Marcene Piper Skillen-Robison

Soon to graduate from Hysham School, Piper Skillen-Robison isn’t sure college will make her busy life any slower.

“I’m slightly hoping,” said Skillen-Robison, 17. “But I’m already planning to be part of the student advisory board, and I want to get into a percussion group, so it’s not going to be a slowdown, I feel.”

The daughter of the Treasure County sheriff and a Hysham teacher, Skillen-Robison will graduate as valedictorian after what seems like an exhausting high school career.

She took part in “every club our school offers,” she said. That includes FFA, Pep Club and Spanish Club — until there weren’t enough people to keep it going. She played volleyball, basketball and ran track.

She’s been working for an accountant in Hysham. And she’s a volunteer firefighter in the co-op department with Custer, which can demand her attention at nearly any time. Skillen-Robison remembers one call, for which her dad woke her up at 3 a.m.

But that’s life in a small town.

“Motivated,” she said. “The town needs people to be involved, and my school needs people to be involved.”

She said one of the most rewarding extracurriculars was her volunteer work for Camp Postcard. She went to the camp as a junior high student and said it brought out the best in her, so she started volunteering there after her sophomore year of high school.

Montana kids visit the camp for outdoor activities, rock wall climbing, team-building and rifle classes.

“It’s completely free,” Skillen-Robison said. “Police officers from around Montana and Volunteers of America put it on, and we work with junior high kids that have social issues.”

She’ll take her resume to Montana State University Billings next year, where she was accepted with a scholarship from the school. She’ll follow her sister, who’s studying English.

“I think it’d be great because it’s not that big,” she said of MSUB. “The classes are about 30 kids at most, and because I’m from a small town, that will help me adjust.”

She said she’s thinking of taking a few things off of her plate, though she hopes to stay on with the fire squad when she’s home; she’ll be sworn in as a reserve deputy soon.

Skillen-Robison plans to study psychology at MSUB, hoping to apply her learning toward youth work and criminal justice fields. She graduates from high school this spring alongside a class of eight students.

And while her involvement in activities might change, there’s one that will likely stick with her. Before starting at MSUB, she’ll spend her third year working at Camp Postcard.

“It’s honestly the highlight of my summer,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”