Contact: State Rep. Pat Ownbey
Capitol: (405) 557-7326
OKLAHOMA CITY – When James Young from Ardmore read that the State Science Fair was being cut from the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s budget this year, he decided to do something about it.
The constituent from state Rep. Pat Ownbey’s district called his representative to find out where he could send a check to save the event, which is held annually at East Central University in Ada.
“I thought this was just not right,” said Young. “I happened to have enough money to help. I may not be able to fix everything, but I can fix one thing.”
Young said his check for $50,000 is already in the mail, earmarked for the State Science Fair.
“It is the generosity of spirit of individuals like Mr. Young that make Oklahoma such a great place to work and live,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “He saw a problem and instead of complaining, he decided he personally could do something to help. I am humbled by his kindness.”
Ownbey worked with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to find out where Young’s contribution could be sent and to ensure it would be used to hold the state’s science fair.
The department said that funding for the science fair was eliminated last year as part of $38.2 million in cuts to the Public School Activities Fund.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that over the past 10 years, growth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs was three times greater than non-STEM jobs, and that trend is expected to continue.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister praised Young for his generous contribution.
“It is now more important than ever to provide opportunities for students to establish strong foundations in STEM. In addition to equipping them to compete in the ever-changing job market, STEM skills promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are important in all aspects of life,” Hofmeister said. “We celebrate and are incredibly grateful for the support our schoolchildren receive from within the community, and Mr. Young is a tremendous example of what a difference it makes when parents and neighbors selflessly volunteer time and resources to support public education.”
Young said he earned a science degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and taught for a number of years before going back to school to earn his DDS. He practiced dentistry in Ardmore before retiring.
“Science fairs are just as important as athletics, music or art or anything else we do in school,” Young said. “There are a lot of kids involved in science fairs who don’’ get to participate in those other activities.”
Young said he worked with students in science fairs in the past and knows what this participation can mean for them. His oldest daughter participated in the International Science Fair in the 1980s, and he witnessed what that event meant to her. That led to his gift, he said.