Congressional award nominees aim high



Here are the Park County gold medalists of the Congressional Award. Sydney Horton  and Alex Aguirre and Rylee Ramsey are students from Powell High School.  From left  are Kendra Ostrom, Claire Ostrom, Sydney Horton, Sen. Mike Enzi, Rylee Ramsey, Adelle Ostrom and Alex Aguirre.

Bronze, silver and gold medals. To most people, each metal holds a level of self- worth and skill. But to a special group, each is as important as the other.

For example, in the Olympics, each medal is an end to the journey. But in the United States Congressional Award, it is not an end but rather a beginning.

“The Congressional Award is a service driven opportunity for youth who are willing to commit to volunteerism in addition to personal development and physical fitness goals,” Trista Ostrom said.

Each state holds the opportunity for youth to participate in the Congressional Award, and Trista Ostrom is the executive director of Wyoming’s branch.

She is also a Powell High School graduate.

Ostrom has been the executive director of the award for 2.5 years and stays very busy.

“The executive director serves on the Wyoming Congressional Award council and executes the wishes of the board including overseeing all of the administrative operations of running the program, working with all participants, advisors, and partners of the organization,” Ostrom said. “I also plan and execute all state wide events including the state ceremony, gold ceremony trip to Washington D.C., the service retreat and the golf invitational every year.”

The Congressional Award is a service driven opportunity for youth who are willing to commit to volunteerism in addition to personal development and physical fitness goals.”

— Trista Ostrom

Ostrom also oversees a team who is in charge of ensuring the award is publicized adequately and properly funded.

Along with serving as the executive director, she serves as the adviser to a handful of Wyoming youth.

“I had never heard of it until I was asked to be an advisor,” Ostrom said. “Once I became an advisor I realized I could do the work alongside the participant I was advising.

“I went to get both awards while still advising.”

Ostrom received her bronze and silver awards before aging out of the program.

The Congressional Award serves as an opportunity for any youth from the ages of 13-23. Specifically from Powell High School, seven  youth are currently involved with the program, and two are in the process of joining.

Hailee Paul, Rylee Ramsey, Raelynn Ramsey, Sydney Horton, Tate Barhaug, Gabri Lundberg and Kayla Kolpitcke are all members. Natalie and Grant Dillivan are in the process of joining.

Horton and Rylee Ramsey are finished with the program and will travel to Washington D.C. this summer for the national gold ceremony.

“ I fly out in late June, and I stay at a really nice hotel,” junior Sydney Horton said. “I get to tour D.C., and we get to go inside the White House and explore it all.”

“It’s a two-day ceremony, where the first day honors the first 25 states, and the second day honors the last 25 states,” Horton said. “Wyoming is last, which is cool because Wyoming has the largest number of kids who have received their gold.”

The Wyoming state ceremony is in Cheyenne.

“It’s not a national ceremony like D.C,” Horton said. “You’re honored for your bronze, silver, and gold medals but you receive your gold medal at the National Ceremony.”

“You get to meet the senators, and they give a big speech on why it’s important,” Horton said. “Sen. Mike Enzi is a big part of the Congressional Award and helped form the program.”

Horton has been in the program since her sophomore year, and while the time for working towards the gold medal comes to around 3 years, Horton finished in a year and a half.

“I wanted to finish before I graduated,” Horton said.

Barhaug is a sophomore this year, and has been a part of the program for over a year.

“I decided I wanted to be a part of this when Trista Ostrom, who is basically the head of this for our state, got a hold of me last summer,” Barhaug said.

He has been working diligently since last summer, and is constantly working towards meeting his goals.

“We had to have a specific goal for athletics, volunteer work, and personal development,” Barhaug said. “For personal development my goal was to place in the top 5 for National Speech Competition.”

Barhaug is working towards his gold medal this year, and has to have at least 100 hundred hours of volunteer work.

“I volunteer with FFA, 4H, and the DANO Youth program,” Barhaug said. “I have 154 hours right now.”

This award takes effort, enthusiasm, and passion; but in the end, the amount of work put in greatly surpasses the elements students take out of it.  

“It has physical activity, and also more personal growth opportunities,” Barhaug said. “Plus you can get some sweet scholarships.”

Along with scholarship money, participants develop more of a personality, which will help in their future.  And with scholarship opportunities, students learn more than how to save money on their future schooling.

“Although I never got the gold, I watch the kids that do and see not only the scholarship opportunities that arise for them but I watch them develop a sense of community as well as the ability to set goals and work towards those goals,” Ostrom said.

“Our students establish relationships with people in their communities which could lead to a number of things down the road.”

Whether a student receives only bronze, only silver, or all three medals before they age out is not what sticks. More importantly, The Congressional Award is a journey, with the medals serving as the destination.