In a few days, parents throughout Mustang will be experiencing the dual feelings of pride and nostalgia as their children pass through one door and head on to new challenges.
This year, I’ll be one of them. And, as we celebrate our son’s high school graduation, it’s a time to not only reflect on his accomplishments, but also on the blessing this school district, this community, has been in our lives.
Part of that blessing has been how our family has been able to interact with people – from city officials and staff members to business people, school district representatives, residents, even politicians. This has not just been as parent and student, but through the honor of presenting the stories of them all. And, it’s something Travis has had the benefit of, as well.
In August, I will celebrate 10 years as a journalist in Canadian County. That’s more than half of Travis’ life. As much as it has been more than a job, a career or a way to make a living, it’s become a way of life, a way to not just report on things, but also a chance to showcase the best of Mustang, Canadian County and more. It’s the people and organizations that make our community special, the way so many of those among us try to make this a better place, how they illustrate every day the kind of people I hope my son will continue to be.
That’s how a job has been so much more. Through the years, as he has grown, so too has Travis’ view of the world, and he has had a unique opportunity to learn about things even many adults don’t know about – things like city council, what county commissioners do, how organizations like the Mustang Historical Society, American Legion, Masons, Youth and Family Services (just to name a very few) do so much for so many. He has been able to take part in helping children find Easter eggs, taught people about the living history of Fort Reno, helped fry a giant burger. And, that’s just the surface.
Because, more important than anything are the people he has gotten to know, individuals he might never have even met under other circumstances. They are leaders like Jay Adams, Chuck Foley, Brian Grider, Kathleen Moon-Staples and Jeff Landrith; they are educators and advocates like Sean McDaniel, Paul Ray and Bob Hughey; they are living inspirations like Al Benson, the Cook family, Dan Cromwell, Dolly Husmann. I wish I could name them all, but there are too many – and, in a world where negativity seems to be so prevalent, that is saying a lot. The best of our extended community is a large and varied tapestry. They are the best of who were are, people who show him every day what people can achieve when they try, what true dedication is and how great a community can be when we all work together.
So, as we ready for these few hours that will mean the transition of one phase of his life to another, I thank those who have made a difference for Travis, both his past and future. And, I thank too the owners and staff of the Times, those who have made it possible for me to continue in this role, who show every day that they are committed not just to running a profitable business or reporting the news, but to being a part of what makes our community great.
The future is bright – not only for our graduates, but for all of us because we truly are blessed to be a part of the world that is Mustang, Oklahoma.
We are two communities, but we are neighbors, friends, coworkers – and one of us is hurting.
News broke recently that the city of Yukon is in the midst of a terrible budget crisis. While some details are still unknown, what is known is that funds allocated to bond issues were allegedly used for general spending, something that is not only unethical, but also illegal, in the world of municipal finance – if reports are accurate.
Former City Manager Grayson Bottom is gone, and former longtime leader Jim Crosby returned to his post at the helm of Yukon operations. Crosby’s experience and knowledge not just of municipalities, but of Yukon in particular, make him the perfect choice to weather the storm as its city manager.
But, he has his work cut out for him.
Already, city officials have announced they have scrapped plans for a new municipal complex and have put the property it was slated for on the market. They are also working to find ways to cut budgets without slashing services or employees, although it appears that might not be possible with the latter.
So, why does that matter in Mustang?
Well, on the surface, I guess it doesn’t. Despite the economic challenges facing not just Yukon, but many other cities and the state as a whole, Mustang appears to be on solid footing. City officials – council and staff alike – have taken a conservative approach to the numbers and while municipal employees might not be getting a merit pay increase this year, that’s been a rare occasion through the years for them. And, let’s face it – lots of employees in the public sector don’t get regular raises, merit or cost of living, so the fact Mustang’s staff have been able to do so is a real benefit many people haven’t seen.
But, back to Yukon. Yes, Yukon’s plight should matter to all of us. Not because Mustang could have the same problem, but because these are people we know – neighbors, friends, coworkers, your children’s friends. They are living, sometimes literally across the street because of municipal borders, in a city that could see darker times ahead before it pulls back into the light.
Because of the size of Mustang School District, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of families who have children attending schools here do not live in Mustang proper, but rather in Yukon or Oklahoma City. Even many people who have a Mustang mailing address, technically live in Oklahoma City, a municipality that – at least in our family’s experience – basically ignores us. We are from Mustang; we love Mustang; but we also are a part of something bigger. Maybe it’s Canadian County, maybe it’s more.
What we can do, and perhaps it’s a small thing, is to help support Yukon. I don’t mean to stop shopping in Mustang and take your dollars to Yukon. That would hurt our own city. But, if there’s something you’re purchasing that can’t be found in Mustang, consider heading to Yukon and not to Oklahoma City or somewhere else – at least for now. I can guarantee Yukon officials are thankful for every penny of sales tax they see.
I know every year there’s a giant rivalry over a high school football game. In my opinion, that is blown up for the most part by people not even involved in the game, and certainly not district administration. In talking to them and in experiencing the interaction between Mustang and Yukon in activities like drama, band and more, it is clear there is a strong friendship and true kinship between our two communities. Now’s the time we show those friends we care.
Over the weekend, close to 1,100 Mustang students showed their musical chops in concerts showcasing bands from the district’s two intermediate and middle schools, as well as Mustang High School. They performed in a stifling hot gymnasium, demonstrating a professionalism and talent beyond their years.
Many of these students illustrate the best of Mustang youth, working long hours both at school and on their own time with practice, lessons and more. Their parents do their part with some pretty significant investments in band instruments, fees, individual musical sessions and a myriad of other expenses big and small. Most importantly there is the is time – hours dedicated by the students, in the blazing sun and in freezing wind, early in the morning before it’s even light, late bus rides arriving home after midnight.
For the parents, it’s time away from their children, sometimes long stretches, changing schedules at the last minute, sacrificing vacations other students and their families take for granted.
To a great extent, much of this is done without complaint. For all, it’s an investment – some as a great experience for children as they grow up; for others, it’s a path to a vocation, perhaps a way of life. They love what they are doing, and they idealize their directors, men and women who put as much of themselves into the Mustang band program and its members as their students do.
They are led by Ryan Edgmon, a man who came to Mustang and followed in the wake of an extremely popular band director. Edgmon has made the program its own, brought in friends and colleagues to expand and improve a program many thought couldn’t go any higher.
They were wrong.
Not only has Mustang’s band program exploded in interest and participation – with next year’s projections topping, perhaps by a lot, the roughly 1,100 currently in the program – it’s managed a 90 percent retention rate. That means students entering the program in 6th grade invest six years of their lives to it. That’s a big deal.
Then, there are the accolades and achievements.
In the last three years, Mustang’s marching and concert bands have achieved a lot of “first time in school history” kind of things. From better and better competition placements to taking part in far-flung opportunities in places like Indianapolis and St. Louis, Mustang students are moving far beyond their own classrooms, auditorium and football field – and people are noticing.
That is due in great part to the students themselves, but there is not understating the contribution by this group of directors, people who give up their days off and vacation time, just as their young charges do. They work with the kids one-on-one and deal with hundreds at a time, giving many of them a love of music and a sense of family they will carry with them throughout their lives.
While it seems very obvious by the interaction between mentor and student, all of us – as the Mustang community, whether we love or know a band student or not – should thank these talented people, teachers and directors who have made a difference for which I’m not sure there are adequate thanks.
But, for what it’s worth thank you, Ryan Edgmon; and, thank you, Dustin Jussila, Greg Mangus, Jacob Hofer, Belinda Watson, Chris Ozinga, Gina Thompson, Colton Hines, Daniel Adkisson, Danielle Hopkins and Annette Nashire. You’ve made our school district, our community and our kids better.