Annika Larrison receives P.E.O. $500 scholarship

By Courtney Blankenship
Pratt Tribune
Brenda Fowler, left, Kay Knight, Janet Black, Annika Larrison, and Tammy Killough. are shown as Larrison receives a $500 scholarship from P.E.O. Chapter F. She plans to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher.

Before leaving for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for the U.S. Army, Annika Larrison received news in late May that she had won a $500 scholarship from P.E.O. Chapter F. in Pratt.

As the only recipient of this year’s scholarship, following an application process, Larrison said she plans to use this scholarship to help pay off college debt on her way to becoming an elementary school teacher.

Larrison graduated from Pratt High School in 2021 and is currently attending Wichita State University to study Elementary Education while also serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as an 88M Motor Transport Operator.

“My unit I report to one weekend a month is in Great Bend, KS,” Larrison said. “I signed my contract in 2019; completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina the summer of 2020; graduated Basic Training August 13, 2020; completed my senior year of high school, then went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri [on] June 1 and graduated July 29.”

Now, Larrison said her focus is on getting her degree.

“I decided to join the Army to help pay for college and to have a fun experience,” Larrison said. “Although it was mostly for college, I never regret signing my contract. I've met so many great friends who I now consider family. I also keep in touch with most of them. I've learned many life lessons from joining and many more to come.”

Around November of last year, Larrison decided that she wanted to teach. During her freshman year of high school, she joined a program called “Greenback Match,” where she had the opportunity to mentor a little girl.

“All throughout high school I would go to Southwest Elementary once a week for about 30 minutes-- 30 minutes was the maximum time but I liked to stay an hour most days,” Larrison said. “We would play games or work on assignments. However, [in] my senior year, we couldn't really meet up because of COVID.”

Not long after though, Larrison said she received an offer from Southwest Elementary principal, Kirsten Blankenship, to see if she could watch one fourth grade class while they ate lunch in the classroom.

“Of course, I said yes,” Larrison said. “I usually showed up 30 minutes early, or sometimes an hour early when I had nothing to do beforehand. I helped them with their homework, played games with them, and just got to know each kid in the classroom. That's where my spark to become a teacher came from-- and watching Mrs. Moore teach.”

For Larrison, the most rewarding part is being around kids and watching them grow.

“I miss being able to see them every day, but I know that they are going to do great in life,” Larrison said. “I believe that I would like to mostly teach first grade through fourth grade.”

After graduating from Wichita State University, Larrison said she plans to teach locally and continue to be in the Army Reserves, or she may move to Colorado or Florida.