, Muskogee, OK

October 10, 2012

AIM moves to assign ‘chores’

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Action in Muskogee’s fourth meeting focused on narrowing down goals and identifying leaders Tuesday evening.

The participants got back to work on the goals they identified in the previous meeting — coming up with specific actions that can be taken to meet them.

Additionally, “champions” were selected for each topic to ensure a leader will see to it the proposed actions are carried out.

“Our aim when we started this was to come out with a to-do list,” said Ann Ong, a steering committee member who led discussion on reducing the type 2 diabetes rate in Muskogee. “When we first started out we likened ourselves to a family who has post-it notes with chores written on them stuck everywhere and no one knows who is supposed to do what, so the chores don’t get done. We are posting a list and making assignments now so these goals, or ‘chores,’ can be completed.”

Many of the table discussions Tuesday centered on education. No matter the topic, all agreed education was the key to creating change in Muskogee.

Those discussing increasing the per capita income also discussed increasing the level of education attained in residents.

Despite having a multitude of educational assets in the area — three colleges, vocational school and more — the consensus was that it’s important to find a way to keep college graduates in the area.

Overlapping that idea, another table discussed attracting businesses that would provide higher-paying jobs — and that boiled down to keeping college graduates in town.

Nearly every table said education at the elementary school level is key to meeting the goals set.

Reducing gang activity and lowering violent crime looked to public school education for help, as well as increasing college degrees and community pride.

Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent Mike Garde said the district is more than willing to participate in improving the community.

“We know and understand our responsibilities for helping to build the next generation,” Garde said. “Hopefully, though, these things can be done in after-school programs.”

The district’s primary focus is academics and preparing students to compete in a global economy, said Peggy Jones, MPS director of curriculum and instruction.

Nonetheless, the district is willing to form “partnerships” with the community, she said.

“Oh, we will absolutely open our buildings for after-school programs in these areas,” Jones said.

Many assets were also identified, and participants strategized on how to make the most of those assets, too.

“Reducing the number of people who smoke, reducing type 2 diabetes and increasing physical activity are all things that can be done through existing programs, such as the Muskogee Wellness Initiative — who we are lucky to have,” said Martha Alford. “But we need to help those programs connect with the community, help them reach their goals.”

The next and final AIM meeting will bring all the topics of discussion closer together and specify goals to be worked on immediately.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or

If you go

WHAT: Action In Muskogee visioning process, final meeting.

WHEN: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23. A free, light dinner will be served at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Muskogee Civic Center.

INFO: (918) 682-7887 or

ETC.: The planning event is a project of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority to develop a community-inspired implementation plan with accountability to improve Muskogee.