McAlester 7th grade GEAR UP students tour Bacone College and The Five Civilized Tribes Museum

Forty seven McAlester 7th grade GEAR UP students recently traveled to Muskogee to tour Bacone College and The Five Civilized Tribes Museum. The tour began at the Ginny Palmer Center which houses classrooms, the gym, Warrior Grill, and the cafeteria.

Interim Vice President of Student Affairs/Director of Admissions and Recruitment Kaila Harjo, Athletic Compliance Director and Assistant Coach Juan Davis, and Cross Country Coach Phillip Barnoski provided the students with a tour of the campus after providing them with information regarding admittance and activities at Bacone College.

Davis reported Bacone was founded in 1880 as an institution of higher learning for Native American students. Harjo stated Bacone was now culturally diverse. Harjo discussed the importance of applying for the Oklahoma’s Promise in 8th grade stating it can pay tuition to Oklahoma colleges for eligible students.

Davis explained enrollment criteria stating students needed to meet two of the following requirements: 1) Graduate with a 2.0 GPA. 2) Graduate in the top 50% of their class. 3) Score at least an 18 on the ACT, or 860 on the SAT. Students were then given a guided tour of the campus in which they were able to view statues, artifacts, and memorials on campus.

Students ate lunch in the Palmer Center where they were provided a variety of items by Sodexo, Inc. before travelling to The Five Civilized Tribes Museum.

Museum Director Sean Barney provided students with a tour of the downstairs stating during the Trail of Tears individuals could only keep what they could carry. He demonstrated by showing students a chest which was carried on the Trail of Tears. He discussed the façade of the museum stating it was made of 13-inch-thick sandstone with portions of the stones being washed away due to erosion.

Students looked at artifacts in the museum while Barney discussed historical significance. He discussed the Five Civilized Tribes, showing students displays arranged by each of the tribes. Barney informed students the Choctaw Nation had two seals—one which displayed an untied bow stating this was the original Choctaw seal. During the War on Terrorism, the seal was altered to display a taut bow. He stated this seal would be displayed during times of war, while the other would be used during times of peace.

Tour Guide Ryan Crow provided students with a tour of the upstairs rooms at The Five Tribes Museum and students viewed The Stickballer, a sculpture by Jerome Tiger which was being created at the time of Tiger’s death. Students were encouraged to view art by Master Artists Jimmie Carol Fife and Valjean McCarty Hessing. Students discussed differences between the artists.

“The favorite part of the field trip was visiting the museum and being able to see all the stuff there,” said McAlester student Jessica Bedard. “I really liked everything about the museum and enjoyed visiting Bacone College as well.”

“It was really a wonderful day despite the cold weather,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Stephanie Dow. “Staff at Bacone College provided students with a wealth of information regarding college admission and reiterated the importance of applying for Oklahoma’s Promise when students are in the 8th through 10th grades. Students left Bacone College excited about attending college, with some of the students reporting they were interested in attending Bacone.”

“The Five Civilized Tribes Museum was an excellent way to finish the day as Mr. Barney and Mr. Crow were able to engage students while touring the museum, providing the students with historical information related to the tribes,” Dow added.

“My favorite part of the trip was spending the day watching our students learn about their heritage and the many educational opportunities available to them,” added Puterbaugh Middle School teacher Margie McElhany.

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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