In 2019, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation celebrated its 50th Anniversary. To commemorate this occasion, the Community Foundation decided to plant nearly 800 trees along the Oklahoma River.
The 3-mile stretch on the north side of the river between Portland and Western Avenue was what the Community Foundation’s Parks and Public Space Director, Brian Dougherty, referred to as “no man’s land.” The south side of the river already had plenty of trees, so the Community Foundation President Nancy Anthony decided that the Community Foundation should create a beautification impact along this stretch of land on the river’s north side.
A good deal of strategy and planning went into the project and the Community Foundation worked with utility companies to make sure the trees’ growth would not affect gas or power lines. The entire project was one of the Community Foundation’s most ambitious projects and it took nearly 6 months to get all of the trees planted.
Today, the trees are growing and any that were lost due to inclement weather have been replaced. This portion of the river trail is becoming more and more popular. What was once deemed as “no man’s land” is now enjoyed by bikers, runners, joggers and families from all over the metro.
“I have always wanted to serve others and originally thought that law school would give me that opportunity,” Riyanna Williams said. “But once the pandemic hit and I saw how my friends and family really needed help from the medical community, my heart started moving toward nursing, and I never looked back.”
The Tulsa Union graduate knew she would be paying for college herself, so she turned to the Community Foundation Scholarship Program for help. After changing her major to nursing and revising her account on the Community Foundation’s online application system, she discovered she was eligible for the Nurse Education Program, and the Laurene Ann Opdyke Nursing Scholarships. She applied and was awarded both.
An Oklahoma City Community Foundation Trustee initiative, the Nurse Education Program Scholarship was created in 2003 in an effort to address the need for qualified nursing staff in area hospitals. Since its inception, the Community Foundation’s impact on the field of nursing has grown with the help of generous donors who have supported and bolstered the initiative with additional scholarships.
In 2016, Richard Opdyke established the Laurene Ann Opdyke Nursing Scholarship in honor of his late wife’s work as a nurse and support students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing during their junior and senior years.
Through her work as a President’s Community Scholar and a George Henderson Scholar at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Riyanna has found a way to stay true to her dream of helping others while tackling the rigorous nursing program at the OU Health Sciences Center. She also has found time to reach the community away from school as a volunteer at a food pantry and the Infant Crisis Services Unity Clinic.
“This whole experience has helped me learn anything is possible,” Riyanna said. “It’s given me the strength and confidence to keep pushing for my goals and just go for what I want. You never know if you don’t try, and if you put in the work, you’ll find there is probably the perfect scholarship for you.”