Our empowering woman of the month is Alta Jesters-Price!
Each month we are collaborating with the talented Mike Aguilar Photography to show and feature our amazing boss girls in our community.
Alta is currently serving as the Director of Programs and Outreach for The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Each day she has the privilege of building strong community support and striving to meet the vast needs of the students and teachers within our city. The challenges are real; over 90% of the students in Oklahoma City Public Schools live in poverty, face food insecurities and struggle to have basic needs like warm winter coats. However, Alta knows that this does not have to define their futures. She works with many passionate educators and community leaders who are truly invested in making a difference in the lives of the students within Oklahoma City. She believes that every Oklahoma City student should have access to an excellent educational experience regardless of zip code and wants the future of our city to be bright. She knows this feat is possible; however, we it is imperative that we both individually and collectively realize that our students are our future, they are our city and they are our best investment.
Prior to joining the Foundation for OKCPS in 2016, Alta dedicated her 12-year career to higher education. In 2009, she received her Master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Oklahoma and soon after she became an Admissions Advisor and Recruiter for Oklahoma City Community College. In this role, Alta was able to engage with the Oklahoma City Public School district and other members of the community in an effort to increase educational opportunities for all. She later assumed the role of Learning Support Specialist at the college. This role allowed her to work closely with students and community partners from diverse backgrounds. It also provided her a chance to develop long term relationships with students and support them continuously throughout their degree attainment.
Alta was born in Texas to two parents – divorcing and co-parenting when Alta was young – who both struggled financially throughout her life. However, Alta’s mother was a first-generation college student who encouraged Alta to attend college and instilled in Alta a belief that education can and does change the trajectory of your life. Alta’s grandparents struggled with a variety of challenges because they were from different racial backgrounds. This resulted in Alta’s world view of not only accepting others, but advocating for others regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender identity and/or sexual preference.
When Alta was younger, she witnessed many things that most, regardless of age, should never see and she struggled with bullying into her adolescence. These experiences drove Alta to have a deep desire to improve her life through education. In college, Alta took advantage of leadership and scholarship opportunities. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Alta realized she wanted to “give back” in some way and she did so by choosing a career in education. She has spent her entire professional career trying to help students be more successful and promoting access to education. During her time in higher education, Alta had the opportunity to help low income, first-generation, and at-risk students recognize their abilities and encourage them to unlock their full potential.
Aside from her career, Alta is also involved in many organizations throughout the community. Most recently, she graduated from Leadership Oklahoma City’s LOYAL Class XII and the South Chamber’s Team South Class X. Both programs support civic engagement, foster leadership development and promote economic growth for Oklahoma City. Alta currently serves as a member of the All Access Arts Committee and is Co-Chair of the Communications Committee with the Art Partnership through the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. She is also a board member for the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy. At OCCC, Alta was a member of the President’s Leadership Council, a graduate of Leadership OCCC and served as a mentor through the Students Connecting with Mentors for Success program. She was also part of the Foster Care Alumni Committee, a committee that focuses on increasing the number of foster care students who attend college. She has a variety of other service focused involvement and achievements throughout her career and as a college student.
Alta’s personal philosophy is “serving others takes care, connection, and commitment.” She not only believe this, she tries to live by this philosophy and is doing so because she believes it is making a difference. Without a doubt Alta is not only an empowering woman, she is someone we want and need in our community to help and lead the next generation of children to their fullest potential.
There is no doubt that our education system here in Oklahoma is struggling, but Alta believes we can have a lasting impact and advance excellence through education if we work together. She challenges everyone to get involved. You can help through time, talent or treasure. Visit The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public School’s website at www.okckids.com to learn more about the strategic focus areas and ways you can help support the classrooms and students within Oklahoma City. There is no better time than now to make a difference in our community through meeting the needs within our schools.
Getting to know Alta!
- What do you consider your highest leadership responsibility to date?
My greatest responsibility as a leader and as an educator has been to attempt to make a difference in the lives of the students I serve. Education changes lives, it promotes improvement in society, and it engages the mind. Because of this, I believe this work is too important not to give it 100% of my effort and energy. The students I work with; their needs are so great. Many of them never had anyone tell them they could be anything or that they would accomplish anything. They have never heard the words “you are smart” or “you are going to do amazing things in your lifetime.” This devastates me. I take ownership in trying to be a positive force of encouragement and motivation in their lives. I try to build up their self-esteem and help them realize their true passions in life. I have learned that once these students believe in themselves, they are some of the most resilient, strongest, and most determined of all students. Some of them turn into the most inspirational and motivational leaders. They know what it means to struggle and to fight against the barriers to education. This makes them better human beings and more deliberate learners. I have learned that spending your days trying to make a difference and promoting the success of others is not a job, it is a calling. A calling to give back. A calling to be a force of change.
- What else would you like us to know about you?
A few years ago, I realized that I had been so dedicated to the students I had the privilege of working with, that I had been oblivious to opportunities to impact change on a larger scale. Due to this, I started searching for significant and deliberate ways to serve this community. Through my work here at The Foundation for OKCPS and my involvement in this amazing city, I believe I have found what I was looking for and encourage others to do the same! One person can make a difference and result in remarkable outcomes! However, together we can do more. Our city is filled with outstanding individuals and community partners who are committed to making a difference.
- What are your responsibilities as the Director of the Programs and Outreach for The Foundation for OKCPS?
Our mission is to advance excellence, create champions and build strong community support for lasting change in Oklahoma City Public Schools. I have the joy of supporting our mission through overseeing most of our programs and work daily to building strong community partnerships. I try to be an ambassador of our organization by building relationships and providing excellent customer service to all our stakeholders. One of the greatest joys I get to experience, is to connect community partners with our schools. Seeing community members interact with our students and witness the greatness within our schools continues to inspire me daily. Our programs not only meet basic needs, they also change the lives of the people connected to them. Our Bilingual Teacher Pipeline program is helping current OKCPS staff members become certified teachers. Our Urban Teacher Preparation Academy is preparing early career teachers to be successful in an urban classroom setting. Through focus and alignment, we are changing the trajectory of the lives of our students and championing change within our entire community. I could say all of these things are part of my responsibilities – which would be true. But they are so much more than that; they are my purpose and passion in life.
- What are your biggest challenges in this position?
One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to meet the vast needs of our schools and our students. Since OKCPS is the largest school district in the state and one of the poorest, everyday our kids are faced with extreme challenges. They also experience trauma at a higher level than most. The struggle of living in poverty has a major impact on a child’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Our greatest challenge is to strive to find ways to not let this impact their educational outcomes. We know we have to work to meet all their needs – even the most basic needs – if we want our students to achieve greatness. We also know we can’t do this alone, so we seek to be an advocacy for these students. Overcoming these challenges is possible, but not without the help of our entire community.
- Where can those that want to learn more about helping and giving to Oklahoma City Public Schools?
There are so many ways people can learn more and get involved. Individuals, companies and organizations can visit our website at http://okckids.com/ to learn more about all the ways to get engaged with our organization and our schools. Right now one of our greatest needs is for warm winter coats for students who would otherwise go without. Thousands of students are in need before the temperatures drop! We encourage everyone to learn more and support our Coat-A-Kid program http://okckids.com/coatakid. Through our Partners in Action initiative, we encourage community partners to connect and engage directly with our schools. We also support OKCPS teachers through funding individual projects through DonorsChoose.org. One of the most strategic and impactful ways a community partner can get involve is by becoming a Foundation Partner. Our Foundation Partners help financially support all of our focus areas and programs that directly impact the greatest needs within Oklahoma City Public Schools.