Positively OC goal is doing good beyond campus

What started off as a way to spread positive messages and a plug to follow Odessa College President Gregory Williams on Twitter has turned into a scholarship that has a life of its own.

OC launched the Positively OC Presidential Scholarship in 2022. Ten Positively OC Scholars received a two-year scholarship for tuition and fees.

Tim Clark, a professor in the Communication department at OC, said students must be full-time students and have a 2.5 GPA.

Students go through an application process and a board looks over the applications and gives recommendations for students they think are eligible, Clark said.

They only need 530 more followers for Williams and they can afford to raise the number of scholars to 20.

“We’ve had a rolling list of 10 students that have been receiving the scholarship. We are the Positively OC Presidential Scholars, so we have been tasked with spreading as much positivity as possible. We have done that in a multitude of ways over the last year and a half.

For a recent interview, Clark was joined by Stephanie Franco, America Marquez, Jessica Fierro and Joana Haruna.

Stephanie Franco listens as fellow Positively OC scholars talk about their experience. (Photos courtesy of Reagan Paquette)

Reagan Paquette, director of Instructional Quality in the educator preparation program at OC, also was on hand.

Franco has already graduated from OC in culinary arts, but in the spring she’ll commence with associate degrees in business entrepreneurship and business leadership and management. Franco plans to also earn a bachelor’s degree.

Marquez is pursuing nursing credentials; Fierro wants to become a teacher; and Haruna is majoring in radiologic technology.

The scholars have donated basic life supplies to the homeless, bought puzzles and games to donate to the local retirement homes; and also delivered bags of goodies.

Franco organized a Positivi-tea where tea was handed out to everyone along with OC swag. She also gave students encouraging notes.

“I got to know a couple of them, especially some from the local high schools. … It was very interesting to hear their stories and get to know them because I’m not always on campus. I like putting a face to the voice or to the name, so that was a really cool event to do just to kind of get to meet people one-on-one, talk to them and let them know keep working hard and good things happen,” Franco said.

Haruna said positivity means spreading joy, spreading kindness and being good to people.

“The way I communicate with you could be in a positive way or in a negative way and just our energy in general determines” what’s on the inside, Haruna said.

If you are a not a good person on the inside, she said, it will show on the outside.

“… When it comes to helping others, some people need to help a lot before they can be influenced to help others …,” Haruna said.

Clark said OC does Twitter chats every Thursday as an institution.

“We love it, but we want to use it as a powerful tool, so every Thursday night, Odessa College does a Twitter chat and they’ll post four questions,” Clark said.

Faculty and staff gets involved, but they also want student feedback.

“One of the things that I will challenge you all to do is to get as many students to participate … as often as often as possible. But so many people have Twitter that they use for their friends and their family and things like that and they don’t really want to cross paths,” Clark said.

He encourages them to create another account.

“… There’s very few things that you would ever be able to post something online and have the president of your institution see it, like it and respond to it. … It helps you get to know your instructors a little bit more,” Clark added.

Growing up, Fierro said she wasn’t really surrounded with that much positivity. But spreading good feelings can make someone’s day.

“… One can never know what one’s going through. Even if just this is just a small gesture, like opening the door for someone or letting someone change lanes …,” Fierro said.

Clark said the scholarships are $1,500 for each long semester, so it’s a total of $6,000, which should cover your whole degree. If it’s more expensive, for example nursing, they will help students find the funds.

The group meets every other Tuesday night.

The students said they would keep the momentum going even after they have graduated from OC.

Haruna said it’s not just about school. It’s leaving a positive imprint wherever you go.

“… Even when I graduate, it’s still going to be the same no matter what,” she added.

Franco said she wants to continue to give back to the community. This past year, she participated in Feast of Sharing and a couple of things with the West Texas Food Bank.

“… These are things I did on my own as a mom. Those are efforts that I want to pass on to my children … I want them to know it’s important to always give back and not always be on the receiving end. … When I did Feast of Sharing, one of my daughters got to go with me and help me, too. That in itself was just a great … to do something like that with her. It’s something we set out to accomplish together and we got to do it together,” Franco said.

Fierro said she wants to keep spreading positivity even later on in life. She wants to spread good feeling to young people so they can “learn a way to live life in a better way, in a better mindset.”

Clark said she tries to leave things better than he found them.

He noted that the majority of students in Positively OC are also members of Phi Theta Kappa and the National Society of Leadership and Success.

“We want to have just as much affect on the community as we do directly here on campus. We think that everything we do here on campus will spread to the community. That’s ultimately the goal,” Clark said.