Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation

Oklahoma Landscape

Improving the Quality of Life in Rural Oklahoma

Carolyn Watson was a woman of action and understood the value of blessing others with the gifts she was given. The longtime chair and CEO of Shamrock Bancshares wanted to improve the quality of life for the residents living in the rural southern Oklahoma communities where her banks are located.

Born in Ada, Oklahoma, and a graduate of East Central University, Carolyn knew well where the needs and opportunities existed. In 1995, she established the Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation and in 2010, the Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship.

Through these permanent endowment funds at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, she has provided teaching enhancements for classrooms, community literacy programs at public libraries and scholarships for students in designated rural Oklahoma communities.

Carolyn died on March 17, 2014, at the age of 86. She leaves behind a truly meaningful legacy that will benefit future generations of rural Oklahomans.

Community Grants

The Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation was established in 1995 by Carolyn Watson, the CEO and chairman of Shamrock Bank N.A. To date, the foundation has distributed more than $3 million to support nonprofit organizations in their efforts to enhance the quality of life in rural Oklahoma communities. The foundation’s grant programs are administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

Application Process

Grant applications for the 2024 grant cycle are closed. Please check back for next year's opportunity.

Grant Categories

Category 1: Arts, Culture & History

  • Education and Access: Initiatives to enhance education, public engagement, and access to arts, culture, and history.
  • Cultural and Historical Preservation and Enhancement: Initiatives dedicated to preserving and celebrating the unique culture, history, and heritage of rural communities.

Category 2: Health & Safety

  • Direct Health Services: Initiatives providing essential health services to underserved or uninsured community members.
  • Healthcare Access and Capacity Enhancement: Projects that improve access to health services or strengthen the public health workforce.
  • Community Safety and Security: Projects aimed at enhancing local emergency and safety services, with an emphasis on supporting fire departments, EMS, and police departments.

Category 3: Libraries & Literacy

  • Library Enhancement: Initiatives to strengthen rural libraries as key community and knowledge centers.
  • Community-based Literacy Programs: Initiatives that take place outside of the formal education system to address community literacy needs. This can include early childhood and family literacy, tutoring programs, GED preparation, adult literacy, and English as a Second Language (ESL) programming.

Category 4: Economic Development

  • Programs that promote economic growth and stability in rural areas through workforce development, entrepreneurship support, vocational training in areas such as business planning, financial literacy, and technology, and community asset enhancement to attract investments.
Students participate in a drum circle during the 2023 Eufaula Summer Arts Program

Recent Grants

Arts, Culture & History

deadCenter Film – $15,000 – To support a rural tour offering film education and career exploration activities for middle, high school and technology center students.

General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum – $10,000 – To support a roadshow and mobile classroom project inspired by General Tommy Franks’ leadership and his post-9/11 role, allowing students to explore cultural aspects of more than 25 countries.

Latimer County Arts Council – $8,000 – To provide a live theatre experience to the community with a full-scale musical production of The Wizard of Oz.

Oklahoma Historical Society – $10,000 – To support the Fort Towson Historic Site’s annual youth history camp and a garment closet with authentic, period-specific attire.

Oklahoma Museums Association – $10,000 – To support scholarships for rural museum staff and board members to attend the 2024 Museum Conference in Idabel.

Oklahoma State University Foundation – $20,000 – To increase access to cultural and civic information for Indigenous communities, building on KOSU’s Indigenous Affairs reporting.

Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition – $20,000 – To support arts & culture summits that will connect rural artists with wide-ranging resources at the local, regional and state level.

Woody Guthrie Coalition – $2,000 – To support a creative writing workshop during the 2024 WoodyFest in Okemah that will explore Woody Guthrie’s music and lyrics.

Economic Development

Oklahoma Council on Economic Education – $15,000 – To support specialized training, workshops and resources for rural Oklahoma teachers focusing on personal finance, entrepreneurship, economics and innovative teaching methods.

Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma – $20,000 – To support access to training, counseling, capital and technical assistance for rural entrepreneurs and business owners.

Health & Safety

Boggy Volunteer Fire Department – $30,000 – To support necessary facility updates to boost efficiency in emergencies, provide a conducive learning environment for training and improve the department’s ISO rating, lowering the community’s home insurance premiums.

Choctaw County Ambulance Authority – $30,000 – To support a training conference offering free education and continuing education credits for EMS personnel in Choctaw, Pushmataha, McCurtain, Bryan, Atoka and Marshall counties.

City of Hugo – $20,000 – To enhance fire safety and education to align with state and national objectives to help reduce fire hazards.

Hamilton Health Box Foundation – $30,000 – To help launch rural primary care microclinics utilizing a hybrid in-person and telehealth model to serve underserved rural populations.

Kiamichi Economic Development District of Oklahoma – $40,000 – To support a mobility management program in southeast Oklahoma to improve service accessibility and efficiency for rural citizens.

LIFT Community Action Agency – $5,000 – To help expand RSVP’s healthy futures focus, providing preventative health screenings, education for healthy living and access to health resources, insurance and services.

Oklahoma Dental Foundation – $30,000 – To support dental treatment and education in rural areas through the MobileSmiles program.

Southern Oklahoma Development Association – $20,000 – To help improve mobility for rural citizens, seniors and individuals with disabilities by expanding transportation options.

SRT, Incorporated – $13,000 – To support a biannual training for Community Support Networks covering suicide and mental health awareness, recognizing crises in children and teens, and developing a trauma-informed lens.

Swink Volunteer Fire Department – $30,000 – To equip the Swink volunteer fire department with essential tools and training for vehicle extrication.

Tinker Federal Credit Union Foundation – $8,715 – A partnership between TFCU and the Watson Foundation to replace the Antlers Fire Department’s outdated bunker gear.

Tinker Federal Credit Union Foundation – $4,680 – A partnership between TFCU and the Watson Foundation to replace the Idabel Police Department’s expired ballistic vests.

Warrior’s Rest Foundation – $20,000 – To train first responders in rural Oklahoma to form multi-disciplinary peer support teams, offering mental health support among colleagues.

Libraries & Literacy

Adair County Imagination Library – $5,000 – To support the library’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library that provides age-appropriate books to children.

Cartwright Community Resource Center – $15,000 – To provide free GED classes, books and testing as well as information sessions and on-site teacher support.

Cartwright Memorial Library – $6,500 – To establish tutoring programs with a reading specialist and college math tutor to address student needs in reading, math and GED preparation.

City of Okemah Public Library – $15,000 – To launch educational programs that focus on adult education, summer tutoring for elementary and middle school students and homesteading classes for local residents.

Friends of the Wilburton Library Association – $2,500 – To support the library’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library program that provides free books to children monthly.

Reach Out and Read – $15,000 – To provide books and programmatic support for early childhood interventions during well-child visits in rural Oklahoma counties.

Arts & Culture

Battiest Elementary School – $5,000 – To support an elementary art and music program that introduces students to famous artists, traditional Choctaw beadwork and musical instruments and culminates in an end-of-year art show.

Granite Public Schools – $4,996 – To provide essential materials for the speech and drama team’s monthly Rise and Shine events as well as support one theater production per semester.

Hugo Elementary School – $3,751 – To implement a comprehensive art curriculum that engages students in creative projects around the principles of design while reinforcing core concepts in math and science.

Ravia Schools – $550 – To purchase a magnetic erasable whiteboard on wheels for the school’s music classroom.

Tipton Public School – $2,000 – To provide students with a wide range of art supplies and introduce them to local artists through a series of art workshops.

Tishomingo Elementary School – $5,000 – To support the collaboration between teaching artist Nicole Emmons and fine arts teacher Trey Hays on a project to enhance students’ storytelling and stop-motion animation skills.

Tupelo Elementary School – $1,571 – To implement an etiquette course for Tupelo elementary students.

Watts Public Schools – $700 – To support the addition of weekly art and art history lessons in elementary classroom curriculum.

Weleetka Public Schools – $1,500 – To help establish a drama department for upper elementary students and produce the play Peter Pan.

Will Rogers Elementary – $590 – To support their production of the musical AnnieKids.

English Language Arts

Antlers High School – $2,500 – To combine literacy with mentorship by pairing seniors with second-grade students to create custom-written, illustrated and constructed children’s books.

Antlers High School – $2,000 – To acquire class sets of contemporary and classic novels for use in student-led book circles and class-wide novel studies.

Apache Elementary School – $4,985 – To implement indoor and outdoor sensory pathways that offer active, engaging experiences for students to practice recursive skills that are often addressed through flashcards and worksheets.

Colbert Eastward Elementary – $2,000 – To enrich classroom libraries with new books that align with lessons and match student interests.

Mannsville Elementary School – $3,689 – To address the urgent need for a reading intervention classroom at Mannsville Elementary School where a significant number of students require support through Response to Intervention plans.

Milburn Elementary School – $5,000 – To support their Start Right program that uses Start Right Readers and an interactive board to reinforce weekly curriculum and enhance the teaching process.

Norwood Elementary – $5,000 – To purchase the Being a Reader program for 3-5 grade students to help create a comprehensive ELA curriculum and enhance K-5 English language arts curriculum.

Rattan Elementary – $3,699 – To implement the Frog Street Pre-K Curriculum, an interactive educational program that encompasses ten learning domains, including literacy, math and social-emotional development.

Shady Grove School – $3,739 – To enhance children’s language and literacy development through dramatic play and storytelling props.

Accelerated Reader

Apache Elementary – $2,000 – To purchase new books that align with the emergent reader level to allow students to develop early reading skills.

Colbert Eastward School – $1,033 – To expand the classroom library by adding more accelerated readers to accommodate the diverse range of student reading levels.

Hollis Public Schools – $3,500 – To provide level-appropriate books for the classroom and implement the accelerated reader program.


Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)

Agriculture & Sustainable Farming

Bennington High School – $5,000 – To engage students in the science of chicken embryology by tracking the development of eggs from fertilization to hatching.

Blair Public School – $5,000 – To purchase greenhouse heaters and other year-round supplies to help revitalize the school’s greenhouse and enhance STEM activities in horticulture and botany.

Boone-Apache Public Schools – $2,260 – To introduce hands-on agricultural learning by observing and caring for chickens from hatching to the production of eggs or meat.

Carnegie High School – $5,000 – To acquire a greenhouse for the Carnegie Agricultural Education program.

Eufaula Public Schools – $4,816 – To set up an indoor aquaponics grow system that will offer students hands-on experience in indoor food production.

Tushka High School – $3,500 – To enhance the school’s existing greenhouse curriculum by introducing a hydroponics system.

Wapanucka High School – $4,000 – To employ hydroponics to enhance students’ agricultural, math, science and life skills.

Math & Science

Achille High School – $5,000 – To update and enhance the science lab and classroom so they can better conduct hands-on experiments and demonstrations.

Atoka High School – $4,000 – To integrate 3D printing and interactive models into biology, zoology, chemistry and physical science curriculum to offer students tactile and visual representation of complex concepts.

Caney Public School – $3,025 – To reintroduce quilting as a tool to enhance students’ math skills, particularly in the areas of measurement and fractions, as well as revive the art of quilting.

Gans High School – $5,000 – To implement a hands-on research program that involves students in quail research and the study of aquatic insects and trout behavior.

Maryetta School – $2,000 – To implement a project-based learning activity that focuses on teaching students about the force of wind and how sail shape and size influence the capture and transformation of wind energy.

McCall Middle School – $4,544 – To implement STEM lessons for middle school students that allow them to explore STEM concepts and apply their knowledge to hands-on projects.

Shady Grove School – $1,570 – To pair 4th and 8th-grade students on interactive science projects that cover motion and stability, molecular structures, heredity, waves, technology and biological diversity.

Technology & Engineering

Coalgate Public Schools – $5,000 – To utilize VEX IQ robots to provide hands-on teamwork opportunities that foster problem solving, coding and robotics.

Coleman Public School – $5,000 – To enhance early reading and math learning through Classroom Alive Zookeeper Edition, an interactive resource where students embark on imaginative zoo adventures, promoting joyful learning experiences.

Coleman Public School – $4,500 – To purchase Snap Circuits Kits and TinkerCAD software to teach students about circuitry and coding.

Eufaula High School – $1,500 – To allow physical science students to build and code their own robots using Sphero Bolt coding robots.

Hollis Middle School – $3,400 – To implement a hands-on media project where students construct their own media pieces, helping to develop students’ presentation, mass and visual communication skills.

Navajo Public Schools – $4,096 – To utilize 3D printing to provide students with opportunities to explore immersive virtual worlds, engage in hands-on robotics projects and bring their ideas to life.

Peavine School – $3,000 – To provide students with hands-on learning opportunities through a mobile STEM lab equipped with materials such as Lego, snap circuits and robotic kits.

Tupelo Independent School District – $5,000 – To use 3D printing to introduce high school students to STEM Concepts and help them explore diverse career fields.

Will Rogers Elementary – $3,000 – To provide iPads to students with special needs, offering them with access to online learning tools for subjects from letter and number recognition to reading comprehension.

Manipulatives & Early STEM Education

Carnegie Elementary – $4,102 – To implement Lego Education’s curriculum for students in the Gifted and Talented program.

Coleman Schools – $2,151 – To create sensory boxes for Pre-K and kindergarten classrooms that allow students to explore and learn through their senses without creating a mess.

Hugo Elementary School – $3,750 – To purchase supplies to help create a STEM-rich environment for Pre-K students.

Shady Grove Elementary – $3,500 – To create an immersive STEM station in the kindergarten classroom focusing on animals and their habitats.

Shady Grove School – $2,625 – To establish a hands-on science station in the classroom, an outdoor science area and use math games with manipulatives to help students grasp challenging concepts.

Tipton Elementary – $3,975 – To purchase STEM materials to create age-appropriate curriculum with activities, experiments and projects.

Social Studies

Smithville Elementary School – $3,000 – To acquire grade-level books that delve into historical events leading to Oklahoma’s statehood and the history of Native American settlements in the region.

Westville Learning Academy – $1,819 – To implement History Comes Alive, a program where students embark on a journey to learn about Oklahoma history through Traveling Trunks provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Arts, Culture & History

Austin Hartel Dance Company – $20,000 – To bring dance and creative movement classes to pre-K to 5th grade students at seven Tishomingo schools.

deadCenter Film Festival – $15,000 – To provide arts programming and an introduction to film and filmmaking to rural students and schools in underserved and under-resourced communities.

Eufaula Area Arts Council – $9,000 – To provide educational arts experiences to youth in and near Eufaula, where there are no drama, speech, dance or vocal classes offered in public schools.

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma – $15,000 – To support a free touring arts program that provides quality, professional theater experiences to students throughout Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Children’s Theatre – $30,000 – To support performing arts experiences that combine theatre-based activities with literacy standards for rural Oklahoma communities and schools.

Oklahoma Hall of Fame – $25,000 – To support educational programs for rural students that feature Oklahoma scientist Dr. Jordan Tank and inspire students to become scientists.

Oklahoma Humanities Council – $15,000 – To support Museum on Main Street, which brings traveling exhibits, capacity-building workshops and local community programs to rural areas.

Oklahoma Museums Association – $14,650 – To address contemporary challenges faced by rural museums and equip them with practical information on managing museum collections.

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park – $30,000 – To bring a team of actors to elementary, middle and high schools with an abridged version of a Shakespeare play.

Tishomingo Public Schools – $35,000 – To support Fit and Fun Fine Arts Camp, which increases students’ awareness and understanding of the history, arts and culture of Johnston County and the Chickasaw Nation.

Economic Development

Oklahoma Council on Economic Education – $11,016 – To support their Financial Fitness for Life program that provides high school teachers in rural areas with interactive tools to teach economics and financial literacy.

Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter – $30,000 – To help expand the homeless shelter’s thrift store, which generates revenue for the shelter and provides employment opportunities.

Health & Safety

Brendon McLarty Memorial Foundation – $5,000 – To help raise awareness about asthma, educate the public and equip schools and families to treat sudden asthma attacks.

Choctaw County Ambulance Authority – $40,000 – To train Choctaw County school officials, facility managers, athletic directors and community members on how to use Automatic External Defibrillators, Mobilized Rescue Systems and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation.

Dentists for the Disabled and Elderly in Need of Treatment (D-DENT) – $20,000 – To help recruit new volunteer dentists and provide free comprehensive dental care to low-income and uninsured seniors, veterans and adults with developmental disabilities in rural Oklahoma.

Kits of Hope – $20,805 – To provide educators with a deeper understanding of how ADHD and trauma can affect children’s behavior and learning in the classroom and offer practical strategies to help boost academic achievement.

Oklahoma Dental Foundation – $20,000 – To support their MobileSmiles Oklahoma unit, which brings fully staffed mobile dental facilities to rural areas without oral health providers.

Oklahoma Project Woman – $23,000 – To provide free mammograms, biopsies and surgeries for low-income women and men without health insurance.

Southern Oklahoma Development Association – $15,000 – To bring the Oklahoma Dental Foundation’s MobileSmiles Oklahoma unit to Byran and Johnston counties.

Southern Oklahoma Development Association – $20,000 – To help improve mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities by expanding transportation options and removing barriers.

SRT, Incorporated – $17,200 – To provide training to local social support services in rural communities on suicide awareness, mental health awareness and recognizing crises in children and teens.

St. Anthony Hospital Foundation – $36,400 – To help expand case management services to coordinate care for patients, families and caregivers during and after a hospital stay for more patients in Kiowa County.

Swing Volunteer Fire Department/Choctaw County Ambulance Authority – $39,496 – To help the fire department acquire essential fire protection equipment for their fire trucks.

Libraries & Literacy

Friends of the Wilburton Library Association Dolly Parton Imagination Library – $2,706 – To increase access to books for children in Latimer County and provide support for enrichment programs at the library.

Hobart Public Library – $3,000 – To maintain the Overdrive E-Books Program that provides access to e-books for the community and helps homebound individuals to access books virtually.

Norman Smith Memorial Library – $10,000 – To help expand the Hinton Public Library’s after-school meal program and add activities, including arts programs, tutoring and homework help.

Reach Out and Read – $15,000 – To integrate book and program support for early childhood patients at rural medical clinics, promoting early brain development and parental skill-building.

Smart Start Central Oklahoma – $20,000 – To help expand their Early Birds Learning Opportunities program to rural communities.

Southern Oklahoma Library System – $28,917 – To strengthen its presence in Atoka and Johnston counties by increasing its outreach through literacy packets for schools, author visits and a community storybook trail.

How Can We Help You?

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Patti Biera

Sr. Programs Specialist

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Leslie Woodward

Community Programs Manager

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Keaton Van Sickle

Programs Associate