Katie Prior, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Row Academy, 2018
Since 2013, Katie has monitored the water quality of a local creek and reported the results to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. She tested the creek’s levels of dissolved oxygen, nitrate nitrogen, chloride, E. coli, ammonia nitrogen, and orthophosphate phosphorous. Katie has presented the Enviroscape watershed model to other students to encourage the proper use of storm drains. She and two members of her Girl Scout troop co-authored the children’s books Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle and Bob Has a Blue Thumb. The proceeds were used to purchase more books to donate to local libraries and OKC Beautiful. Katie is a founding officer and vice president of CCA Teen Artist Guild and a student advisory board member of Oklahoma Youth Orchestras. She also founded the Youth Trumpet and Taps Corps.
Q) Tell us about how you became interested in environmental conservation and water quality.
A) I originally got involved in environmental work through Girl Scouts by earning environmentally focused badges. My friends and I had so much fun doing this that we started volunteering with Oklahoma Blue Thumb to earn our Girl Scout Community Service Bar. It was so incredible seeing the difference that we made by just going out once a month that we decided to continue volunteering even after we earned the award. When it came time to earn our Girl Scout Silver Award, which is the highest award a middle school Girl Scout can earn, we decided to write and illustrate a picture book for kids about recycling. After earning our Silver Award, we decided to write a second book educating kids about water pollution. Now, three years later, we are all still volunteering for Oklahoma Blue Thumb monitoring Crutcho Creek and we have donated over $700 in profits from the books to the Oklahoma Blue Thumb Association.
Q) If there were one thing you could predict about the future of science, what would it be?
A) I predict that creativity and design are going to continue to play a very important role in scientific advancements and I hope that schools will prepare students for this by incorporating the arts in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programming.
Q) If there were one thing you could have in the classroom that you don’t currently, what would it be?
A) Lower cost access to design software for high school students! Even with the 40%-60% educational discount, it's still not affordable for high school students and schools.
Q) Tell us about your favorite teacher, how have they supported or inspired you?
A) My art teacher, Leslie Lienau, at the Conservatory for Classical Art. I've been studying with her for over five years and she's taught me so many valuable things about problem-solving. Every time there's something in her way, she invents a way around it.
Q) How has NSHSS played a role in your academic career?
A) Being a member of NSHSS has given me the opportunity to apply for unique scholarships like the Earth Day Award.
Q) What is your fondest or memory related to your Earth Day Project?
A) We go out to the creek on the 4th Wednesday of every month regardless of the weather. Sometimes it's raining, sometimes it's snowing, sometimes it's icy, and sometimes it's hot. The first winter we spent monitoring, there was 1 inch of ice on the surface of the water and we had to break it to get anywhere. We wear special thigh-high wader boots so that our clothes won't get wet while we're monitoring. We were wading through the ice-cold water and I slipped and fell in! I'm lucky my buddy, Ava, was with me to help me back to shore. Now, every time we're at the creek, they always remind me not to fall in again.
Q) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A) College and work are a given, but I hope that in 10 years I still have time to do volunteer work. It's been such an important part of my middle school and high school life that I hope that, even when I'm earning my living, I'll still have the time to volunteer for causes I believe in.
Q) What do you plan to study in college?
A) I plan to get an illustration degree in New York City.
Q) What do you hope for this year’s incoming High School Freshman class?
A) Get involved in community service work, especially if there's something you love to do that you could share with others. It's such a great experience to be able to use your gifts to serve your community.
Q) Outside of your environmental advocacy involvement, what has been your favorite /most enjoyable aspect of high school?
A) I've been a Girl Scout for over 10 years and it's opened so many doors for me, especially in high school. I've had the opportunity to attend numerous leadership conferences, mentor younger girls, and serve on the Girl Scout Board of Directors as a girl member.
Q) What do you do to stay organized / focused?
A) I use Kahn-Bahn to manage my school, homework, and community service projects. I write every task on a post-it note so I can see what I've done and what's left to do, this way I can track every task's progress from start to finish.
Q) How do you relax? What’s your favorite hobby?
A) I've always loved to read and nearly every free minute I have is spent doing so. I read 107 books last year and I'm hoping to beat that number in 2016, having already read over 45 books so far this year.
Q) Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
A) You know, you're the second person who's asked me this, so I think I'd better come up with one! Thank you National Society of High School Scholars!
About the Earth Day Awards
The NSHSS Foundation has partnered with the Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) to encourage environmental stewardship among high school students globally through the Earth Day Award competition. Prizes of $500 are awarded to high school students in recognition of environmental stewardship, leadership and volunteerism expressed through the Earth Day projects submitted for the competition. The project was launched in 2013 and is open to all high school students annually.