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Powell High School, Shoshone Learning Center celebrate graduating Class of 2017

PHS seniors Meg Hanlin and Brett Gilman received the 2017 Balfour Outstanding Senior Awards Monday evening. ‘It’s the highest honor awarded by our school,’ said PHS Principal Jim Kuhn. Names of Balfour Award winners are engraved on a plaque at the school, dating back to 1931. PHS seniors Meg Hanlin and Brett Gilman received the 2017 Balfour Outstanding Senior Awards Monday evening. ‘It’s the highest honor awarded by our school,’ said PHS Principal Jim Kuhn. Names of Balfour Award winners are engraved on a plaque at the school, dating back to 1931. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner

Over a dozen years of education will culminate this weekend for local graduates.

The Shoshone Learning Center will celebrate its graduation at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Powell High School Auditorium, where 11 graduates will receive their diplomas. The PHS graduation follows at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium, with 102 graduates.

PHS Principal Jim Kuhn said if he were to sum up this class in one word, it would be “determination.”

“I believe this class, like many, set goals for the class, their teams, their organizations and for themselves,” Kuhn said. “This class has not realized all their goals — none of us ever reach all of our goals — but they went after their goals with as much determination as any class I have been around. They were leaders and they weren’t afraid of a challenge.”

He said he will miss this group of young men and women.

Shoshone Learning Center Principal Ginger Sleep said she is both privileged and honored to present high school diplomas to this year’s graduating class.

“Without a doubt, they’ve worked diligently to meet the requirements necessary to achieve the coveted status of ‘high school graduate,’” Sleep said. “I am fully confident they will aspire to greatness, and wish them the best in the days ahead. We will truly miss them!”

Valedictorian and salutatorian

The valedictorian for the PHS Class of 2017 is Meg Hanlin, daughter of Brett and Renee Hanlin. Nicole Sanders is the salutatorian; she is the daughter of Calvin and Jodie Sanders.

During their high school years, both Hanlin and Sanders stayed active in a variety of activities, including PHS Student Council, National Honor Society, drama, tennis and Ignition.

Hanlin also is a member of the PHS band and choir, and participated in speech, swimming and soccer. For the past two years, she served as the student liaison on the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees.

Sanders played basketball and helped coach a girls basketball team through the Powell Recreation District. She was selected as a Wyoming delegate for the U.S. Senate Youth Program, representing the Cowboy State in Washington, D.C. She also was a Wyoming Girls State delegate and went on to the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation.

Sanders and Hanlin also excelled academically and each earned the Trustees’ Scholars Award — the top academic scholarship at the University of Wyoming.

Sanders plans to attend UW this fall, double-majoring in psychology and possibly international relations, and minoring in the honors program.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to study abroad quite a bit,” she said. “I’m planning to go to law school afterwards, and I’m looking at international law.”

Hanlin is planning to go to the University of Oklahoma on the National Merit Scholarship. Her major is undecided, but “I’m looking at teaching English as a second language, just for the doors that it will open with refugees here or overseas, too,” she said.

She also plans to study abroad. Hanlin lived in Ecuador for a few years when her family served as Christian missionaries.

Hanlin and Sanders have been friends since their days at Southside Elementary School. While Hanlin was in Ecuador, the girls stayed in touch.

“I still have letters that we wrote to each other,” Sanders said.

“I do, too,” Hanlin said.

They said they’re thankful for Southside’s accelerated reading program and still remember books from those early years.

“Looking back, that was really good to have that incentive to read,” Sanders said.

The two seniors said they’re grateful for the teachers they had from elementary school to Powell Middle School and finally PHS.

“I feel like I’m pretty good friends with a lot of my teachers, which is really cool,” Sanders said. “I think that’s something special about Powell.”

Her preschool teacher, Tammy Thiel, now works at PHS and is a student council adviser.

“I’ve known Mrs. Thiel my entire life ... we’re good family friends,” Sanders said. “It’s been really cool, starting my [educational] career with her and now ending with her here, too.”

She also thanked Nick Fulton, a student council adviser, saying he’s a calming influence for students.

Sanders said she also appreciates Nate Urbach, who teaches history.

“I’ve always liked history, but he kind of rekindled that for me,” Sanders said.

Hanlin said she’s enjoyed meeting people in a variety of activities at PHS, and said she appreciates teachers and coaches who “help kids find the areas that they succeed in.”

“They sacrifice so much to make sure you can follow whatever path you want to do and help you succeed in whatever area,” Hanlin said. “I feel like whatever people choose to do, they always do great at it in Powell, because people will dedicate a lot of time to it.”

Both students said they’re also thankful for Kuhn, the PHS principal, and Tim Wormald, the assistant principal.

“They do a lot, and I think a lot of it goes unseen, too,” Sanders said.

The seniors also said they’re thankful for the support of their parents and families. Their older sisters — Bailey Sanders and Emma Hanlin — were valedictorians of their PHS classes.

“They set the standard for us to succeed,” Meg Hanlin said. “But also, I didn’t ever feel a lot of pressure to follow in my sister’s footsteps.

“They were an example, not a requirement,” Sanders added. “They didn’t put a lot of pressure on us.”

As they get ready to graduate on Sunday, the seniors said it’s important to enjoy the moment.

Sanders said she’d tell fellow students not to get too focused on planning ahead.

“It’s good to focus on the future, but I feel like I kind of did that too much in my high school career, instead of focusing on being in high school and enjoying what was going on,” Sanders said.

Hanlin said she’s learned to not set qualifications, like “If I do this, then I will be happy.”

“If you’re not happy where you are, nothing you can gain will make you happier,” Hanlin said. “You just need to be happy with the little ways you already succeeded and just keep pushing forward.”

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