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Roosevelt Elementary Chosen As State School of Character
Jeffrey Neighbors

by Jeffrey Neighbors

For the last decade, Roosevelt Elementary has upheld the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” with such a high emphasis on leadership, integrity, and proactivity that they have been able to achieve status as a State School of Character (SOC) in addition to being the first Lighthouse school in Oklahoma. This new status also makes Pryor the first school district in Oklahoma to have all of its schools recognized as SOCs. To be considered for the list of 2019 SOCs, Roosevelt had to submit an application to OKCharacter.org with criteria such as level of involvement, uniqueness, significant impact, and transferability along with other requirements.

The process for Roosevelt to achieve status as a SOC involved changing vocabulary to involve more character words like prioritize, proactive, and synergetic. While the Leader In Me program was implemented by faculty and administration, it is perpetuated by learners who are given opportunities to be leaders such as leading assemblies, organizing the library, and doing morning announcements. The lessons learners are given in leadership teach them to be uplifting and encouraging to other students, even if they are “different.”

Oklahoma State School of Character Graphic

Courtney Rehbein, first grade teacher at Roosevelt, said “It’s a very student-lead school. I think we provide a good foundation for them to build from with whatever leadership opportunities they may find.”

Rehbein, also a parent of students at Roosevelt, says “It’s comforting that they’re in a loving and supportive environment.”

The process for Roosevelt to become a SOC has involved yearly training, visits from Lighthouse Coordinators, and cooperation with all grade levels. In the wake of being recognized as a SOC, Roosevelt is waiting until May to find out if it will be selected as a National School of Character

Jeffrey Neighbors
FFA Student Cuts Hair For Labor Auction

By Jeffrey Neighbors

As an FFA member, auctioning off your physical labor is an annual occurrence with few peculiarities about it. The labor auction serves as a way for the FFA to raise money to fund their trips to competitions. Businesses such as the Mayes County Farm Bureau and Kubota as well as local farmers attend the labor auction. However this year at Pryor’s FFA labor auction, the most notable crop was that of senior TJ Cornelius.

Cornelius has been taking care of animals his whole life and has been in FFA for five of those years. At the labor auction on Thursday, February 21st, Cornelius began walking onto the stage to see who he’d be working for and how much they would bid. The auctioneer playfully suggested that Cornelius would cut his hair for a bid of $500. When the bid was made, the auctioneer asked him if he’d do it. Cornelius obliged.

“We went up there as usual to sell our labor and the auctioneer said ‘If we get $500 will you cut your hair?’ I said yes.” Cornelius informed.


The bids for Cornelius to snip his hair evolved into Mayes County Farm Bureau bidding $525 to cut half his hair and Kubota bidding $125 for the other half. Using snippers that had been auctioned off earlier that night, the auctioneer went to work giving Cornelius a very short crop (Cornelius had it touched up later that night.

A local man in attendance said “The kid [Cornelius] had a great attitude.”

Cornelius later went on to say he “doesn’t regret his decision at all.” Cornelius’ act of dedication to the FFA pleased instructors Jarrod Melugin and Walt Taylor who said Cornelius “looks a lot better.”

However, Cornelius has stated that he feels “really cold and lightheaded.”

Jeffrey NeighborsLighting Up The World of DNA With blueGel by MiniPCR

by Jeffrey Neighbors

In an age of growing demand for jobs in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math), it is imperative to ensure students are prepared for elevated levels of math and science beyond the classroom. To prepare PHS students for college classes, biology teachers Aimee McKinzie and Jodee Pate are giving students hands on lab experiences studying PCR (Polymerase chain reaction). With assistance from an approximately $15,000 investment by the school board and Dr. Raleigh, PHS learners will now know how to use equipment that most high school students don't meet until college science labs.

PCR is a method widely used in molecular biology to make copies of a specific DNA segment. With the new equipment purchased, students can now use blueGel by miniPCR to complete electrophoresis (the movement of DNA in a gel under the influence of an electric field) and view their DNA segments.

Bluegel Electrophoresis visualization system

At the high school, students in Mrs. McKinzie’s biology classroom examined samples of DNA extracted from test tubes using micropipettes. The samples are then placed within the blueGel where students can visualize the effects of electrophoresis on DNA. The charged particles begin to separate into DNA bands that possess different genetic traits that are then able to be inspected for genetic mutations.

Student Using Bluegel by MiniPCR

“I thought it was fun and I learned a lot. Being able to have hands-on experience makes the concept easier to learn.” said Soph. Hanna Anderson.

“Many jobs lead to this type of research,” said Pate, “Biotechnology related careers such as: Biomedical Engineer, Microbiologist, Biochemist, Food Science, Animal Science, Environmental Science.” All of these career fields require experience with or knowledge of PCR.

Pate and McKinzie teach students the basic structure and function of DNA, how DNA replicates and what happens if DNA is damaged or mutated. They also learn how DNA is passed on from parent to offspring. To help teach these concepts, Pate’s learners first extract DNA from strawberries and bananas to compare how much DNA is in each fruit. Learners then perform a GMO Lab where they check common foods for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

With the opportunity to access sophisticated lab equipment, students are able to “light up the world of DNA” and explore the limitless possibilities of DNA.

Jeffrey Neighbors
New Commons
Construction Complete
By Jeffrey Neighbors
After numerous delays and unforeseen events, construction for Pryor High School’s new commons area and cafeteria was completed in January of 2019. The majority of students and faculty were impressed by the brand new architecture before them. It seemed that the consensus amongst students and faculty at PHS was overwhelmingly positive.

Students across all grade levels had great things to say about their new facilities.

Sophomore Audrey Cornett stated, “It’s very nice. It’s elegant and a good environment to be in.”

Junior Daniel Purcell said, “It’s pretty cool. It looks like somewhere you’d go out to eat instead of just a cafeteria.”

Senior Cainan Fair exclaimed, “I love the commons area, it’s great!”

Construction may be done in the new commons, but there are still some changes taking place within the area. There will be three televisions placed on the wall for students to watch during breakfast and lunch. In addition to the new TVs, there is also another lunch line of a la carte items with prices ranging from fifty cents to two dollars. Students are still allowed to sit in the old commons during lunch but are not allowed to take lunches out of the cafeteria.

While construction at PHS is far from complete, a great step has been completed. The former cafeteria is currently being used as a “quiet commons” for students needing a location to read, study, or do homework undisturbed. The old commons will eventually be enveloped by the new additions to the library and no longer exist. 

Principal Brad Bates added, “It’s a nice facility for the students to look forward to and continue to use.”

Jeffrey Neighbors
Aquaponic Lettuce

By Jeffrey Neighbors

    Students at Pryor High School are always happy to learn when they are having burgers for lunch, and those who enjoy vegetables, are eager to add lettuce to their meal. However, a lot of these students probably don’t consider where the leaves on their sandwich originated. Once a year, the students in FFA (Future Farmers of America) have the answer to where the school’s lettuce came from.

    Within the FFA related classes are animal science, agricultural mechanics, and horticulture. Leading these classrooms are teachers Walter Taylor and Jarrod Melugin. Taylor is in charge of the horticulture class and once a year provides aquaponic lettuce. Aquaponics is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.”

Aquaponic Lettuce Greenhouse

According to Taylor, the aquaponic lettuce “shows students alternative ways to have sustainable agriculture as the population grows.”

Aquaponic Leaf Lettuce

The horticulture class uses species of fish such as bass and perch to create a symbiotic relationship that supplies nutrients to the leaf lettuce plants. Lettuce is the plant of choice for this lesson in aquaponics as it has a quick growth rate and allows students to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the lunchroom. The students begin growing the lettuce in early October and harvest the plants in December.

    For the last three years FFA students have been growing aquaponic lettuce for the school and will continue to do so as a way of teaching students alternative forms of agriculture, preparing the possibility of little to no land for traditional methods of farming.

Driver’s Education Through Simulation
By Jeffrey Neighbors

Nearly every high school student eagerly anticipates receiving their drivers license upon turning sixteen. This means the majority of these students will take drivers education and, for many students, it is a startling thing to begin driving a vehicle with little to no experience. However, through the helping hands of technology, students can now begin practicing anxiety-free via virtual simulation.

After a year of researching the capabilities of different driving simulators, the technology

drivers ed simulator
department decided the best choice was the STISIM Drive software. STISIM Drive software introduces beginning drivers to all of the scenarios they can and/or will experience on the road. 

With over 35 different and immersive scenarios including but not limited to rural settings, urban settings, rain, snow, and impaired driving, this software coupled with hands-on driving provides driver’s education students more preparation than they have had in previous years.

Head of driver’s education Danny Callison added that “Driving is a life skill, and Dr. Raleigh feels this [use of technology] is important.” This particular kind of technology was recommended by Oklahoma Highway Patrol as well as the Pryor School Board who then allowed for the expenditure on the STISIM software.

The simulator was installed by Pryor’s technology department in early August for approximately $9,000. Since its implementation, students have had the opportunity to use the machine during Tiger Time and during driver’s education. 

Mimicking a video game, the software grades drivers based on their performance for instructors to get an idea of how students will perform in an actual vehicle when it comes time to drive. According to
stisimdrive.com, “the STISIM Drive driving simulator provides a convincing wake-up call to the dangers of impaired driving and texting while driving. Measure every action and reaction. See a detailed performance report at the end of each drive.”

Local Teen Competes in Miss Teen Oklahoma

by Jeffrey Neighbors

Senior Seyton Thomas is preparing to take the stage to compete for the title of Miss Teen Oklahoma 2019. The pageant will take place in Shawnee at the Grand Hotel and Casino from October 20th to October 21st. Thomas’ leadership qualities, academic strengths, and community involvement were the reasons she was selected as a contestant.

Seyton Thomas

Thomas added that she had to fill out an application and go through an interview process to be considered as a contestant. Highlighting community involvement and extracurricular activities, Thomas’ application stood out to Vanbros and Associates Inc., the talent agency that produces Miss Teen Oklahoma. Thomas is president of Rotary Interact, a four year member of varsity soccer, football cheerleader, Impact Council member, and founder of Operation Obligation.

Representing Mayes County, she will compete in active wear, swimwear, evening gown, and also engage in a personal interview. The pageant has two divisions, and the winners will represent Oklahoma in the 2019 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Pageant.

The Miss USA Pageant System emphasizes good morals, physical fitness, communication skills, social awareness and community involvement.

Thomas added that she would like “to say thank you to the Pryor High School staff and the community for helping me grow and supporting me through all of this. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be doing this right now.”

Anatomage Table

By Jeffrey Neighbors and Annie White

Thanks to Google and the Pryor Public School Board, PHS students now have a whole new opportunity to learn about anatomy of human and animal bodies. Most high school students have either seen or performed a dissection in their science class, be it a frog, worm, or pig.

deversHowever, not many students can say they have dissected a human cadaver.

Cadaver dissection, virtual that is, will soon be available due to Google's partnership with the Pryor School Board making the purchase of the $80,000 Anatomage Table possible. According to Anatomage Inc., the equipment is the most technologically advanced virtual dissection table and is used at the most prestigious medical institutions in the world.

Honors anatomy and physiology teacher Victor Holleyman stated that the Anatomage Table features include images of two male and one female cadaver, as well as over 350 animal specimens such as an alligator, python, and dachshund. The table not only allows students to perform dissections, but students will also be able to view entire body systems, observe pathologies, and engage in surgeries. Viewing MRI and CT scans, in addition to sonograms also falls under the capabilities of the table.

The table is available for use by all members of the science department but will be most frequently used by Biology I, Biology II, Zoology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Holleyman said that, “As far as human anatomy goes, it’s amazing.” He went on to explain that although this new technology is incredibly useful for dissection and anatomy related material in the classroom, it is certainly not a replacement for physical dissections. Pryor students will still engage in hands-on dissections.  

Biology teacher Aimee McKinzie added, “Pryor High School is extremely fortunate to have an item such as the table, especially since neither Rogers State or Northeastern State University owns one.”

School Resource Officers
By Jeffrey Neighbors
For the 2018-2019 school year, Pryor Public Schools has increased priority on ensuring the safety and security of
its students by employing full-time School Resource Officers (SRO). Students will see officers Tommy Parker (Pryor High School and Alternative Education SRO), Johnnie Jenkins (Pryor Junior High SRO), and Justin Couch (elementary SRO) when they are at school.

Parker wants the students and staff to know that he is at the high school to ensure safety of the students. Parker considers himself a "normal guy" whom the students can approach "about anything." Students will be able to find Parker in the front office of the high school or making his rounds through the hallways throughout the day.

Parker said he believes this new position “is a great opportunity to build relationships with students and their parents in a positive manner. I want to help bridge that gap between law enforcement and our students.”