SHERIDAN — Two Sheridan students earned the first of three Wyoming Congressional Awards for Youth April 21. Nicholas Gale and Weston Heeren, two sophomores at Sheridan High School, earned bronze medals for completing 100 hours of voluntary public service, 50 hours of both personal development and physical fitness and planning a one-night expedition or exploration.
Gale and Heeren both play football and easily logged the 50 hours of personal development and physical fitness through their work on and off the field with teammates.
“Coach (Don) Julian…likes to have us participate in community events and really help out in the community,” Gale said.
“Especially with rodeo (pancake breakfast) and friends who need help moving…he tries to let us help out with things like that,” Heeren added. The young men completed their set goals in seven months. Their already-logged hours for the bronze medal serve as a building block to the silver and gold medal awards in the program. A $2,000 scholarship and $1,000 travel stipend accompanies the gold medal, which award earners receive at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Wyoming held its own across the nation, boasting second place in gold medal recipients just behind California, trailing only by two gold medalists.
The two boys and their advisors, each other’s mothers, hope to become the top state representing the program nationwide and move Sheridan County into the well-represented counties within the state.
Heeren said he and Gale plan on getting other peers and student groups involved in volunteering around the community and involved with this program in future years.
“The kids in our school and community are already doing a lot of community service,” Gale said. “The best thing about this is all you really have to do is write that down and it’s pretty much done.
Many of Gales teammates, he noted, have been right alongside him for many of these endeavors.
“There are other football players who, if they were in this program, could be using that to get this award,” he said. “Even the bronze (medal) can really help in the long run; it looks good on applications, scholarships, all that kind of stuff.”
Days of exploration or expedition require the young adults to plan one, two or four nights sleeping in a shelter or tent with 10, 20 or 40 hours of venture activity, depending on the award level. Both Heeren and Gale planned skiing trips with family members, tracking costs and setting budgets beforehand.
Advisors Nadine Gale and Skye Heeren, who mother the boys but swapped kids for advising, said one of the most difficult aspects was getting them started in setting long-term goals and discovering their passions.
“I think that this is maybe the first time that they’ve had to set big goals that are that long-term,” Skye Heeren said. “It’s not about, ‘I want to win the football game on Friday.’ It’s about, ‘What do I want to do for the next seven months or a year?’”
Nadine Gale said convincing the two boys that the program would be worth it was difficult initially, but by the end of the award ceremony last week in Cheyenne, they were already discussing plans for achieving silver medals.
Both young men will work to earn the gold medal award, and they plan to bring others alongside to continue bettering themselves and their community.