Friday, March 23, 2018

Rasah Plain Feather takes a pie to the face late Monday afternoon at the Plenty Coups High School gymnasium as part of the carnival and masquerade organized by the Pryor Public School 21st Century Program.Natelia Goes Ahead tries to bob the most apples at one of the carnival stations promoting after-school activities.Gemma Hunts Arrow, dressed as Catwoman, spins for a moment after detaching from the wall constructed for Loren Rausch’s climbing club.

Pryor activity bash

Monday carnival/masquerade promotes after-school activities
After-school programs were the theme of a carnival Monday afternoon at Plenty Coups High School in Pryor, where local residents were pied in the face, bobbed for apples, climbed walls, donned costumes for pictures and more. Afternoon continued into evening at 7 p.m. as residents began a community feed, student presentation and masquerade powwow.
Festivities were organized by the Pryor Public School 21st Century Program, coordinated by Veronica Willeto, which helps provide activities for local students. Its primary source of funding is a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant offered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
“We have all kinds of programs for the kids and, of course…we have open gym in the evenings for teens and for adults,” Willeto said, indicating the school gymnasium and day’s festivities. “Because of our limited funding, we’re only able to [offer programs for grades] seven to 12. Thankfully, this year, the school was able to find funding, so they’re just now starting an elementary program.”
Willeto recently was named by the Afterschool Alliance as one of 15 afterschool ambassadors nationwide. Afterschool Alliance was founded in 2000 by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to expand after-school programs nationwide. 
The Pryor carnival is one of more than 8,000 events scheduled in the coming weeks for the Lights On Afterschool initiative, founded by the Alliance to encourage funding and community support for after-school programs.
According to Willeto, this is her 21st Century Program’s first time organizing such a carnival. Before the event, she continued, “we didn’t know about” Lights On Afterschool.
“Since it’s our first one, we wanted it to be a bigger event so we can educate as many people as we can,” Willeto said. “Hopefully, every year we will be able to have this type of event.”
For Pryor, after-school activities include clubs for climbing, shop, photography, filmmaking and Formula 1 racing. New clubs started this year, Willeto said, are for art and archery.
Blase Moss, a junior at Plenty Coups, manned a booth for UNITY – United National Indian Tribal Youth. A whiteboard set in front of his station stated the group’s goal: building character through “wise decisions and smart choices,” then developing leadership skills “by teaching others” and being a good influence.
Those who stopped at Moss’ station were presented with a challenge: work together to get a ball into a bucket using pieces of pipe. There had been a lot of winners at this challenge, he said, earning them candy and a T-shirt for Afterschool Alliance.
UNITY has allowed Moss to “visit other cultures” during the club’s annual trip to the group’s conference, he said, and he finds it enjoyable to represent his own tribe, the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming. He originally was drawn to UNITY because it allowed him the chance to travel to Denver but, once he got there, he found the interactions allowed for “much more” than mountains and tall buildings.
Across the gym, Loren Rausch belayed rope attached to young students as they clambered their way up the school climbing wall. More people than he expected showed up, Rausch said, and offered him an opportunity to introduce new students to climbing.
Rausch, who teaches high school and middle school science, started the school’s climbing program in 2015 with the help of an $8,000 grant and a box of donated harnesses and shoes.
“Not all the kids are into basketball, so it’s a different outlet for them,” said Rausch, an avid climber himself. “It’s kind of taken off. We’ve climbed outside the Billings Rims, we’ve climbed the Castle Rocks out of Pryor. We’ve been climbing outside a bunch.”
Pryor students, according to 2016 graduate Nia Standsoverbull, “need a good push” to continue toward expanding after-school programs. She helped organize the F1 club from the ground up, learning about car engineering and public speaking.
“We didn’t do really well [at the main competition], we didn’t have a car ready – it was too short notice – but we went out and learned about it,” Standsoverbull said. “The next year, I was coordinator for it.”
Standsoverbull won a $500 scholarship by writing an essay on the benefits of after-school programs, but needed to put her schooling on hold to care for her infant son after he was born with his liver outside his belly.
Ultimately, Arrow Creek Sen. Bryce Hugs said, the event was held to better serve the children and “spark their interest in school,” whether they pursued college or a trade. Given the lack of employment available from the Crow Tribe, he continued, helping students to develop marketable skills is especially important.
Hugs’ children attend school in Pryor – a senior in high school, a seventh grader, a fifth grader and a third grader. He also serves as chair for the Pryor school board. A 1995 graduate himself, he learned how to cook, sew and make a cake in his home economics class.
“I don’t like sharing that info…but at least I have it,” he said. “I know how to use a sewing machine.”