City Year and Partnerships – Completing the Puzzle
By Sharon Catalano, City Year Tulsa Development Director

Partnerships. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “an arrangement in which people engage in an activity or business with one another or share something with each other.” It is also noted as a collaboration or association between organizations. With non-profits, it is intended to make greater impact than any one organization alone could accomplish. When multiple organizations collaborate it may be for increasing exposure and credibility or saving money while continuing to provide first rate services. More often than not, those involved work together to improve and enhance the level of programs, services and the numbers of individuals to be reached.

City Year Tulsa is dependent on our partnerships throughout the Tulsa community. The impact is greater because of them. We partner with organizations such as Tulsa Public Schools, Reading Partners Tulsa, Growing Together, Communities in Schools, Talent Development, Oklahoma Community Services Commission and the YMCA, to help ensure that Tulsa’s students succeed. We all work hand in hand because we want to see Tulsa’s students not just survive and graduate high school, but thrive as well whether it’s in college, vocational careers, or in service to communities.

Our partnership with Tulsa Public Schools is critical for our AmeriCorps members to create goals for meeting with students one on one. Collaborating with teachers and administration provides the information and data necessary to enable us to work toward ensuring students graduate on time.

Kirk Wester, Executive Director of Growing Together, says “Partnerships are key to the work of the Growing Together philosophy. In fact, it seems evident that no one organization is going to be able to ‘get us over the finish line’ but a multitude of organizations, doing what they do effectively and that actively seek out ways in which their impact can be greater, through co-investing with others, might get us the closest we have ever been.”

Jessica Smith, Program Director with Reading Partners Tulsa, shares “Together organizations collaborate for maximum success. By fostering relationships with students, communicating closely with teachers, and team-building as AmeriCorps members so we can see the bigger picture, Reading Partners and City Year support each other by working together to move the needle for student growth.”

Regarding those organizations who foster partnerships, Wester adds “It’s those organizations that choose to fundamentally put their own organizational behavior on the table for discussion. To acknowledge and give credit to the whole, rather than the individual organization.” Some of Tulsa’s best non-profit partnerships work with that philosophy in mind.

Look at, for example, the Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW). With 58 partner agencies having different mission statements, serving different segments of the population, they all do so with one common goal. To provide the best services with dignity and respect to those in need, regardless of the person or circumstance, to help make the Tulsa Community a better place. This mindset works. Brent Ortolani, Vice President of Marketing with TAUW states, “The Tulsa Area United Way encourages agencies to combine resources to avoid duplication and provide the best services possible, serving the interests of our contributors and the people we serve.”

Among the TAUW’s partner agencies, collaborations have formed to continue to build a stronger community. Some of these successful collaborations include the Anti-Bullying Coalition, A Way Home for Tulsa, Impact! Tulsa and the Growing Together/City Year collaborative. “No one social service agency can address all the needs of any single individual or family”, adds Ortolani. “That’s why it’s so important for agencies to work together to provide a holistic approach to providing help for our friends and neighbors.”

“Together we collaborate for maximum success.” states Reading Partners’ Smith. “By fostering relationships with students, communicating closely with teachers, and team building as AmeriCorps members so we can see the bigger picture, Reading Partners and City Year support each other by working together to move the needle for student growth.”

Partnerships not only reinforce the groundwork laid by individual organizations, but become the supporting framework to ensure continued success for all involved. City Year Tulsa is proud of the partnerships we are aligned and engaged with. Tulsa is better because of them.

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