Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder awards classroom enhancement grants and community grants in 20 counties in rural Oklahoma. It also has a scholarship fund for local high school seniors.

FUNDING AREAS: Rural Oklahoma public classrooms, arts and humanities, science, literacy, community, scholarships

IP TAKE: CWROCF grants aren’t huge, but they’re highly focused. If you’re in one of its 20 Oklahoma counties of interest, consider pitching a request for an arts, culture, or humanities program. These have been big priorities lately. 

PROFILE: The Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation was established in 1995 and has  permanent endowment funds at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Carolyn Watson was the longtime CEO and chair of Shamrock Bancshares and had banks in rural southern Oklahoma. She was born in Ada, Oklahoma, and graduated from East Central University. During her lifetime, she was deeply involved in this community and aimed to understand what the local needs here were. Her goal was to improve the lives of people in rural southern Oklahoma where her banks were located.

This foundation regularly awards grants for teaching enhancements for classrooms, community literacy programs at public libraries, and scholarships. It has awarded over $800,000 to these types of causes and through two grant programs. Today the classroom enhancement grants serve 20 rural counties in Oklahoma: Adair, Atoka, Bryan, Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coal, Greer, Harmon, Haskell, Jackson, Johnston, Kiowa, Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain, Pushmataha, Sequoyah, Tillman, and Washita. The foundation looks to the National Center for Education Statistics’ rural codes to help determine grantee eligibility.

Classroom enhancement grants up to $5,000 are awarded to K-12 public school classrooms. CWROCF sticks to three subjects for its enhancement projects: arts and humanities, science, and literacy. A list of eligible school districts can be found on the Classroom Enhancement Grants page. A list of past grantees can also be viewed here. In the past, these grant applications have been due in mid-September. In a recent year, CWROCF awarded $81,039 in grants to 24 public schools in rural Oklahoma.

In addition to classroom enhancement grants, this foundation also awards community grants. Areas of interest for community grants are arts/culture/history, health, and libraries/literacy. Communities of less than 6,000 people in the 20 counties listed above may pursue these grants. CWROCF awards grants of up to $10,000 for projects serving one of these counties and up to $15,000 for projects serving more than one of them. In the past, the deadline for community grants has fallen on the first of March. In a recent year, the funder awarded $105,700 in community grants to 13 organizations.

Also, the Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship was established in 2010. This award gives up to $10,000 per academic year to high school seniors who cannot afford to go to college. The geographic region of consideration is broader with scholarships than with grants, with students in 62 counties considered for scholarships if they have a GPA of at least 3.25 and demonstrate financial need. These scholarships can be renewed for up to four years as long as a 3.0 GPA is maintained.

Interested grantseekers in rural Oklahoma should email Erika Warren at e.warren@occf.org to get access to the online grant application. Then the application is completed online. General questions can be directed to the foundation at info@ruraloklahoma.org. CWROCF is an affiliate foundation of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and they share a president. 

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