Here’s an Oklahoma Funder Committed to Rural Public Schools


The Oklahoma Community Foundation has quite a few affiliate foundations, and today we’re taking a look at one of them called the Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation (CWROC). This locally focused funder recently announced $81,038 in new grants to 24 public schools in rural Oklahoma. They’re part of the funder’s Classroom Enhancement Grant Program, and they’ll be used to give rural Oklahoma students more opportunities in science, literacy, humanities, and the arts.

So who was Carolyn Watson and what can prospective grantseekers expect from this foundation? 

Well despite her established commitment to rural schools, Watson was not a teacher, but rather a banker. She was the longtime chair and CEO of Shamrock Bancshares, but her banks were located in rural southern Oklahoma. She was born in Ada and graduated from East Central University, so she was deeply entrenched in this community and understood what the local needs here were.

Watson established this foundation in 1995 and a later a scholarship program in 2010 before her death in 2014. These are permanent endowment funds at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, and typically grantees include public schools (teaching enhancements for classrooms and public libraries (community literacy programs).

Over the last 20 years, CWROC has awarded over $800,000 in grants focused on improving life in rural Oklahoma. Just last year, the foundation’s trustees expanded the Classroom Enhancement and Community Grant Programs to expand the service area from seven counties to 20. The current counties considered by this funder are Adair, Atoka, Bryan, Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coal, Greer, Harmon, Haskell, Jackson, Johnston, Kiowa, Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain, Pushmataha, Sequoyah, Tillman, and Washita.

Classroom Enhancement Grants are offered for up to $5,000 to public school classrooms, grades pre-K through 12. Grants for student field trips, guest speakers or performers are strongly encouraged but must be integrated into the curriculum. A list of eligible school districts can be found on this program page.

Schools that won awards in the fall of 2016 include Atoka Elementary School, Bokoshe Public School, and Boone-Apache Elementary. Fortunately for future grantseekers, the grant application process has moved online and new deadlines will be announced in 2017.  

The other type of grants that this funder awards is Community Grants, which are awarded to nonprofits and entities of state and local government that serve populations of less than 6,000. Projects should focus on the areas of health, libraries/literacy, or arts/culture/history. These grants tend to be larger than the classroom grants, up to $10,000 for projects that serve one eligible community and up to $15,000 for projects that serve multiple communities.

The next deadline for this grant category is March 1, 2017, and Erika Warren is the best contact person to reach out to if you have questions. Past community grantees from 2016 include the 25th Judicial Drug Court, the Atoka County Library, and the Cherokee Heritage Center. Thirteen community grants totaling $105,700 were made in 2016.

You can learn about other charitable organization endowment funds that are part of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, including fund balances as of June 2016, on the community funder’s website.