OKC community center, founded by Ardmore native, finalist for nonprofit award
When the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits last month announced finalists for their annual statewide awards, Ardmore was directly represented in the award’s “community” category by the Southern Oklahoma Library System. As it turns out, a finalist in the award’s “education” category also has a direct connection to Ardmore.
Amy Young was still travelling from the Oklahoma City area back to her hometown almost weekly before the pandemic. Even now she keeps up with the community through friends and family but stays busy with her nonprofit organization SixTwelve in Oklahoma City.
The organization focuses on community education through arts and sustainability and during the pandemic has limited its scope to PreK classes and outdoor meetings. SixTwelve is also the realization of Young’s childhood dream to have a schoolhouse when she grew up.
And now it is among 21 finalists for the Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence Award by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. All organizations named finalists for the statewide award will receive at least $5,000. One winner in each of seven categories will receive $7,500 and an overall winner will receive $10,000.
SOLS was among three finalists in the “community” category while SixTwelve is among three finalists in the “education” category. Young was not surprised to learn her organization would be up against an Ardmore-based organization for the best nonprofit in Oklahoma.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all, there are so many wonderful things happening down there and it makes me proud, honestly, that other people are recognizing the goodness of Ardmore,” she said.
Young moved to Ardmore in 1972, grew up on Virginia Lane and was raised by two generations of educators. She was also heavily immersed in the arts and education culture in her youth.
“The things that I remember that really influenced what I’m doing now are things like voice lessons with Kay Gosdin and piano lessons with Mary Martin,” she said. Other experiences within Ardmore schools and local fixtures like The Goddard Center would plant the artistic seeds that would later see roots spread north.
She graduated from Ardmore High School in 1988 and studied architecture but eventually went back to the arts and followed in the family business of teaching. It was during her time teaching in public schools that she started to develop the concepts that would evolve into SixTwelve.
“Our programs are much smaller. We only take 10 kids top for the preschool because when I was teaching public school...I just kept a list of all the things I would do differently if I could have my own school,” she said on Wednesday, adding that classes of up to 40 students often limited the ability to effectively teach students.
“You can get some education in that way, but I knew that smaller numbers were one of those things I felt brought some magic,” she said.
Before the pandemic, SixTwelve also offered after school programs that stood apart thanks to a curriculum focused on arts and environment. A kitchen lab and garden still teach students where food comes from and how to prepare it. A virtual residency program for artists nationwide recently concluded with musicians collaborating on an album to raise funds.
The pandemic has left a mark on SixTwelve and Young said the prize money from the ONE Awards would help with salaries for instructors. After more than a decade leading SixTwelve and being named one of the top nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma, Young knows that OKC’s Paseo Arts District would look a little different without Ardmore.
“It really made a difference for me and I don’t think I would be doing any of the things that I’m doing now without those experiences that I had when I was younger,” she said.