Oklahoma Sen. Cal Hobson, Bank of Oklahoma President and Chief Executive Officer Stan Lybarger and the Choctaw Nation's Director of Education Joy Culbreath have all been named recipients of the first-ever "Champions for Student Success" award, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced Thursday.
The new award, which will be presented annually in December, is a way that the State Regents can honor members of the Oklahoma community who have demonstrated a high commitment to student success during the past year.
"Student preparation is a top priority for the State Regents, and this award recognizes those individuals who support the State Regents' ongoing efforts to encourage student success," Chancellor Hans Brisch said. "These three individuals routinely go above and beyond the call of duty as defined by their jobs or their role as volunteers to promote excellence in education throughout our state, and we are grateful for their work and their service."
Hobson has been a supporter of higher education and education at all levels throughout his 22 years in the state legislature. During his tenure as vice chair for the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1995-2002 and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education from 1992-2002, appropriations for Oklahoma's student financial aid programs increased by $13.2 million or 63 percent. He was instrumental in helping raise the family income limit to $50,000 for students eligible for the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), a program that awards free tuition to high school seniors who meet certain academic and behavior requirements.
Even while the budget crisis was hitting the state during the 2002 legislative session, Hobson ensured that necessary funding for OHLAP would continue. Through his efforts and leadership at the Capitol, state lawmakers increased appropriations for OHLAP by $2.8 million or 147 percent. Today, nearly 4,000 students have received OHLAP awards and thousands more will receive them in the future.
Lybarger has spent a majority of his personal and professional time on key education issues in Oklahoma that aid the State Regents' Brain Gain 2010 goals for increasing the number of college graduates in the state. As chairman of the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, he has brought the business community into an active role in K-16 education issues in Oklahoma.
An ardent advocate for rigorous K-12 academic preparation and collegiate success, Lybarger has led the state's involvement in specific research and programs to increase the rigor of Oklahoma education. As chairman of OBEC, he has stimulated partnerships between business and education to improve the state's data system capabilities in education, increase the alignment between curriculum and assessment in K-16 and to help make Oklahoma math preparation aligned with the "best in the world."
Culbreath oversees 10 education programs for the Choctaw Nation, working directly with students and their parents in southeast Oklahoma to help them achieve their education goals. She is an active partner with the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and, through her scholarship outreach assistance for OHLAP, has helped southeastern Oklahoma schools post some of the largest enrollment gains in the state.
During her decade of service to the Choctaw Nation, Culbreath has completed 10 Head Start programs, initiated a Choctaw language program and created a distance-learning program to teach the Choctaw language over the Internet. In addition, she helped expand the Choctaw Nation's tribal scholarship program from approximately 400 students five years ago to 2,400 students last year.
"We are so pleased to recognize Senator Hobson, Mr. Lybarger and Ms. Culbreath for their tireless efforts to improve education in Oklahoma," State Regents' Chairman Carl Renfro said. "The work that they perform day-in and day-out to help stimulate student success and to help make Oklahoma a state where education is a top priority is commendable. Through their actions, more students will realize their dreams of going to college and earning a degree."