Southeast Oklahoma City principal shares family determination with students

Hundreds of students throughout Oklahoma City Public Schools are giving up days of their fall break to go back to school for extra instruction. One principal said this strong focus on education can help lift these vulnerable children out of poverty.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: October 17, 2012

Ycedra Daughty was an at-risk kid.

She was born to a teen mom. Her father didn't stay around, and her stepdad was a junior high dropout. Nobody went to college, and she went to schools during the days of segregation.

The chance of her finishing high school — let alone college — was slim.

“I should have been a statistic,” Daughty said.

But she wasn't. She finished school, and now she has one of her own.

She's the principal of Oakridge Elementary, a small school tucked away in a southeast Oklahoma City neighborhood.

All of the students in her school live at or near the poverty line, according to school district statistics.

She can empathize, but she also knows the escape route.

“The way they get out is education,” Daughty said.

Parents taught determination

Daughty's mother was 16 when she gave birth.

“Back then you were such a disgrace to everybody,” Daughty said. “She had to drop out of school for a whole year because they wouldn't let (pregnant) kids go to school back then.”

Daughty's mother went back, earned her high school diploma as a young mom and got a job at Sears. She later met and married Daughty's stepfather, who dropped out of school in eighth grade to pick cotton to help his family.

When he came home from World War II, he got a job at Tinker Air Force Base. He watched year after year as his colleagues — some of whom he trained — were promoted ahead of him. The only difference between him and the other men: they had high school diplomas.

“Part of his life, he was bitter,” Daughty said.

But he turned that bitterness into determination for himself and his children.

Daughty, 60, attended segregated schools until she went to junior high, where she saw white classmates receive higher scores for the same work.

She was called the n-word nearly every day, she said.

She was one of 17 black students in her class when she started junior high. Only four of them graduated high school, she said.

“A lot of it was having to have a determination every day you were going to go to school,” said Daughty, who grew up in Shawnee. “It was hard. Still lots of hate and bigotry was going on. ...

“But I had determination. I knew who I was. I had a good Christian background. I had parents who said, ‘You can do it.'”

The message made a difference. Daughty and her four siblings all graduated from college.

“Education is the one equalizer in America,” Daughty said.

Staff helps students catch up

Teachers at Oakridge Elementary worked with small groups of students this week to help improve reading and math skills, even though the rest of the school was off for fall break.

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