I’m a Lawton native, born and raised here. I’m blessed that I discovered a rewarding career that I am passionate about in Lawton at Great Plains Technology Center.
What I’m most proud of about Lawton are the entities and people that I’ve gotten to work with the past 37 years.
It almost always starts with building positive relationships. I’m thankful for both Cameron University President John Macarthur and Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Deighan and each of the superintendents and staff within the district we serve. I think Great Plains’ relationships with its education partners are more student focused than ever.
Let me give you an example. When the national Higher Learning Commission required both Great Plains Radiologic Technology and Respiratory Care programs to offer associate degrees or disband, Cameron University stepped in. Today’s Radiology and Respiratory students still train on cutting edge technology here at Great Plains while also earning an associate degree at Cameron. I think most communities would envy our collaboration.
I’m a product of Lawton Public Schools. Actually, my first real, full-time job was working as a custodian at an elementary school on Fort Sill while I was a senior at Lawton High School. But for the past 37 years I’ve worked for Great Plains, so I am especially proud of Lawton Public Schools’ commitment to ensure students have an opportunity to become more career aware and career prepared.
More than 20 years ago the late state Senator Paul Taliaferro phoned me and asked if the vo-tech would help train rural firefighters. Sen. Taliaferro helped us receive a grant to carry out the training. I get pretty excited about how far Great Plains has come in its ability to deliver professional and reliable public safety training. Lawton has some of the very best firefighters, police officers and first responders.
I’ve been told that Great Plains’ long-term investment in public safety training and equipment contributed to the City of Lawton’s Fire Department recently receiving an ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating of one out of a possible 10. The bottom line is, when the ISO rating is lower, the result is a significant reduction in fire insurance premiums for many Lawton homeowners.
Often I get to share information about Great Plains that not everyone knows. Did you know that every 9-1-1 call made in Lawton or Comanche County or Fort Sill comes into the Emergency Communications Center located on our campus? Did you know that both the City of Lawton’s Fire and Police Training Divisions are located at Great Plains? All three professions have employed many of our students and provided them “real world experiences” while they attended the tech center.
I can’t think of a greater priority than creating a safe learning environment for our students, staff and guests. We are currently engineering a 400-person storm shelter/safe haven on the Lawton campus. I’ll make sure Great Plains continues to invest in technology that will allow us to lock down the campus more quickly in case of an active shooter. This is a difficult challenge as we are an open, college-like campus with 10 buildings. We will be vigilant.
On the economic development front, I’m proud of the new Business Development Center that opened on our Lawton campus last year. It is a long-term effort to support small businesses and entrepreneurs to “grow our own jobs” right here at home. It’s an investment in our future. The private sector led by the McMahon Foundation and the Comanche County Industrial Development Authority contributed more than two million dollars towards construction of the business incubator. Some of the tenants have already hired additional employees, so we’re off to a positive start.
I’m proud of my employer and the positive impact Great Plains has made in the lives of so many students, including a former welding student who now earns a six figure income, a high school dropout who earned a diploma through our SCORE program, a single mother who earned her Surgical Technology certification and can now better financially support her family, a Biomedical Science graduate earning an appointment to a military academy, and training 99 percent of Lawton Goodyear’s maintenance technicians over a 40 year period. The list is almost endless.
Finally, I’m proud of those special persons who chose to teach in public education in Lawton and within our school district, with a special nod to our own faculty. You are life-changers!
Now you know that my Lawton roots run deep and that it is good to be proud of Lawton, not with a blind eye, but whenever possible looking for and speaking up and actively supporting our city, my city, Lawton.