Sister and brother receive highest honors at Powell High School


Growing up on a Powell area ranch, twins Hattie and Rhett Pimentel learned the value of hard work.

Over the past four years at Powell High School, their hard work has paid off — whether it’s building a robot, studying for calculus exams or applying for scholarships.

The siblings have been recognized with numerous national and state awards, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and received the highest honor given at PHS: The Balfour Award.

On Sunday, they will graduate — Hattie as valedictorian of the Class of 2018, and Rhett as salutatorian.

It’s likely the first time in the school’s 104 years that twins have shared those honors. They “may be making PHS history,” said Principal Jim Kuhn.

But it isn’t the first time that the Pimentels have earned exceptional honors at PHS.

Last year, Rhett became the first PHS student to win the FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List Award — an honor given to only 10 robotics students across the country each year.

As members of the PHS robotics Team 3188, Rhett, Hattie and fellow teammates won the Wyoming state championship three consecutive years, as well as the Montana state championship. In 2017, they advanced to the world robotics championship in Houston, placing higher than any PHS team ever has.

Last week, Hattie and Rhett were named U.S. Presidential Scholars by the United States Department of Education. It’s an honor given to only two students in Wyoming.

Earlier this spring, Hattie also was named a U.S. Senate Youth Program delegate (one of two for Wyoming).

Both Hattie and Rhett received the prestigious STARR scholarship for Michigan State University, which will cover all of their college expenses for the next four years (see related story).

“It’s a really good scholarship,” Rhett said.

He will major in mechanical engineering, while Hattie plans to study computer science before attending law school.

The twins grew up in Powell schools and said they’re thankful for their education here. Both have achieved perfect 4.0 GPAs at PHS while also taking classes at Northwest College, volunteering at the Powell Makerspace and staying busy in a variety of extracurricular activities, including the PHS Robotics Club.

Rhett said Powell’s schools are unique in offering robotics and tech programs.

“We both had a lot of great opportunities in Powell, and people who were willing to help us out,” Hattie said.

The Pimentels thanked several mentors for their support, including computer science teachers/robotics coaches Rick and Judith LaPlante, Zac Opps and Joel Hayano, and robotics coach Allen Griffin.

“Each one of them has a different personality and different perspective on things,” Rhett said. “Mentors are really important, I think.”

They said they’re thankful for all of their instructors.

“We’ve had a lot of really good teachers over the years,” Hattie said.

The twins said they’re very grateful for the constant support of their parents, Troy and Emelyn Pimentel, and grandparents, Charley and Penny Whiton.

“They always come to all of our events and encourage us,” Rhett said. “They’re really supportive. It’s awesome.”

Hattie said they also appreciate everyone who helped them out with scholarship applications, including Kara Miller and Tammy Thiel in the PHS guidance office.

Looking back at their years of school, the Pimentels said participating in robotics was a highlight.

“It was lots of fun,” Rhett said. “I spent a lot of time doing that.”

“I also really enjoyed tennis,” Hattie added. “It was probably one of the more fun things.”

Growing up together and participating in the same activities — such as tennis and robotics — Hattie and Rhett have helped each other, but said they also have a bit of a sibling rivalry.

“We’ve both written essays for college scholarships on this,” Rhett said. “We do have a rivalry and we are competitive, but I think it’s healthy.”

When asked what advice they would give fellow students, Hattie said, “it’s important to apply yourself and try different things.” She ended up joining robotics after randomly going to a meeting.

“Find something you’re passionate about and try really hard at it and give it your all,” Rhett said. “And also try to find some people who can help you out along the way — some teachers, some friends or some kind of mentors, because they’ll help you through all sorts of things.”