• Annual Awards Dinner honoring Dr. Steadman Upham Oct. 14.

  • 2014 Humanitarian Award nominations now open

  • Camp Anytown a success

    Forty-eight students from across 19 Oklahoma high schools joined together at Camp Anytown 2014, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. This week-long leadership training for incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors, enhances self-esteem and good citizenship while promoting respect and understanding for everyone.

    Students explored topics regarding privilege, discrimination, race and culture, sexual orientation, socioeconomic disparities, gender and gender roles, anti-bullying and immigration. Immigration was a stand-out topic to this year’s attendees.

    Allison Childress, an incoming junior at East Central High School in Tulsa, attended this June’s camp session, and was impressed with the transformation of campers from day one to the last day.

    “The issue of immigration is so important nationwide, especially in the southern areas like Oklahoma and Texas,” Allison said. “No human can be illegal. They can be undocumented in our country, but they aren’t illegal. By learning various facts at camp about immigration, we can further awareness and dismantle these standards of oppression that take hold and control our society.”

    Through a presentation by a panel of immigrants, campers realized the struggles of people new to the United States. The four presenting panelists are members of Dream Act Oklahoma, a group of undocumented students and allies working for immigration reform in our state.

    “Campers heard first-hand accounts of the struggles that immigrant adults and students face when coming to our country,” said Moises Echeverria, program coordinator at OCCJ. “Many of our students had never stopped to think about what it’s like to be an immigrant and the hurdles that must be overcome, which is why I believe the topic stood out to this year’s group. Our panelists’ testimonies provided information that created deeper awareness for the campers.”

    During the workshop Camp Anytown participants viewed photos of immigrants to the U.S. throughout history, and read quotes and opinions regarding immigration from U.S. citizens of past generations. The students learned that the discriminatory statements of today mirror statements of centuries ago.

    “The students saw hard evidence that discrimination against immigrants is decades old,” Moises said. “The immigrants of past generations successfully assimilated into U.S. society and contributed to the culture and economy and have helped make this country great. The students got a glimpse of how they can make our country better through welcoming various cultures into the U.S. and sharing this message to others.”

    Camp Anytown takes place each summer. For information on the 2015 camp applications, watch for information on our website, social media pages or in next spring’s newsletters.

  • Hot topic: immigration

    Contributing author: Russ Florence, board chairman, OCCJ

    As a teenager, I spent summers working on a massive horse ranch in southern Oklahoma. It was hot, hard work – hauling hay, cleaning barn stalls, fixing fence. But it was often enjoyable, thanks to my amiable co-workers, Manuel, Juan and Miguel.

    They lived in a shack and worked in hundred-degree heat, six and a half days a week. But they never complained. They laughed and sang while they worked. They were full of joy. They were grateful to be in America, earning a paycheck to send to their families in Mexico.

    I have no idea whether they were legal residents. To me, it didn’t matter. They were here to make their lives better, and they didn’t harm anyone in doing so.

    Their reasons are a microcosm of what’s happening on the Southern Border and at Fort Sill. Thousands of people from Central and South America are flooding our borders, not only to seek a better life, but often to escape one that is life-threatening.

    Sadly, we live in a culture now that is divisive, where battles are drawn along political lines, and where ideologies outweigh our concern for others. We’re far too quick to judge.

    Much of society’s default is to say “no” to immigrants. But what if we flipped it? What if our reflex was to say “yes,” and then determine the best course of action?

    Recently the New York Times ran an extensive multi-media piece on immigrants who came to the U.S. and live along the I-35 corridor. Take a look and see how they answered the question, “What does it mean to be American?” Chances are, their answers were very much like Manuel’s, Juan’s and Miguel’s.

    It starts with dialogue and understanding. Last month, teen-agers at OCCJ’s Camp Anytown engaged in a lively but respectable discussion about immigration and all its complexities. We encourage you, your families and friends to do the same.

    Click here to view the New York Times piece:

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