Abraham, Cappiello earn top honors for Class of 2021

Cappiello, Brown named Balfour Award winners

Posted 5/20/21

This year’s Powell High School graduation ceremony will, thankfully, be different from last year’s. It will be held live and in-person at 2 p.m. Sunday in the high school auditorium. …

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Abraham, Cappiello earn top honors for Class of 2021

Cappiello, Brown named Balfour Award winners


This year’s Powell High School graduation ceremony will, thankfully, be different from last year’s. It will be held live and in-person at 2 p.m. Sunday in the high school auditorium. Graduating seniors have been allotted eight tickets each for friends and family to attend, keeping the size of the audience to about 50% capacity of the facility. It will also be livestreamed on Facebook.  

The Shoshone Learning Center will hold its graduation at 12:30 p.m. May 23 at the high school auditorium. 

Kadden Abraham is the Class of 2021’s valedictorian and Maggie Cappiello is salutatorian. Both seniors maintained excellent grades, took multiple concurrent college classes and were involved in various extracurricular activities. 

Neither of them actively sought the top honors in their graduating class, but said the positions resulted from attention to their school work.



“It [being valedictorian] found me. Getting good grades and working hard in school has been important my whole life,” Abraham said. “Then, as a senior, it all fell into place.”

He focused on taking challenging classes, doubling up on math and sciences. He has earned 42 college credits, which means he will begin college as a sophomore, or very close.  

That college career will be put on hold for at least a year, though, as Abraham will spend next year on a church mission. The prospect has him excited, because this year the missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are going to be allowed to travel abroad, if that is where the mission sends them. Last year, because of the pandemic, mission work was completed in the home country of the missionary.

Abraham can also use that year to decide where he will pursue his degree in chemical engineering. Right now, he’s leaning toward Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. 

A running back and linebacker on the football team and a trackster with four events, Abraham is proud of his invitation to play in the 48th annual Wyoming Shrine Bowl All Star Football game, set for June 12 in Casper. He will play on the North team, along with teammates Riley Bennett and Jesse Trotter. Abraham is the vice president of the National Honor Society.

He credits his parents, Trenton and Collette Abraham, with being his biggest help and supporters, but he also took the time to thank a lot of other people who helped him along the way. 

“Definitely all my teachers, they were great. And there’s my ‘summer mom’ and boss, Kelly Long, at Olsen Enterprises.” Abraham said he has worked at the rental house business since he was just out of the eighth grade, making repairs.

The support Abraham received went a long way in deciding on his chosen career path. He was assigned a paper in freshman science and wrote about chemical engineering, and that paper helped cement his decision. 

“I have always really liked chemistry and engineering, and always liked working on solving the problems,” he said. 



Maggie Cappiello is the salutatorian for the Powell High School class of 2021. She has a 4.25 weighted GPA at PHS, usually taking two college classes each term. Her first college class was a culinary class at Sheridan College, beginning a habit that has accrued more than 30 college credits. 

Like Abraham, Cappiello did not seek her designation as an honors graduate.

“I didn’t pursue it. Both my parents are teachers and I enjoy school and doing well in school,” she said.

Both of Cappiello’s older sisters were college honors students “and I learned by example because I’m the youngest.”

Cappiello didn’t know she was in the running for the honor until this year’s spring semester, just a few months ago. “Then I looked at it and knew it was a definite possibility,” she said. 

Originally, Cappiello wanted to attend a culinary school. Since then her plans have changed a little. She has decided to attend Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, where she has been awarded a prestigious STARR scholarship, which will cover her expenses while she pursues a food science degree. Culinary school will come after that, she said.

“Culinary is a science, so there is a lot of math and science. But there are a lot more options with that [food science] degree and certifications,” she explained.

Cappiello is exploring those job options with her teachers and Jill Smith, who substitutes in the school district. Smith has a degree in food science and was instrumental in testing and packaging the products for Gluten Free Oats, a company Smith’s family previously owned and operated. Those converstations piqued Cappiello’s interest in perhaps working in the testing and packaging part of the food industry after graduation. 

Cappiello also said she owes a lot to her parents, Vin and Lisa Cappiello, who both taught in Cody schools; Vin Cappiello currently teaches at Powell High School, though he’s leaving the post at the end of the school year.

“They’ve been my support system,” Maggie Cappiello said of her parents. “My sisters were in college and I was pretty much an ‘only child’ during my high school years. 

“And they have been amazing,” she grinned. 

She went on to thank Denise Laursen, who has taught Cappiello since her freshman year. “She got me into food and really helped me find my niche,” Cappiello said. Laursen was also the SkillsUSA team coach and adviser who helped and encouraged Cappiello as she competed for and won a recent state championship in baking.

PHS math teacher Russ Schwahn was also on her list. Schwahn composed a letter of recommendation for the STARR scholarship that Cappiello believes was instrumental in her receiving the award. 

“He’s been one of my biggest supporters and he wrote the letter for the scholarship. I’ll always be in debt to him for that,” she said. “Plus, he is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

In addition to her state championship in SkillsUSA, Cappiello has been a member of the National Honor Society for two years and performed in the jazz band as a sophomore and junior and in concert band her freshman year. She is an acolyte in her church, where she also helped with livestreaming services during the pandemic. Cappiello is a third degree black belt in taekwondo and was instrumental in forming the Gay-Straight Student Alliance at PHS, where she serves as president.

Cappiello has also been named a Balfour winner, an award given to the outstanding boy or girl based on academic resume, their extra curricular activities and ACT scores.


Balfour award

The male winner of the Balfour Award is PHS senior CJ Brown. 

Brown’s classes are similar in content to those of Abraham, and the two have had a lot of concurrent college classes together. Brown has a 4.3 GPA. He intends to pursue a degree in computer science because there are so many opportunities in the field. He will begin at the University of Wyoming in August, where he has received the Trustees’ Scholars Award, UW’s top academic scholarship. 

Brown has truly loved his dramatic experience while at Powell High School. He has been part of every production since he was a sophomore and credits Bob Hunt, who directs most of the shows, with changing him.

“He [Hunt] helped give me confidence, and that really helped me out. I used to be really shy,” he explained. The son of Beth and Clay Brown, CJ Brown hopes to land a job in computer science, maybe in a Big Tech corporation.

“Those are really good jobs,” Brown said. “It would be my dream job to work for one of the tech giants.”

The Powell High School Class of 2021 graduation exercises will be livestreamed at www.facebook.com/Powell-High-School-104661744681410/.