of organizations in Oklahoma that offer youth programing that teach amazing


The 2012-2013 Teen Board of the Oklahoma Heritage Association raised more than $20,000 with its 2nd annual Oklahoma Heritage Land Run. Since 2007 the Teen Board has raised more than $100,000 to support the education programs of the Association and GaylordPickens Museum.

Founded in 1927 to celebrate the contributions of Oklahomans with induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and provide educational opportunities for students, the Oklahoma Heritage Association opened its Gaylord-Pickens Museum in 2007. With a mission of “telling Oklahoma’s story through its people” the Association offers free field trips to students statewide, has one of the most talented Teen Boards supporting its education programs, is recognized as the leader in publishing Oklahoma’s history, and provides cash scholarships and tuition grants to students wishing to continue their education.

Throughout Oklahoma many exciting things are happening in the state. life skills. All of these organizations have many things in common, they are fueled by incredibly generous people who give up their time to make Oklahoma the vibrant state it has become and who are committed to being mentors to young people and helping them become


future leaders. They all provide training that instills confidence by teaching character building, strong ethics, goal setting, leadership skills, teambuilding, and making our state a better place. Supported by selfless volunteers and donations from corporations, foundations, and many individuals these organizations offer programs for training, education, community outreach, and support of people in need. I have only touched the surface of what

each organization has to offer and the countless things they do for the state of Oklahoma. Regardless of a person’s interests there are countless Oklahoma-based organizations available to foster these skills and provide our state with amazing leaders and volunteers. Coupled with forward thinking, these organizations are leading a renaissance movement around the state that is making Oklahoma one of the most exciting places to live.

Throughout Oklahoma many exciting things are happening in the state. In Oklahoma City alone the revitalization of downtown is bringing new groups of people to the area. Many are leaving the suburbs and moving downtown to be a part of the action. The Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPs) started this revitalization in 1999 when the first MAPs projects began. Since then there have been three different MAPs initiatives. The most recent project, MAPs 3, has begun to expand Oklahoma City and create new opportunities within the city. Improvements to the Oklahoma River have been made and the planning of a central park has begun. This park promises to stretch downtown Oklahoma City to the edge of the Oklahoma River where the central park will attract many people, retail, and housing opportunities. The Oklahoma River and the riverfront development have brought great notoriety to Oklahoma. As an Olympic certified training area and the home to US Rowing and USA Canoe/Kayak, the transformation of the riverfront has created a world-class venue for rowing,

Our very young state is finally being seen by the nation the way we have all seen it for years—the BEST. canoeing, and kayaking. Oklahoma City has created such facilities that make it an integral part of U.S Olympic development. This progress would not have been possible without the visionary leadership behind the MAPs projects and without the insight and determination to turn our once dry river into a mecca for world-class watersports. The list of amazing innovative projects and developments could go on for days. From the Oklahoma City Thunder, the

tallest building in our state, public art projects, and new restaurants, Oklahoma is becoming a destination for people to visit and a desired place to live. Twenty-six years after my family moved to Oklahoma, we continue to call this our home. The landscape has changed, neighbors and businesses have come and gone, but the Oklahoma spirit has remained constant. It is one thing that can never be taken away from us. We are resilient people, and this very moment in our lives is our time to be the best we possibly can be. Our very young state is finally being seen by the nation the way we have all seen it for years—the BEST. Oklahoma continues to be a state full of opportunity regardless of your interests and the future holds unlimited possibilities. I am proud to be an Oklahoman.

Continuing the momentum of MAPs, the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library opened in 2004.

As an Olympic certified training area and the home to US Rowing and USA Canoe/Kayak, the transformation of the riverfront has created a world-class venue for rowing, canoeing, and kayaking.

As part of Oklahoma City’s MAPs, in 1998 the Bricktown home of the RedHawks opened with more than 14,000 fans in attendance.


First Generation Oklahoma: A Perspective  

Article from April 2013 Issue of Oklahoma: The Magazine of the Oklahoma Heritage Association by Jack Malone.

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