Powell students explore the political realm

Posted 3/16/23

Two Powell students recently got the opportunity to observe the political process in ways most don’t get the chance to see.

Powell High School senior Owen Fink served as a page in the …

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Powell students explore the political realm


Two Powell students recently got the opportunity to observe the political process in ways most don’t get the chance to see.

Powell High School senior Owen Fink served as a page in the state Senate during the recent legislative session in Cheyenne — an experience that followed his serving as a page in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., last year.

Meanwhile, Powell homeschool student Emmalee Nordland spent the last week of the session at the Capitol; Nordland was among 16 area students who observed lawmakers in action and took part in interactive learning through a Christian organization called TeenPact.


Owen Fink

Fink’s political journey was inspired by his uncle, who served as a page for the late Sen. Mike Enzi while in college. Fink was looking for a similar opportunity when he learned he could get a taste of the experience as a high school student. Fink was sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and became one of 26 students selected for the program; when all was said and done, he was one of only 20 who completed the program.

Fink and his fellow pages were expected to be at school at 5:30 a.m. and working as a page by 9 a.m.

“They tried to cram [a full day of school] into a couple hours.” Fink said. “It definitely wasn’t like the experience at Powell High School, but it was definitely rigorous.”

Outside of his early morning schooling, Fink was in the Capitol with legislators for important moments in our nation’s recent history.

“I was there when Russia invaded Ukraine, when they started sending the aid packages over,” Fink said. “I witnessed a lot of great speeches.”

He was also present for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — the first Black woman to serve on the court in U.S. history. Also in his time in D.C., Fink met Vice President Kamala Harris and was present for the Omnibus spending package. They were all standout moments at a time when he said everyday was a standout.

At the state Capitol in Cheyenne, Nordland and Fink both spent a significant amount of time observing the state Legislature and meeting the men and women who represent the citizens of Wyoming.


Emmalee Nordland

Nordland is educated as a member of a Powell based homeschool co-op but was able to visit the Legislature with her former Cody co-op and the TeenPact program. According to the nonprofit organization’s website, TeenPact’s goal is to teach students about the political process in an interactive way while growing in their faith.

Through the program, Nordland and her fellow students acted out a mock state Legislature where they held office and drafted bills. Nordland’s bill related to preventing school shootings and to her surprise, it passed.

“I definitely learned a lot; I didn’t think it would take so long to get passed,” she said.

Nordland and her classmates were able to talk to Gov. Mark Gordon, Sen. Lynn Hutchings, Tim Salazar, Bo Biteman and Bob Ide, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams and Secretary of State Chuck Gray, among others.

They were also able to watch the third and final reading of Rep. Williams’ “Life is a Human Right” from the Senate gallery and pray for the legislators, she said.


Making an impression

Fink, whose service in the Wyoming Senate was sponsored by Sen. Dan Laursen (R-Powell), came away impressed with the Legislature.

“At the state level, it was amazing. There was debate, there was questioning, even if somebody agreed with something they would, you know, play devil’s advocate to try to figure stuff out,” Fink said. “And it was great just to see that debate and deliberation. It was something I really missed at the federal level and the federal level was also very obviously really partisan.”

Nordland and her mother were similarly impressed to see politicians with opposing views interact in a “community minded” way. From her experience and conversations — including one with Gov. Gordon — Nordland said she learned the importance of state level government and how it “affects everyone here even more than national government sometimes.” 

At the end of the week, the TeenPact class walked up the stairs to the top of the Capitol’s dome and signed their names, joining many others who’ve done so over the decades. Nordland was initially reluctant to attend the TeenPact event — she said the schedule was demanding — but she now hopes to attend as a second-year student in 2024.

“Even at a young age we can make an impact,” Nordland said. “We can do anything.”