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Curbside Chronicle vendors become college students at OSU-OKC

Curbside Chronicle vendors become college students at OSU-OKC

Grant from Inasmuch Foundation allows Curbside vendors to earn retail floral design certificate

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 7, 2020) – Mark Lamb surprised himself when he enrolled in college at age 47.

“I never thought I would,” said Lamb, one of 15 students in a pilot program at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City that is teaching job skills to recently homeless adults.

He got a second surprise when he saw a childhood friend at enrollment. Lamb and Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City President Brad Williams attended grade school together growing up in Maysville.

“It blew my mind,” Lamb said.

The hometown connection makes the new Back on Track Education and Training program even more significant to Williams.

“It’s a testament to the point that casting a broad net to help people in need will almost always surface a familiar face,” Williams said. 

Lamb and the other 14 students in the program are Curbside Chronicle vendors who are completing coursework to earn OSU-OKC’s retail floral design certificate.

The Curbside Chronicle is a program of the Homeless Alliance created to provide employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness through street sales of its local magazine and flower bouquets for special occasions.

The organization plans to open a year-round floral shop this year along Classen Boulevard near downtown.

“It will give us more options for employment,” said Ranya O’Connor, director of Curbside Chronicle. “Our mission is unique, but we are going to be a traditional florist just like any florist.”

The vendors in the Back on Track program all have transitioned into housing and now have the stability needed to take the next step and build some basic job skills, O’Connor said.

“This is a new opportunity for all of them to move forward,” she said.

The students were on track to finish their coursework March 25 – shortly after the OSU-OKC campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan now is for students to return to and complete their coursework once the campus re-opens.

After they earn their certificates, the students will staff the flower shop to get retail experience before transitioning to other jobs or education in another field, and new Curbside vendors will take their place, O’Connor said. 

Class instructors include members of the Oklahoma State Florist Association, who are sharing their knowledge of both customer care and flower care, said Mark Erickson, the association’s director of education.

On the first day of class, Erickson had each student create a bouquet and take it with them to share with someone.

“We talk about the power of flowers,” he said. “All you have to do is buy some and give them to someone to see it.”

Lamb said he gave his bouquet to the clerks at a convenience store he frequents.

Earning a college certificate will be a boost for the floral shop staff and will ensure customers can rely on their work, Lamb said.  

“It will put confidence in all our hearts in what we’re doing,” he said.

Lamb plans to continue working in the floral industry and said he is thinking about operating his own floral supply company.

His wife, Rene, another vendor in the program, said learning to be a florist is a dream-come-true. Dyslexia made her a poor student, but she finally earned her GED and now is thrilled to be in college, she said.

The Inasmuch Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to establish the Back on Track Education and Training Fund, which also could provide job training for those in need in other areas, like construction, Williams said.

“We want to be part of someone’s redemption story,” Williams said. “Most of us have been given a second chance at some point in our lives, so it’s important that we create those opportunities for others.”



For media inquiries:

Nick Trougakos, OSU-OKC – – (405) 945-9196

About Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) is part of the modern land-grant system of Oklahoma State University. OSU-OKC is a two-year public institution, offering more than 40 degrees and certificate options. Through quality education, a supportive environment, leadership training and service opportunities, OSU-OKC trains students to work and educates them to lead. OSU-OKC graduates are found throughout the community serving as police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, healthcare professionals and business owners. More information is available at