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September 13, 2012

Speaker: Invest in people to build success

Mayor’s prayer luncheon draws diverse group

— Investing in people was the theme Wednesday of a speech given during Mayor Bob Coburn’s second prayer luncheon that focused on students and educators.

The second installment of Coburn’s “unity in our community” initiative wasn’t as well attended as the first. Nevertheless, the event drew a diverse cross-section of residents, politicians, and religious and community leaders.

Connors State College President Tim Faltyn’s message was sandwiched between songs and prayers for students of all ages, educators of all stripes and the city as a whole. Drawing upon scripture and the writings of two presidents — Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — Faltyn advocated for the need to “invest in people.”

“This is a recipe for success, and we are blessed by God to have it,” Faltyn said. “If you invest in people now, then you will be rewarded in wonderful ways later.”

Faltyn, who was named president of Connors State College in April 2011, cited two examples about how such an investment can pay off. In one example, Faltyn said the college launched a program this summer that targeted students with single-digit ACT scores.

The program involved the pairing of 30 incoming students with peer mentors — someone who could understand “their language.” The students, 10 from each of the college’s three campuses, also were provided tutors who helped them with course work.

Of the 10 students selected from the Warner campus, Faltyn said seven advanced three levels in mathematics, two others were able to tackle college-level classes, and a third tested out of college algebra.

“When you invest in people and you get them to make a relationship and you show them there is a better way, great rewards will happen,” Faltyn said. “It’s about people. The more we concentrate on people — you don’t lose sight of people’s dignity, you never lose sight of people’s pride, and we never lose the sight of the things that motivate people — I don’t see how we can lose.”

Faltyn said the key is to create a “strategic minority” and bring people with ideas for a better Muskogee together to see how to pull those ideas together. At the conclusion of what at times sounded like a mini-revival, a choked-up Coburn said he was “excited and overwhelmed” by the apparent commitment of those in attendance to work toward a united Muskogee.

“I think our children are in pretty good shape — they are all prayed up at this time,” Coburn said, renewing his challenge for residents to step outside their comfort zone to establish new relationships. “We can make a difference in this city, and we will do it one relationship at  time.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot @muskogeephoenix.com.

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