Southern Oaks Learning and Wellness Campus Project

What if communities were given an opportunity to voice their opinions and their expertise was used to benefit their futures?

Photo of Patricia Lecona de Wright
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

The Hispanic community is continuing to grow in Oklahoma City, and to have several partners invested in revitalizing this area is inspiring. It is an amazing opportunity for the community to have a voice in how this revitalization occurs. This community has been neglected for years, investing in it is an opportunity to change the futures of the children within this community. Providing the community the opportunity to lead better lives by providing access to improved education and medical experiences is beneficial to their children. As the community liaison, that is also from this community and will be graduating with a bachelors in Community/Public Health I believe that I can help the community use their voice to help sustain future programs within this program. I have experienced first hand how this community suffers from not having the knowledge of the services that are available to them. I also have been able to see how much this community has been able to sustain itself with the minimal knowledge it has over services. The community is motivated to improve their health and improve the educational future of their children. With the current budget cuts and teacher layoffs, parents within this area have taken a more active role in voicing their concerns for the future of public education in this area. I believe this project will help this community have a direction as to how it will solve the problems they face when it comes to education and healthcare issues.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Oklahoma

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Oklahoma City

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Oklahoma

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Southern Oaks Learning and Wellness Campus Project will be directed toward a predominatly Hispanic area in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The project is trying to address the need for better services for citizens in the predominantly Hispanic part of Oklahoma City. This project is a collaboration among multiple partners to address the health and wellness of citizens that have continuously been ignored and been without a voice. This is an incredible opportunity for the community and partners to improve the area by seeking the expertise of community members in order to change the community. Community members will be engaged in the development of the model as it progresses. Services (including the types of health education and promotion activities, recreational programs, and after school activities) will be driven by the needs of the community. College students studying community/public health will work with faculty to complete an IRB and involve the community in the decision making process with the use of surveys.

The partners within the Southern Oaks project range from the city-county health department to local universities, city parks and recreation services, metro libraries and Oklahoma City Public Schools, representing an elementary school that will be an integral part of this program. Furthermore, my role as community liaison overseeing community focus groups and data collection by community/public health students will ensure a strong voice and presence of the community members themselves. I believe this is how change happens. This is how we change communities: by investing in them and giving them the opportunity to use their voice and expertise of what they need to improve their community. This project is focusing on the overall health of community members by acknowledging their power and voice to know their community and direct change. This project is something I believe will lead the way in bringing new life into the community which will inspire community members to lead productive lives. Areas around the project suffer from high poverty rates, high susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases, and chronic diseases. This project is reaches out to families by partnering with those agencies that are serving the community. The differennce is that my role as community liaison will ensure that the community is prioritized as a partner and that their voice is heard. Changing the lives of families by improving their quality of life changes the lives of the children within communities. These families will be exposed to educational, recreational, health promotion, and medical services in one location, addressing social determinants of health that make their choice to be healthy, active and educated citizens the easy choice. Children acquire the habits and lifestyles of their parents and reaching out to both can lead to more successful programs that will be sustained by community members. Project partners are seeking the expertise of community members with the intent of providing sustainable, appropriate, and needed programs that will benefit and be used by the community.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Idea (poised to launch)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

This project is bringing together the community and partners from various agencies to focus on addressing broad social determinants of health in this community. Community members will be engaged in the development of the model as it progresses. Services will be driven by the needs of the community. As the community liaison, I will coordinate efforts throughout the neighborhood, ensuring that the community is an active partner. The wellbeing of children will improve through the inclusion of a healthy and supportive environment that includes education. These children will be exposed to a different environment than they have previously been exposed to, as the vision is to have a safe environment conducive to learning and wellbeing.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Non-traditional partnerships were formed last year to begin this project. Support from the city council member who represents this neighborhood as well as the aforementioned agencies has been obtained, and a new building is being constructed on property that will include an elementary school, a city-county health department, a parks and recreation facility, and community grounds to be used for recreation and leisure. The various agencies and public support that formed to complete this project are creating a new model for Oklahoma City and a long-term vision has been secured. The area has been under-served for various reasons that range from language barriers to fear within the community to seek help in a medical or educational setting because of legal issues. The project will have better knowledge of how to reach this community and how to develop programs that will be used by them.

Organization Type

  • hybrid

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

This project will be sustained by multiple partners representing the city as well as a local college and university. Financially, the city-county health department will bear the responsibility of funding the clinic while the city parks and recreation agency will incur costs for its expansion. Grant funding will be used to ensure that I can devote my time to this project.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

This community has long been served by all of these agencies; however, this community has not had a voice to ensure that their needs were addressed or their resources considered. This model is innovative as it brings together varied partners and provides direct access in the community. More importantly, by incorporating a community liaison who is from the community and also has a community/public health background, our agencies can better connect to the community and ensure that they are at the table making decisions that best serve them. The community is a primary partner from the beginning.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

I believe that we need to continue to evolve our method of solving social problems. We need to be able to step away from traditional methods of treating problems and developing partnerships in order to meet the needs of communities. We need to continue to educate not only our communities but ourselves in order to develop new methods of improving the wellbeing of children. Investing in the overall health of children will lead to a better future not only for them but for their communities. I believe family education needs to be explored further for community sustained programs.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Dr. Sunshine Cowan


Join the conversation:

Photo of Charlotte Stites

This looks like the foundation of a wonderful collaboration between many ostakeholders and approaches to family health. Your personal experience (and I suspect connections) add a wonderful piece to this project. I look forward to seeing your success!

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