MCSD Whiteboard: A homecoming honor for two grads who never really left
Homecoming week approaches for Moffat County School District, the return of an age-old opportunity for alumni to return to Craig for a week of festivities and family.
For this year’s honored 20-year graduates, the class of 2003 chose a pair of alumni who have made Craig and Moffat County their homes.
“I’ve never left,” said Amanda Wooten, one of the two honored alumni. “I’ve been here this whole time.”
And while fellow alum representative Ryan Hampton did spend a few years out of town at Wyotech, he’s dug deep roots in the community in which he grew up, too.
“My wife was born and raised here. We both grew up here,” Hampton said. “It’s just home.”
Wooten, who works for the Bureau of Land Management locally and also recently opened a food truck, Lola’s, remembers high school as the beginning of what turned out to be a life-changing experience. The summer after freshman year, Wooten, a budding basketball star — she hoped — was practicing in the same gym in which Bulldogs practice today when things changed forever.
“Coaches Craig Mortenson and Mike LeWarne were there, and I went up for a layup and broke my femur, right under the basket,” Wooten remembered. “I was never able to play basketball again, but they found it was cancer in my leg. I’m cancer-free now, but after years of trying to save the leg, I finally just told them I was done with it. Six years ago this Sept. 7, I told the doctor to chop it off.”
Wooten remembers walking out on the football field bald-headed from treatment after being voted a junior class homecoming attendant. Being “the cancer girl” colored her high school experience — though it doesn’t seem to have darkened it. Now, she’s grateful to be free of the pain caused by that leg — she uses a prosthetic now — and perhaps healthier than ever.
“Twenty-two years ago I walked on that football field,” Wooten said of her experience the fall of her junior year. “It was a big honor then, and this is a big honor now. We have amazing people in our class. Dance teachers, teacher-teachers, just about everything came out of our class, so to be picked to represent them 20 years later, it’s special.”
Now Wooten is enjoying participating in her daughter’s journey through high school.
“The teachers here are so great,” Wooten said. “These great teachers are working with our kids every day. (Fellow 2003 graduate) Joe Padon is there, teaching my daughter right now, for example. Some of my old teachers are still there — Kip Hafey, Lance Scranton. Until last year, Ms. (Paula) Duzik was a counselor there. They helped me graduate. Knowing that they’re there and they helped me, it is like she’s with family.”
Hampton, who after several years in the sheriff’s office has been working as the MCSD school resource officer for about a year and a half now, maintains a close connection with the school system where his life began, too.
“My wife and I met in high school; we were high school sweethearts,” Hampton said. “That was a big time in our lives.”
Hampton, who attended Sunset Elementary School before coming through Craig Middle School and MCHS, said returning in a professional capacity to the schools has been an enjoyable experience.
“It brought back memories for sure,” he said. “I just did a tour with some of the police department’s newer officers. We were walking around the high school with them, seeing the old classrooms. Did a tour at Sunset, too, where I went, and we were with another officer who graduated from here and were talking about experiences. It’s neat, sharing experiences with kids now in school, knowing we made it through and have successful careers.”
Hampton has a son in his freshman year at MCHS and another child in seventh grade. Between helping his high schooler get acclimated and working with kids at all district buildings for work, he says he sees a lot of changes from 20 years ago.
“Oh yeah, it’s changed a lot,” Hampton said. “And they’ll continue to change. Classes are different; my son’s schedule we got this year seemed so different than even what I was used to just 20 years ago. Change is interesting. He seems to be enjoying it.”
Hampton relishes opportunities to share experience and wisdom with the students with whom he interacts.
“It’s just about making connections with these kids,” he said. “Graduating here, I can be kind of an example for them, I hope. When I can connect with kids who are struggling a bit in school, I try to let them know, put the work in and you can be successful at whatever you want to be.”
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