NORMAN — Jake Pyle was told he wouldn’t live past age 5, then age 7, 8, 9, and 11. Yet every time an end date was put on his life, Jake would surpass expectations and prove that with a positive attitude he could beat the odds.
Now a senior at Norman High School, doctors have stopped putting a date on his life and fellow Norman High students are recognizing what an inspiration Jake is to the school and others suffering from a chronic disease.
Pyle lives with Type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which causes the deterioration of his muscles. Today, Pyle is confined to a wheelchair, but is active in the Oklahoma Youth Leadership Forum, plays guitar and maintains goals like going to college at the University of Oklahoma.
Such determination to brush one’s self off and “roar” in the face of adversity, is a rare quality, but one that Norman High students believe Pyle exemplifies. Norman High School StuCo decided to honor Pyle with an entry for the Katy Perry and Good Morning America’s contest — Roar with Katy Perry.
Dawn Brockman, student congress advisor, said she has known Pyle since he was a freshman and that he embodies the lyrics of “Roar.” Hannah Connery, StuCo president, agrees with Brockman and said when StuCo decided to enter the contest, they couldn’t think of a better story than Pyle’s journey and how he represents the school.
When asked how Pyle, traditionally a rock fan, felt about having his life story told to a pop song, he said, “The words speak to who I am.”
To enter the Roar with Katy Perry contest, Norman High students will submit a 2 minute video of their school’s version of Katy Perry’s song “Roar.” If selected as winners of the contest, Katy Perry will come to Norman High and perform.
As exciting as a performance by Katy Perry would be for students, Brockman explains that the real purpose of the contest entry was to get Pyle’s story out.
Pyle has always dreamed of driving a car and while he has secured funding to alter a car so he could operate it, he still needs funding for a the car. The modifications that would allow Jake to drive can only be done to a newer model vehicle, Rhonda Pruett, a teaching assistant who has worked with Pyle for two years, explained.
“Hopefully someone will hear Jake’s story and step-up to help,” Brockman said.
Filming the 2 minute video, has put Pyle in a variety of new situations, all of which he said were a learning experience that helped him find himself. Besides hanging out with the Norman Crazies, a NH spirit group, while they pounded on trash can drums during the Norman High/Norman North football game, Pyle has sat between two Norman High tuba players and sported a Norman Roar T-shirt, all for the sake of movie fame.
Nora Springer, sophomore, said StuCo had T-shirts made that read “Norman Roar” on the front in order to raise funds for the video and show school spirit. Brockman said all of the black and orange T-shirts were sold out.
“We sold about 560 T-shirts in one week,” Brockman said.
Connery said student support for the contest entry comes from the fact that the song “Roar” has really become an anthem of the school.
“We wanted to incorporate as much of our school as possible, so we got a lot of our student organizations involved,” Connery said. “We have lots of montages of various student groups. So many people are excited. Our whole school is proud of it.”
For Pyle the whole video experience has meant a lot to him. Before the video, he knew some of the student council member’s names but didn’t know them personally.
“It’s (filming a video) made me work closer with other people. It’s showed me that people will listen to me. I really feel like I’m friends with a lot more students now,” Pyle said.
Norman High StuCo plans to submit the video on Tuesday and will know sometime before Oct. 25 if the school has been selected as the winner. To view the finished video, search #NormanRoar on Twitter.