Sapulpa job training program helping kids

Students getting “green thumbs” with job training program
Posted on 04/19/2019
(SPS) - Take a short drive down Route 66 headed west from Sapulpa.

You’ll pass the Turner Turnpike entrance, Webco Industries, and Creek County Speedway. Keep going. Just ahead are 141st Street and a sign announcing Denham Animal Clinic.

It’s here where you’ll exit the highway and take a single lane gravel road lined with pine trees to find “the happiest place on earth.”

“Every kid that comes out here loves it,” said Shawna Keizor.

Here is where Keizor, the job coach for Sapulpa High School, has been taking students for the past 15 years. The Denham Animal Clinic and farm has served as the location for the community job training program where students learn skills that can help them gain employment after graduation.

“They’re caring for livestock, watering, cleaning, putting out hay, feeding, horses, cattle, chickens, there’s llamas here, donkeys, all kinds of animals,” said Keizor.

On this day, she has five students with her - Richard, Kenneth, Dylan, Will, and Beau. From cleaning stalls to filling the feed troughs with hay, these boys are getting down and dirty.

“I think every kid should have an opportunity to work on a farm, it’s just good old foundation hard work and to see how hard work pays off.”

But a new responsibility sprouted onto their to-do list in late 2018. Maintaining a greenhouse. It’s a 10’ x 20’ structure that was built in Perkins, Oklahoma and brought out here to this “Garden of Eden” on a trailer just as it looks today.

Keizor and her students began raised-bed gardening two years ago and it was then that an idea for the greenhouse sprung to life.

“I was just thinking one day how neat it would be to have a greenhouse so that we could start the seeds ourselves, to transfer out into our raised beds and to even then sell them to the public.”

So Keizor went to work asking for donations from the community.

The Denhams, Dan and Nita, offered the land on their property and even paid to have electricity run to the greenhouse. The also gave plants, soil, coveralls, and gloves to the program. Stand Materials donated a 40-foot trailer full of pea gravel for the walkways. Dr. Sandy Carroll and Jim gave seeds and plants. Farmer’s Feed provided the compost barrel. The Sapulpa High School FFA built a compost tumbler. The Lowe's at Tulsa Hills Shopping Center donated soil, plants, seeds, fertilizer, and cell trays. Master gardeners gave seeds as well as pots and soil.

“It blows me away,” said Keizor of the support she’s received. “There’s just no words to describe watching all this fall into place. I knew it would deep in my heart when I, the idea first came to me, it’s just everything. Everything fell into place perfectly and in perfect timing to have what we have now. And it’s gonna get better and better and better.”

And what they have now is a fully-functioning greenhouse with plants, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and a sustainable source of funding to put back into the program to help her students.

“They’re learning about planting seeds and caring for that plant as it grows. And then they’re also involved in the sales, so they are delivering plants and collecting the money, so they’re involved in that money transaction,” said Keizor. “I call my group the Green Thumb Chieftains.”

Among the items the Green Thumb Chieftains are growing are hanging strawberry baskets, purple basil, sweet basil, multiple varieties of tomatoes, sunflowers, beans, peppers, and snapdragon flowers. And it’s not only this group doing the planting. Some of the items started out in Mrs. Lyons’ classroom at the High School where they worked with master gardeners to plant seeds and kept them under grow lights before bringing them to the greenhouse.

“They love it,” said Keizor. “For them to see, ‘oh my goodness, the seed that I planted is growing,’ that’s just a neat experience for them.”

The seeds aren’t the only thing that’s growing. Keizor said she’s noticed gains in her students’ independent skills and changes in their maturity throughout the process.

“Absolute confidence being built. And they feel like they’re really accomplishing something, and they really are. It’s a real job. So they can take these skills on to any other kind of employment they go into. The responsibility that they have out here is a big responsibility.”

If you’re interested in purchasing some fruits (or vegetables, plants, herbs) of the Green Thumb Chieftains’ labor, you can contact Shawna Keizor at [email protected] or 918-857-6038.

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