For The Children Weekly Column

OK-LEAD Provides Education for Foster Youth

PHOTO CUTLINE: Larry Brouk of Plumbers and Pipefitters visits with foster youth about apprenticeship and career opportunities in the trades that might be a fit for some of the students. The youth also heard from OSU-OKC and CareerTech about opportunities to further their education after high school during the OK-LEAD leadership program for foster youth. (Courtesy Photo)


“For the Children” Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO


Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117


OKLAHOMA CITY – On Friday, April 21, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) partnered with the Oklahoma Successful Adulthood program (OKSA), a division of Oklahoma Human Services, to hold a career and education seminar called OK-LEAD for foster youth.

We had 27 students attend the sessions, and we finished the day with a graduation party for those students who had completed their high school requirements. Each of these students has faced trauma in their young lives and has been in the foster system for much of that time. The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for the youth and their caregivers to learn about what is available in the next stage of their lives.

The day began with breakfast and a welcome from Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn. Commissioner Osborn encouraged the students to think toward their goals and begin the work to pursue their dreams. She emphasized the great points of our state, starting the day on the right path.

We then visited with the students about their goals and dreams. The possible career opportunities for these young people ranged from military service and other forms of public service to as many different careers you might imagine.

The students then heard from Rep. Chris Kannady about his chosen career path in the legal field and with his military service. Representative Kannady, during law school, signed up to join the Marines following the attacks on 9/11. After injury, his next step was to join the Oklahoma National Guard where he continues his military service to our state and nation.

The group next heard from representatives from labor organizations discussing apprenticeships and how to enter the workforce, including a visit with the Oklahoma City Firefighters, Local 157. Our thanks to AFL-CIO President Jimmy Curry and Larry Brouk, business agent for the Plumbers and Pipefitters, for providing the morning location for the students and for organizing speakers for the career portion of the conversation.

The group then traveled to OSU-OKC for lunch in the cafeteria and to get a taste of college life. The students visited with recruiters from both the university and CareerTech about taking the next step toward their future.

One of the most touching moments was when a foster family approached me to share that their daughter showed her first interest in enrolling in college when she found out the two vocations she wanted to follow were both offered as classes and how the programs would increase her salary upon completion.

The day ended with a trip to Dave & Busters in Oklahoma City. The students were able to play games and enjoy a meal, which led to a ceremony for seven graduating students. The other students were encouraged to remain in school and continue their studies by Dr. Deb Shropshire, director of Oklahoma Human Services. The graduates were then presented citations of accomplishment from Rep. Brian Hill.

We are thankful to the sponsors of this event, including Ed Goeas who provided dinner and gift cards for the students. We also appreciate the Arnall Family Foundation, Henry + Dow Legal Team, and the other generous individuals who contributed to OK-LEAD to help these foster children have a chance to reach their potential.

One final note, next Thursday, May the Fourth (also known as “Star Wars Day”) is also our final Child Advocacy Day at the Capitol beginning at 7:45 a.m. We invite all child advocates and our partner organizations fighting for a better future for the state’s children to join us. For more information and to register, go to