DURANT – The Choctaw Nation attended the 2020 National Johnson-O’Malley Association Conference last month in Washington, D.C.

The Choctaw JOM program assists Native youths from age 3 through the grade 12 in the 10-and-a-half counties of southeast Oklahoma.

Durant Public Schools’ Indian Education Program was honored as Region 3A Exemplary Program of the Year.

Students and educators from elsewhere in the region were also honored.

Raigen Elaine LeFlore, a senior who attends Pittsburg Public Schools, won the Steven Pruitt Memorial Scholarship, while Poteau Public Schools senior Kennedy Laine Thornburg won the Chief Earl Old Person Scholarship. Each student will receive $1,000 to use toward college.

“Only four national scholarships are awarded for the whole country and Choctaw students claimed two of them,” said Shane Haddock, Johnson-O’Malley Director for the Choctaw Nation.

Sheila Kirby, of Heavener Public Schools, took home Region 3A Teacher of the Year honors.

Kirby, who has served as director of federal programs and the JOM coordinator in Heavener, oversees several grants for the school. She has also worked in the community to ensure that students receive JOM benefits.

Judy Jones named East Central at-large Teacher of the Year. Following a 35-year public education career, Jones volunteers as the coordinator for the Panola JOM Program. It was the second time the she has received teacher-of-the-year honors.

The Choctaw Nation, which sponsors JOM programs in 75 southeast Oklahoma schools, was recognized as a Gold Donor for its support of JOM nationally.

More than 13,ooo students from 80 tribes are served with the $1 million annual JOM budget, which covers college and career readiness requirements including ACT tests, school dues including those for FFA dues, tablets, technology equipment and other classroom supplies.

Haddock said that he looks forward to the opening next school year of the Choctaw Cultural Center. “I’m hoping it will be an educational destination for many schools that JOM funds can help with.”

Photo Provided by Choctaw Nation

Representing the Choctaw Nation Johnson-O’Malley Program at the 2020 National JOM Association Conference held earlier this month in Washington, D.C. are, from left, Choctaw Nation JOM Director Shane Haddock; from Durant Public Schools’ Indian Education Program, Director Charlene Hibbs and Administrative Assistant Neta Wesley; and Choctaw Nation JOM Coordinators June Praytor and Jessica Huffman.