Metro Artist, Teacher Receive USAO Alumni Awards
CHICKASHA – Two graduates from the University of Science and Arts have been chosen to receive this year’s Young Alumni Awards at the annual USAO Alumni Homecoming. Metro artist Paul Mays and language arts innovator Amy Brooks Ingram were honored during an annual luncheon Nov. 2 as part of the alumni reunion.
Oklahoma City-based artist Paul Mays, a 2002 USAO graduate, is making an artistic impact across the state. Though he currently provides graphic design for the Oklahoma Gazette, Mays has exhibited his original artwork at multiple art shows throughout the state, earning him a reputation as one of Oklahoma’s up-and-coming local artists.
“Paul is one of the most creative artists I have ever known,” said Jackie Knapp, assistant art professor. Knapp, a 1987 USAO alumna, nominated Mays for the Young Alumni Award.
Upon completion of his bachelor of fine arts degree, Mays was named outstanding graduate in the arts and humanities division. With experience in graphic design, printmaking, photography and other media, Mays set out as a professional artist.
After graduation, Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby put Mays to work as a graphic designer for advertising, packaging, photography, illustration and more. The Oklahoma Gazette, a weekly fine arts publication, recently hired Mays as a graphic designer.
Outside the office, Mays continues work as an independent artist, with works appearing in multiple metro art exhibitions.
At the Individual Artists of Oklahoma (IAO) Gallery in Oklahoma City, Mays recently received the Jurors Award for the EdgeArtNow Show. His works also have been included in the Paseo Arts Festival, World’s Fair Gallery in Tulsa, Momentum-Tulsa and Momentum-OKC, as well as the Oklahoma Centerfold Show in Lawton.
Most recently, Mays earned an honorable mention and purchase award at the Seven-State Biennial Art Exhibition, a collaboration between the USAO Art Gallery and Lawton’s Leslie Powell Gallery. The exhibit remains on display in the USAO Art Gallery through Dec. 7.
In his free time, Mays volunteers for several metro organizations, such as the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, IAO, the Paseo Neighborhood Association and the Dead Center Film Festival.
Mays credits much of his success to his experiences at USAO.
“It was here that I sparked invaluable friendships, developed a deeper understanding of myself and fell in love with Trinity, my wife,” Mays said. “The atmosphere of the campus encouraged me out of my shell, to look at the world around me, and it instilled in me the value of thinking for myself and making informed decisions.”
According to Knapp, getting “outside of his shell” is an understatement for Mays.
“The term ‘outside the box’ truly describes Paul, the way he thinks, the way he lives and the way he produces art,” Knapp said. “Paul will undoubtedly continue to provide USAO and the art department that ‘go-to guy,’ whom we will point out to other students and say, ‘that’s the way it should be done.’”
Amy Brooks Ingram graduated from USAO in 1997 with honors. Over the past 10 years, she has transformed middle school language arts curriculum, leading to her award-winning role as the leading language arts department teacher and co-founder of the Reach College Preparatory School in northeast Oklahoma City.
An elementary education honors graduate, Ingram began teaching at middle schools in Oklahoma City, where she received the Millwood Middle School Teacher of the Year Student Choice Award in 2001.
The following year, she was offered the opportunity to help found an innovative inner-city charter school. Originally a small staff of four, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Reach College Preparatory School has been teaching scores of inner-city metro children, earning several distinctions along the way.
The KIPP Reach College Preparatory School serves middle school students who often enter the school with test scores several grade levels behind in reading and math. Nearly 90 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches, and 100 percent are minority. At KIPP, students are challenged to leave cultural excuses behind and strive for high goals in preparation for challenging careers. School hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with twice-monthly Saturday classes.
Ingram received a fellowship for the KIPP Leader in Training program, and she graduated with a master of education degree in education administration and curriculum from National-Louis University in Chicago, Ill.
As the lead teacher for the school’s language arts department and the assistant principal, Ingram wears many hats. She teaches reading and writing for fifth, sixth and eight graders, and has taught science and social studies.
Ingram was nominated for the Young Alumni Award by Dr. Jeanne Mather, professor of education.
“The number of children’s lives she has already helped is amazing,” Mather said. “She has given hope, knowledge and drive to so many children, particularly inner-city children.”
Each year, Ingram’s students have posted test scores in the top 10 percent of the Oklahoma City Public School district. Last year, her eighth grade class was the highest performing in the state.
In 2006, Ingram received the Excellent Educator Award from the Oklahoma City Public School Foundation. Besides receiving other awards, such as the national Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004 and a commendation from the governor of Oklahoma, Brooks was featured in the May 5, 2003 edition of People magazine.
Ingram and her inner-city students also were televised in a documentary as they successfully trapped and tagged native wild prairie chickens for further research for the Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife Service.
She has received training in utilizing informal science institutions as classrooms with the Bronx Zoo in New York, the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and the National Conservation Society in New York. She also has formed a lasting partnership with the Oklahoma City Zoo as a classroom for her students.
In the midst of her success, Ingram said she still remembers the influence her USAO education has had on her career.
“During my reading practicum experience [at USAO], I was assigned to a precious second grader who could barely write her name and was so shy she barely spoke,” Ingram said. “After working with her for a few months and witnessing her progress, I knew I wanted to work with underserved students.”