PINEDALE – In 1979, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate put aside their differences to enact the Congressional Medal Program, recognizing outstanding high school and college students for possessing initiative, a sense of service and achievement.
The awards are still granted annually to a select number of youth willing to commit hundreds of hours to community and personal betterment. Young people work with an advisor to set goals to obtain one of six tiered awards, from the Bronze Certificate to the Gold Medal.
Pinedale High School sophomore Wyatt Griffin received both the Bronze Medal and Silver Medal during the 2022 Wyoming Congressional Award Ceremony at the Cheyenne Civic Center on April 3.
Griffin attended a breakfast with fellow awardees and Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso before the ceremony.
“It was a really cool experience and it was interesting to hear what (Lummis and Barrasso) had to say,” said Griffin.
To earn the award, Griffin was required to complete a certain number of hours in four different categories – voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and planning an expedition or exploration – over a certain time period.
To secure the Bronze Medal, Griffin put in 100 hours of voluntary public service. He committed another 100 hours for the Silver Medal. Griffin applied his service and leadership through the local 4-H.
In the physical fitness category, Griffin tallied 100 hours for the Silver Medal (50 for the Bronze Medal). A multi-sport athlete, Griffin went out for the Wrangler golf and wrestling teams.
Griffin also participated in the Pinedale Half Marathon in September, covering a “lot of miles” – 13.1 miles, or 21 kilometers, to be specific.
“It was difficult,” he said. “It involved a lot of running.”
To fulfill the personal development – consisting of 100 hours for the Silver Medal and 50 for bronze – Griffin got creative. He is a member of the PHS band program.
In spring 2021, Griffin performed the role of Pugsley Addams in PHS’s production of “The Addams Family – A New Musical.” Countless hours spent learning lines and rehearsing to bring one of the musical’s leading roles to life helped Griffin meet requirements for personal development.
The final task was to plan a three-day, two-night expedition or exploration.
“My family had gone to 49 out of 50 states, so I planned a trip to that last state, which was North Dakota,” Griffin said. “It’s not a super exciting state, but I made it fun.”
North Dakota may not contain blockbuster amusement parks, big cities or famous national parks, but Griffin discovered the state is more than prairie and gas and oil wells. He arranged for the family to stop at the Red River Zoo in Fargo, a trip highlight.
“They are especially known for their red pandas,” he said. “There was an encounter you could do where you actually got to feed the pandas, handle them.”
Griffin intends to achieve the next step in the Congressional Medal program – the prestigious Gold Medal – no small task that involves another 200 hours of voluntary public service, 100 hours of personal development, 100 hours in physical fitness and a five-day, four-night exploration or expedition.