By Sarah Neese
January 31, 2023

Local students raise up families in need

Francis Tuttle Technology Center students helped nine families during the 2022 holiday season.
Students at Francis Tuttle competed to raise money for families in need, helping a total of nine families this past year. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

For nearly two decades, the Francis Tuttle Technology Center community has served families in need during the holiday season. For 2022, however, their impact nearly doubled thanks to new leadership: the students.

Each year, Francis Tuttle faculty and staff search for families that need extra support during the holidays. Once a family applies to receive help, their fellow students, instructors, and staff come together to raise money for gifts, clothes, and food.

“Each class or program raises money for the adopted family,” said Jada Ellason-Wilson, a Francis Tuttle student.

For 2022, there were nine families in need of support, and nearly 400 students came to their aid.

“This is the first time this has been student-run,” said Denton Blevins, director of Francis Tuttle’s industrial and trade programs. “Last year, we raised about $1,700. This time, we had student leaders who got all of their classmates involved. We actually raised $1,000 more than we did last year because of the great work they did.”

Student leaders are the backbone of the effort. During a kickoff assembly, they motivate their peers to participate in fundraising for the cause. They draw inspiration through emotion, reading letters from families who previously benefited from their holiday giving. They even engage in a little friendly competition.

“You compete with each class to see who can raise the most money,” Ellason-Wilson said.

And the students put in the effort. Many go to their high schools and workplaces asking for spare change, looking for ways to contribute as holiday helping hands. They also collect canned goods to provide to the families and to fill up the school’s food pantry.

At the end of the competition, students and staff gather for a closing assembly, where they reveal the winners and the total amount raised.

“We emphasize what the team did as a whole. It’s just fun competitiveness for a good cause,” Blevins said.

Once it’s all said and done, the money raised translates to tangible items for each family.

“The kids raise the money, and then we go shop for the gifts,” said Kathy Hart, a Francis Tuttle staff member. “We have them ready for the families to take home, and the food baskets go with that too.”

Blevins feels the event reflects the heart of Francis Tuttle’s mission.

“This really speaks to the culture of this organization,” he said. “We’re really big on our core values. You look at the core value of service. This is a great example of that being put into action, how we’re looking to serve those families with hardships during this time. That’s what I’m really proud of. You just see this core value come to life.”

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About Sarah Neese

A lifelong Oklahoma native, I've spent the majority of my life and career nurturing my love for all things words. In constant pursuit of wordsmith mastery, I have an ongoing drive to read, write and edit whenever possible.

My right-hand ladies are troubleshooting and critical thinking, as the world around us requires problem-solving at every turn.

Outside the office, you can catch me brushing up on my Spanish, exploring what the culinary arts have to offer and keeping up with pop culture at large.