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High school students sitting as desks in a classroom.
Participants in the Brighter Future program are learning skills that will help them on the road to higher education and other post-high school career opportunities. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agriculture)

Brighter Future program prepares students for life after high school

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Sr. Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

There can be speed bumps on the road to higher education, but a program offered through Oklahoma State University and OSU Extension is helping make that road smoother.

The Brighter Future program connects freshmen through senior high school students with tools to navigate the college enrollment process or other post-high school career opportunities and succeed in life.

Steve Beck, Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development state program leader, said Brighter Future is a college and career readiness program that teaches youth valuable life lessons.

“Piloting this program through OSU Extension and 4-H is simply building on what 4-H has done so well for years — preparing youth for the future,” he said. “We’re not only working with the youth, but we’re building a relationship with families, too. College is a big step. Through Brighter Future, we’re going to help prepare students for the journey. Students who complete the four-year program have pre-admittance to OSU.”

Beck said the program is also beneficial to students who choose to enter the workforce or pursue other educational opportunities following high school graduation.

Pittsburg County 4-H is currently piloting Brighter Future, where 4-H educator Greg Owen launched the program in 2022 with freshmen at Savanna Public Schools. The opportunity expanded to Savanna sophomores for the 2023-24 school year, and he also works with Brighter Future participants at Crowder Public Schools and Canadian Public Schools.

“Our goal is to better prepare students for career exploration. We’d love for them to come to OSU, but most importantly we’re preparing them for life after high school,” Owen said.

Year one of the program taught students to set goals and develop public speaking skills. The second year focuses on time management. Year three will provide valuable information regarding post-secondary tasks such as preparing a resume, filling out job applications and practicing interview skills, as well as reading and note-taking. The final year of Brighter Future will cover the college application process, scholarships, financial aid and money management.

“Everyone participating in this pilot program is gaining great information they can apply after high school, even if they don’t take part in some sort of higher education,” Owen said. “They’re learning valuable skills needed for success.”

Owen also introduces Brighter Future students to the importance of service learning and encourages them to develop a project that gives back to their communities.

“Civic engagement has always been a big part of 4-H and is a good way to get all youth involved in their communities,” he said. “The skills they learn through civic engagement apply to all areas of life.”

Doug Hallenbeck, OSU vice president of student affairs, said Brighter Future promotes the university’s land-grand mission because of OSU Extension’s presence in all 77 counties.

“Brighter Future is a way to have a conversation with students and families early on about what it takes to be a college student,” he said. “We want to reach these families early in high school and provide them with the tools and information they need to make informed choices about life after high school. This program helps students instill the belief and faith that college is something they can do.”

Crowder High School sophomore Solar Starr said participating in Brighter Future has helped her decide to pursue a career as a radiology technician.

“Some of the most important things I’ve learned from Greg (Owen) through Brighter Future are the skills he teaches such as time management, study skills and citizenship,” said Starr, a member of the Crowder 4-H Club. “Brighter Future has taught me better ways to set my goals for my career, how to better communicate with others and so much more.”

Natalie Hollingshead is a sophomore at Savanna High School and completing her second year in the Brighter Future program.

“I’ve always planned to go to college, but Brighter Future has given me a better idea of college and prepared me better,” she said. “Time management has been a big takeaway for me. I’ve always tried to load too much in one week. The skills I’ve learned have helped me lessen the load so I can perform better.”

Beck said 4-H Youth Development is a longtime promoter of workforce development in Oklahoma.

“Leveraging the network that is OSU Extension with a program like Brighter Future will help build a network for this up-and-coming generation to be the best they can be,” he said.

The state 4-H office is developing a new position that will coordinate the Brighter Future program on a state level. For more information, contact Beck at

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