They were less than two weeks into the school year when a group of students at McLain High School decided to take on a big afterschool project: building a raft for Tulsa’s Great Raft Race.
“Mr. Lawrence had talked to me a little bit about it last year, and we just kind of expanded on it over the summer,” said sophomore Matthew Hamilton, who spearheaded the endeavor.
Matthew wasted no time gathering a group of students who were interested in helping out, and by the first Monday of the semester, they were assembling the raft.
“The raft is regular wood put together that will be floating on the barrels. There's going to be four people on it,” said Matthew.
On top of the base structure, the team would add an awning for shade, as well as the focal point of their vessel: a black panther.
The panther was crafted in the art department. The other supplies were funded by The Ancient Order of Hibernians. One member, Joe Meyer, visited McLain on Thursday to donate an anchor.
“They could be doing anything, and they're doing something special like this together,” said Joe. “Teamwork is a big thing, especially starting out really young, really putting their mind to something and seeing it completed is going to do a lot for their character.”
And complete it they did. A week after they started, they were ready to launch their raft on the Arkansas River.
“The actually floated so fast that some of our teachers watching started calling security cause they were like, ‘our kids didn’t make it, our kids didn’t make it,’ but they were already at Mazzio’s at that point,” said Principal Renee Rabovsky. “They did really, really well. It was cool to see that representation.”
That was what Matthew had in mind when he pursued the project. It provided a (floating) platform for students at McLain to show off their skills and dedication – and also have a bit of fun on the river.