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CFSI program graduates release butterflies, signifying transformation and new beginnings.

OSU-OKC’s Center for Social Innovation to receive congressional funding

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | editor@okstate.edu

Brandi Hopkins just needed a second chance.

At Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City’s Center for Social Innovation (CFSI), she found it.

Hopkins was hired as an intern by a nonprofit organization during her time in CFSI and now works full time for the nonprofit. Within a month of completing the CFSI program, she regained complete guardianship of her two boys and moved her family into their own apartment. She is currently continuing her education at OSU-OKC.

Sarah Stitt
Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt spoke to the crowd at the CFSI graduation in May.

CFSI, a program that provides second chances for many Oklahomans like Hopkins, is set to receive a boost from the federal government. Through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, OSU-OKC will receive an $850,000 congressional allocation in support of CFSI.

Program participants are referred to CFSI after completing addiction recovery or prison diversion programs. Many have experienced homelessness, trauma, abuse, addiction and other challenges. The program is designed to give hope to individuals seeking to overcome a wide array of barriers to success in higher education.

Participants complete an intensive ninemonth program, which provides a solid start to a postsecondary education, including 12 academic hours and work readiness skills, access to career services, individualized interest and ability assessments, life skills and direct employment experience through internships and apprenticeships.

CFSI was launched in August 2020 and has been building and testing a program to help provide an education for those who have struggled with homelessness, been involved with the foster care system and justice system, have experienced domestic violence or are in long-term recovery from substance abuse addiction or mental health disorders.

OSU-OKC works with Oklahoma nonprofit agencies to help move people toward selfsufficiency and stability by providing postsecondary education and workforce training.

CFSI is possible thanks to a $1 million, three-year commitment from the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation. The program also has received funding and support from the Inasmuch Foundation, Merrick Foundation, Simmons Bank and private donors.

The services provided through CFSI not only improve the lives of participants, but also help the state build a more skilled and educated workforce.

“The sheer number of immediate successful outcomes is major in regard to credits earned, certifications obtained, skills acquired and more,” said Ariel Moore, CFSI senior director. “But it doesn’t end there. Part of being involved with CFSI is rebuilding confidence, identity and a community that they can turn to.”

That community includes program peers, community leaders and employers who partner with OSU-OKC to make a commitment to these students’ futures.

OSU-OKC has a unique role as an urban, workforce-oriented higher education institution — along with a track record of advancing the social mobility of learners from underserved populations — which allows it to play a critical part in serving the postsecondary needs of Oklahomans looking for hope and a pathway to success.

“It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s OK to come back from them,” Hopkins said. “That’s been a really big piece of this program for me. I’ve made some really bad choices. Once I decided to make good choices and go through with them, it’s opened many doors for me … I’m looked at now as a professional and someone who’s doing things and going places.”

After completing the nine-month CFSI program, participants continue to receive support from CFSI staff and classmates, with many joining the general OSU-OKC student body in pursuit of degree completion.

2021-22 CFSI HIGHLIGHTS

The 2021-22 cohort was honored on May 20. Their accomplishments include the following:

■ 16 CFSI students completed their Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS) certifications through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

■ 10 CFSI students became certified in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead training ■ 5 CFSI students now have new vehicles

■ 3 students are completing CFSI with their associate’s degrees

■ 3 students are transferring to four-year institutions in the fall of 2022

■ 2 CFSI students obtained their first driver’s license

■ The 2021-22 cohort of 23 students earned a combined total of 46 workforce readiness certifications — including in Microsoft Excel, workplace computer skills, project management, nonprofit management, HR fundamentals, leadership, business and Personal Life Coach and JavaScript Developer certifications

■ Several 2021-22 CSFI program completers have achieved gainful employment, including within the nonprofit sector. One CFSI student, Ella Jefferson-Speed, founded Soul Survivor Supportive Living Foundation — a nonprofit, supportive living home for veteran women and their children — the first of its kind in Oklahoma


Photos by: Ned Wilson

Story by: Matthew Price | STATE Magazine

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