Tester: Senate should follow example of Huntley Project Red Devils
Senator praises school for overcoming tragedy with ‘hope and grit’
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester praised Montana's Huntley Project High School for overcoming tragedy with "hope and grit."
Tester shared the school's story on the floor of the U.S. Senate this morning. Tester told his colleagues about the Huntley Project Red Devils, who overcame a devastating arson to win the Montana Class B Football Championship.
On September 18, the community of Huntley Project awoke to news that the high school had burned to the ground.
"Although sad and angry about the fire, teachers, parents, students and the whole community rallied to support the student body," Tester said. "The 230 Huntley High students soldiered on in the spirit of their homecoming theme: warriors. They simply refused to give up."
Tester urged his Senate colleagues to "follow the example of perseverance of these tough young Montanans" when facing challenges in the future.
"I suggest we lace up our cleats, strap on our helmets and go out and get the job done," Tester said. "And as we approach the Christmas season, I urge the Senate to look at Huntley Project school and greater community and look to the future with hope and grit."
Tester toured the scene of the Huntley Project High School fire on November 11.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
December 10, 2008
Prepared for delivery
Mr. President, I rise during this Christmas season to share with the Senate and the nation an inspirational story from my home state of Montana.
As a former public school teacher myself, I have known for a long time how amazing Montana's young people can be. This story of triumph-over-tragedy serves as the latest reminder.
Early on the morning of September 18th, Montanans in and around Yellowstone County woke up to learn the tragic news that the Huntley Project school in Worden, Montana was on fire – an act of arson.
Despite the valiant efforts by crews from the Worden, Shepherd, Lockwood and Billings fire departments, the school burned to the ground.
Although sad and angry about the fire, teachers, parents, students and the whole community rallied to support the student body.
As the Billings Gazette reported at the time, "Huntley Project High was still burning when people in the tight-knit community vowed that the loss wouldn't affect their spirits."
Montana Superintendent of Schools Linda McCulloch put out a request statewide for schools and businesses to donate school supplies and books, backpacks and computers.
Montana's business community and citizens opened their hearts and opened their wallets, even in this tough economy, to help these students.
Billings School Superintendent Jack Copps arranged for classes to continue at Skyview High School and at other facilities to get them through the first days after the fire.
Later, temporary trailers were brought to the Huntley campus to begin the rebuilding process.
The 230 Huntley High students soldiered on in the spirit of their homecoming theme: warriors.
They simply refused to give up.
I toured the Huntley Project campus last month and met with Superintendent Dave Mahon, faculty and staff; they are an impressive group of people.
The Huntley Project Red Devils have long been a power in Class B football.
After the fire, the whole community rallied to cheer the team that symbolized Huntley's toughness in the face of unbelievable challenge.
Principal Mader said it well: "We're red and black and we're back," as Huntley beat the Townsend Bulldogs in their first game after the fire.
There would be many more victories as the team finished a perfect season with a record of 12-and-0.
And last month, Mr. President, Huntley beat the powerful team from Fairfield 41-28 to win the Class B state championship as players from both teams played their guts out and left it all out on the field.
It's the first state championship for the Project since 1998.
I want to congratulate Head Coach Jay Santy, as well as assistant coaches Rick Dees, Mark Wandle and Lenny Brown, all the players and their parents, their teachers and friends and supporters throughout the Huntley community.
Mr. President, America faces some tough challenges.
Last month, more than half a million American workers lost their jobs.
Many parts of the country are suffering from the foreclosure crisis in the housing market.
And the domestic automobile industry teeters on the brink of collapse.
As we work to tackle these tough challenges, I suggest we follow the example of perseverance of these tough young Montanans.
I suggest we lace up our cleats, strap on our helmets and go out and get the job done.
And as we approach the Christmas season, I urge the Senate to look at Huntley Project school and greater community and look to the future with hope and grit.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.