Atoka GEAR UP Students Tour Historic Downtown Atoka, Oklahoma

Sixty-two Atoka freshman and sophomore EOSC (Eastern Oklahoma State College) GEAR UP students recently participated in an educational field trip to historic downtown Atoka, Okla. GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell began the tour with an overview of the town’s history and its role in Oklahoma history. Students took a walking tour of Atoka’s downtown area where they learned about the history and architecture of the current buildings. Several downtown structures are dated before statehood and were federal government buildings used for the Dawes’ Commission to register native tribal members and make land allotments. Other facilities, such as the Masonic Temple and the Old Atoka State Bank, are on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour also featured First Baptist Church—Atoka, which was established in 1869 and is the oldest Baptist church in continuous service in Oklahoma. After exploring the town’s architecture, students examined photographs from the 1950s depicting a thriving downtown area with two movie theaters, hotels, drug emporiums, and dry goods stores. Local residents relayed stories of their childhood visits to the downtown area and showed students where the popular hangouts had been located. Students enjoyed listening to their stories and the nostalgic view of their city. During lunch at a newly restored downtown diner, Carol Ervin, Director of the Atoka City Industrial Development Authority, met with students and shared plans for renovating the downtown area, including new eateries, shops, and other exciting attractions. She also discussed the economics of a growing community and how renovations can help elicit change. She encouraged students to become involved in their community and be a part of the change. The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant in 2017, and will serve more than 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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