The Operation Aware Story
Since 1979, Operation Aware of Oklahoma has equipped more than 500,000 young people in northeastern Oklahoma with resistance skills and prevention education so they can make positive choices and become healthy, strong adults.
The original Operation Aware program began in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1976. The curriculum was developed using trend and statistical data, causal factors, and sound medical facts. Teaching methods considered students ability to comprehend, discuss, internalize information, and accept responsibility for their choices and actions. Operation Aware's innovative approach presented health facts, consequences of high-risk behaviors, and strategies for positive decision making - - instead of the then-popular "scare tactics" that were ineffective.
Operation Aware of Oklahoma began as a one-man prevention effort when Gregg Conway, a young man transplanted from New York, recognized the need for drug prevention outreach in Tulsa. Conway traveled to Duluth in 1979 to receive the Operation Aware training. In collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, Operation Aware began in three classrooms serving 1200 students in the fall of 1979. Under the leadership of Jack H. Santee, Operation Aware's first Board Chairman, Operation Aware was incorporated and received designation as a 501(c)(3) organization in September 1980. The first public school program was conducted the next year at Walter Leeper Middle School in Claremore, and the first Tulsa public school program was offered at Grimes Elementary.
In its earliest days, the organization received Venture Grant funding for two years from the Tulsa Area United Way, and Operation Aware continues today as a proud member of both Tulsa Area United Way and Rogers County United Way in Claremore.
In 1985, First Lady Nancy Reagan visited Operation Aware students to spread the prevention message and helped establish the Endowment Fund to provide for long term sustainability of the program.
Field trips to local hospitals, detention centers and treatment facilities were incorporated into the 6th Grade curriculum. During these tours, students learned first hand about the consequences of using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. For many alumni, these remain some of the most memorable lessons of the Operation Aware curriculum. These partnerships continue today as a strong component of the program.
In the 1990's, Operation Aware began to serve the second generation of students in Tulsa Public Schools and surrounding districts. Operation Aware now serves young people in grades pre-kindergarten through high school. Operation Aware's highly trained Prevention Educators, including bi-lingual staff, present age-adapted 8-week programs in public, private and faith-based schools, in urban, rural and suburban settings. Operation Aware curriculums are also available for after-school programs and other forums. Although the venue is different, the strong and clear message of prevention and healthy decision-making remains the same.
While the original Operation Aware organization in Duluth is no longer active, Operation Aware of Oklahoma is a one-of-a-kind prevention and positive life skills program that has more than 25 years of proven effectiveness in reaching children and teens. It continues to serve as the comprehensive prevention education resource for the development of healthy strong young people in Tulsa and surrounding communities in northeastern Oklahoma.