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November 16, 2021

Partnership Spotlight: ONEOK

When it comes to Tulsa’s Partners in Education, there aren’t many that have been established as long as ONEOK and Burroughs Elementary. Dating back more than 20 years, the two first began working together through the Tulsa Regional Chamber, and now, the Foundation for Tulsa Schools. Since then, ONEOK has contributed to Burroughs Elementary continuously through their financial support and weekly volunteer presence in the school building. Over the years, the partnership has only grown stronger.

Michelle Thomas, Community Investments Coordinator, ONEOK, manages their Partners in Education program. She recently spoke with us about ONEOK’s purpose and strategy toward building an intentional relationship with the Burroughs Elementary community. 

“We work closely with Burroughs staff to understand the school’s priorities and student needs to be the best advocate possible,” Thomas explained. “We see our role as a partner in education as leveraging community resources and partnerships to help Burroughs students and teachers succeed.”


Through collaborations with community organizations like Reading Partners, ONEOK provides mentorship and tutoring to Burroughs students and volunteer opportunities to ONEOK employees so they can give their and share their talents. 

When asked how to describe the partnership between ONEOK and Burroughs, Principal Dee Tisdale shared (with a smile) that she “would have to say caring!”

When Reading Partners expanded to serve Burroughs Elementary in 2018, we quickly realized the impact ONEOK volunteers could have on our program and students. Since then, ONEOK has held presentations at the beginning of each school year to recruit volunteers and the number of ONEOK tutors has increased each year. Seven ONEOK employees, including Thomas, completed orientation for the first time this month and are training to become tutors. 

“Ultimately, the long-term goal is student success. Reading on grade level, especially by the end of the third grade, is vital to student progress and future success,” Thomas said.


In order to support Reading Partners with these long-term goals, employees like Kass M. commit to volunteering for a little over one hour every week through one-on-one individualized literacy instruction with a student at Burroughs who is falling behind in reading. We sat down with Kass recently to hear more about his experience as a volunteer tutor since first signing up in February 2020.

Reading Partners: How did knowing ONEOK and Reading Partners had formed a community partnership impact your decision to become a volunteer?

Kass M.: I first learned about ONEOK’s community partnership with Reading Partners while attending a company volunteer fair. That discovery served as a reminder of how I had benefited from a similar program while attending elementary school.

RP: What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had with a student?

KM: The most memorable moment was witnessing a student’s exuberance when they realized they were independently applying the tools and lessons they were provided.  

RP: Knowing what you know now about working with young readers (and your experience as a volunteer tutor), what advice would you give yourself on your first day of tutoring?


KM: I would remind myself to continuously work with the designated Reading Partners coordinators to ensure the lesson difficulty is appropriately calibrated for the respective student.

RP: What keeps you coming back to Reading Partners year after year?

KM: I admire Reading Partners’ overarching mission of helping children become lifelong readers and appreciate that Reading Partners respects my schedule enough to afford me a virtual/remote volunteering option.

RP: What excites you most about the opportunity to support students at Burroughs Elementary?

KM: I am most excited about Reading Partners’ sense of purpose and the strength of the network; I love the support and resources that the Burroughs’ Reading Partners team is providing to both volunteers and students.

Whether encouraging employees to get involved with Reading Partners or generously helping to fund our program at Burroughs, ONEOK shows us what it means to be a true community partner. We are grateful to ONEOK for investing in our program and supporting the work we do at their partner school, Burroughs Elementary.

If you would like to support Reading Partners with additional volunteer recruitment efforts, please contact Haley Biram, community engagement manager of recruitment, at or (918) 949-1979.



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