Westbrook Helps Foster “Haven” for Telstar Elementary Students

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

The blurred region that Telstar Elementary covers is unique in that some students ride their horses past the school, while others come from urban living environments. Despite 98 percent of the students living in poverty, a transition rate of 60 percent and being an Oklahoma City Public School with a Midwest City mailing address, Telstar makes it work.

Against all odds, the school has become a “haven” of learning for students, some of whom intentionally get sent to detention in order to take advantage of after school programs and tutoring that can last until 9 p.m.

“We’ve fostered a love of reading,” said Telstar’s Principal, Vanessa VanTrease. “Our goal every day is that we say ‘Don’t forget to read for me tonight’ and every morning, ‘I hope you read for me last night. Reading is the key to success.'”

For those who have followed Russell Westbrook and his Why Not? Foundation’s campaign to foster reading through building Russell’s Reading Rooms at elementary schools throughout Oklahoma City, it should be clear that Telstar Elementary is the exact type of school that the Thunder point guard aims to help.


Russell and his #WhyNot Foundation provide 500 books for the school and a book for every student to take home.

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On Thursday afternoon, just 16 hours after closing out a heart-stopping victory over the Orlando Magic at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Westbrook dropped by the school to unveil his eighth Reading Room, and fifth in Oklahoma City. Afterwards, he described the research and thought that goes into selecting each school.

“I just try to find schools where I can help more,” Westbrook explained. “The more I can help kids, encourage them to read more and encourage them to know reading is important for them as they grow up, that’s important to me.”

“For him to come out with his generosity and put this room in, it’s overwhelming,” VanTrease said. “The kids and the parents love Thunder basketball and this reinforces the reading, the education and what we’re trying to achieve with the children.”

As a part of Westbrook’s visit, a select group of students had the opportunity to “buy” one of the 500 books that were donated to the school simultaneously with the opening of the Reading Room. With their Westbrook dollars in hand, the students scurried to the bookshelves to take their pick.



That signature, wide-beaming smile flashed across Westbrook’s face as he realized that the Book Fair was a success. As someone who was raised in an inner city environment, Westbrook wants to ensure these Oklahoma City students not only have an inspirational location to develop their love of learning, but the resources to bring that learning home to their families as well.

“It’s good for them to be able to go and pick books out,” Westbrook said. “They seemed very excited about the reading room and being able to take a book home.”

“It’s another great thing for kids when they’re able to not just read at school but when they’re able to share books with siblings or create a library at their own house,” Westbrook added. 


Watch: Westbrook Opens Fifth OKC Reading Room


Kids at Telstar were thrilled to hear they were getting a Russell's Reading Room at their school.

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