by nathan oster
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso made a special appearance Tuesday morning at Greybull Middle School, speaking with students and staff members about his life in Washington, D.C., the contributions a Greybull native is making as a member of his staff and the Hathaway scholarship program he helped push through the state Legislature.
Barrasso, who like other members of U.S. Congress is on a brief Easter recess from work in Washington, D.C., flew into the South Big Horn County Airport shortly after 10 a.m. and was at the school by 10:15.
He spent 30 minutes at the school, visiting three different classrooms and speaking to three different groups of students before moving to the library, where he visited with Greybull school administrators and board members.
Just by visiting the school Barrasso made news. According to Ken Jensen, who has taught at GMS for 40 years, the last time a sitting U.S. senator visited GMS was 1990. Back then, it was Alan Simpson, and according to Jensen, it was far more informal than Barrasso’s visit, which had been planned for more than a week.
In all three classrooms, Barrasso raved about one of Greybull’s own, Macy Sukut. The daughter of Jeff and Kim Sukut, Macy began working in Barrasso’s office as an intern and has progressed to the point where she is now writing legislation for Barrasso. She’s also making a name for herself, having been named, by a publication known as The Hill, as one of the 50 most beautiful people in Washington, D.C.
“She comes from Greybull, this school…she probably sat at these same desks,” Barrasso said. “Now she is known on Capitol Hill. That just says that no matter where we start in life, there are great opportunities in this country.”
Barrasso also spoke at length about the Hathaway scholarship program, pointing out that he was one of the four senators who originally supported the concept. Today thousands of Wyoming students are benefiting from that decision.
“Every student in this room, right here,” he told one group of students, “can get an education at the University of Wyoming or in one of our community colleges — and all you have to do is earn the scholarship, stay out of trouble and keep your grades up.
“No other state has anything like it. In fact there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”
Barrasso said that with so much mineral wealth in the state, there were people who thought the state should “write checks to everyone in the state.”
But the Hathaway scholarship has proven its worth time and time again.
“We knew at the time that the best investment we could make would be in the young people of this state,” he said.
Barrasso said students should take pride in the fact that they attend an award-winning school (GMS received a 2012 Distinguished Title I School award) and live in “a great community that is very supportive” of its young people and their education.
“I’d encourage you all to aim so high that you’ll never be bored,” said Barrasso. “Aim for something you’re interested in, whether that’s becoming a teacher … or working in the energy industry.”
Much like the computer has done, Barrasso said he believes new developments in energy in the years to come will change the world for the better. “And maybe, just maybe, one of you will be the next Bill Gates.,” he told students.
On his way out of the school, Barrasso said there was another purpose behind his visit. For most of his time at GMS, Jensen has led groups of students to the nation’s capitol. Each time, he’s made it a point to check in with the state’s congressional delegation.
“Students have been coming to Washington for years,” Barrasso said. “I wanted to come and visit them on their own turf.”