Finding What Works

CVC success hinges on human potential

By Ashleigh Snoozy | ashleigh.snoozy@thesheridanpress.com Feb 25, 2021 Updated Apr 19, 2021

Editor’s Note

This article is the second in a series of three articles on the Center for a Vital Community, how it affects the community and attempts to replicate its success. Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sheridan Press Publisher Kristen Czaban is president of the CVC’s advisory board.

SHERIDAN — As Sheridan nears a tipping point — one in which a critical mass of residents have leadership training, nonprofit leaders have the skills necessary to achieve success and youth mature into leadership positions — other communities have tried to replicate one of the programs behind fostering that growth — the Center for a Vital Community.

To date, though, no other communities in Wyoming have effectively started organizations with similar missions.

This fact has caused some to wonder what makes Sheridan special in its ability to support the CVC.

As founding board member Anne Nickerson said, having both the “doers” and the funding plays a key role.

Without a foundation like the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation willing to take a risk on a concept as abstract as the CVC and a partnership with Sheridan College, the organization likely wouldn’t have gotten its start.

The CVC’s executive director, Amy Albrecht, and its only other staff member, Julie Greer, are both employees of the college. But, the duo raise money for their own salaries alongside funds for the organization’s programs. The CVC’s annual budget is typically $165,000, but in years it hosts the CiViC Leadership Project, Albrecht and Greer must raise an additional $110,000.

The initial investment from the Scott foundation and ongoing funding from the foundation and other donors are likely the most difficult aspect of the CVC to replicate.

But, Sheridan is not the only community in Wyoming with generous philanthropists.

“It’s about building bridges in the community — whether it’s in between individual nonprofit directors or two individuals who sit down in a Community Conversation or in a study circle group together or if it’s just between organizations,” Greer said. “But that’s what makes it so unique. In other communities, nothing like it is that bridge-builder.”

Scott Henkel, associate professor of English and African American and Diaspora Studies at the University of Wyoming; director of UW’s Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research; and Wyoming Humanities Board Ex Officio; hopes to one day bring the CVC concept to Laramie, as does Cody Mayor Matt Hall and a group in Gillette.

While Albrecht has worked with each of these groups, the capacity to spearhead starting up a similar organization in another community extends beyond the finances and time availability of the two-person staff in Sheridan County. Likewise, the right combination of financial backing and motivated citizen has yet to emerge from these three communities.

“I couldn’t really find anyone that I could get to champion the whole idea and putting some real substance together to get it going over here,” Hall said. “I had a lot of interest…but it couldn’t really get a lot of traction from those people to take it on.”

In addition, nonprofits often compete for funding in a community, Hall said, which is something Albrecht said doesn’t exist as much in Sheridan. That lack of competitiveness among nonprofits in Sheridan aid in the success of CVC’s model.

“It broke down all of that scarcity mentality — this is mine, this is my donor, this is my money, these are my programs, we can’t talk to you about it,” Albrecht said. “It went from, ‘Oh, they’re with that nonprofit,’ to ‘Oh, well that’s just Susan Carr, I’ll just give her a jingle,’ because they’re friends and colleagues.

“That has made a huge difference,” Albrecht said.

Gillette, despite efforts to rally around energy to establish a CVC in the community, couldn’t gather funding needed to support the initiative.

“I think it’s a combination of things,” Albrecht said while reflecting why it hasn’t worked elsewhere. “On the one hand, you have people who really get it, they see the value in it and they try to get other people on board with it.

“And then they hit the wall. And sometimes the wall is money, and sometimes the wall is…a partner.”

Albrecht said what people don’t generally like is another standalone nonprofit with which to share funding. Having an established foundation to contribute funding helps.

“Gillette just kept hitting the wall of ‘We don’t have the money. We don’t have the money,’” Albrecht relayed. “‘We see the value of this; we can’t find the money.’”

COVID-19 temporarily halted efforts to resurrect a CVC in Laramie, but until then Henkel said he believes in the mission of the CVC and its potential implementation outside of Sheridan County.

“All of that doesn’t come by accident,” Henkel said of the CVC’s success in Sheridan. “All of that comes by design and it’s a result of all the work, like Amy, put into it.”

Henkel said he would love to implement the CVC’s first sister organization in Laramie and build the skill of community-wide leadership and civil conversations.

“There really is a design and work behind having good conversations,” Henkel said. “Some public fora, they assume that a free-for-all is the best way to approach things, and granted sometimes that may be the case. But when a community conversation is designed and structured carefully in order to foster quality information, it really is a delight to see.”

Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.

Article written by the Sheridan Press: https://www.thesheridanpress.com/news/local/cvc-success-hinges-on-human-potential/article_59e72d86-76ca-11eb-a426-63d848040e51.html

Civic Engagement

CVC promotes leadership, cooperation in Sheridan

By Ashleigh Snoozy | ashleigh.snoozy@thesheridanpress.com Feb 24, 2021 Updated Apr 19, 2021

Editor’s Note

This article is the first in a series of three articles on the Center for a Vital Community, how it affects the community and attempts to replicate its success. Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sheridan Press Publisher Kristen Czaban is president of the CVC’s advisory board.

SHERIDAN — Communities often display assets that set them apart. Jazz was born in New Orleans. Palo Alto sits at the heart of Silicon Valley. Deadwood boasts a history of gold mining and outlaws. Cody claims the history of Buffalo Bill Cody as its own.

Sheridan, though, offers something even less tangible — something other communities have struggled to replicate.

The Center for a Vital Community, a nonprofit that operates under the umbrella of the Sheridan College Foundation, promotes leadership training, civic engagement and support for nonprofits, with a focus on the people of the community.

“One of the reasons Sheridan has been so successful is that we not only have the doers — the people with the vision and the ideas and the ones that are going to roll up their sleeves and the volunteers — but we also have that financial background,” said Anne Nickerson, one of the organization’s original board members. “And neither group can be successful without the other one.”

That combination of doers and funders gave life to the CVC as a pillar of the Sheridan community that seeks to address some of the community’s biggest challenges.

The spark of an idea

More than 20 years ago, members of the Scott family and trustees of the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation met with Curtiss Meadows, a Dallas, Texas, attorney and the director of the Meadows Foundation, which funds arts and culture, civic and public affairs, education and health and human services initiatives.

From there, the Scotts provided the funding and recruited advisory board members to create what became known as the Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College on Jan. 18, 2000. The original board included then-Sheridan College President Steve Maier, Russell Carlson, Ky Dixon, Jo Scott, Anne Nickerson, Linnet McGoodwin, Steve Carroll and Bob Berger. Lollie Plank, Roy Garber and Jay McGinnis also participated in the creation of the organization.

Most foundations fund tangible projects in communities — for example, affordable housing, food banks, early childhood education centers, animal shelters. The CVC, though, offers a different perspective centering around concepts that are difficult to quantify.

“It’s easy to build buildings,” said Susie Ponce, who served as the CVC’s first director. “It’s a lot harder for a foundation or even an individual to say, ‘Hm, I’m going to put my money behind this idea,’ and especially when it involves people.”

What’s worked

The CVC has found success in programs that fit each of its core missions.

The CiViC Leadership Project, the CVC’s flagship program, focuses on training emerging and existing leaders in Sheridan County, helping them gain the skills necessary to identify and mobilize around community issues to create change.

Initially, attempts to expand the Minnesota-based Blandin Foundation’s leadership program to Sheridan failed, but a by-chance meeting solidified the now decades-long partnership.

When visiting an alma mater function at St. Olaf College, two alumni — Sheridan’s Scott Nickerson and Blandin’s founding Executive Director Paul Olson — found each other and began discussing civic leadership and the similar scope of their organizations’ work. From there, Olson convinced the Blandin Foundation to allow for a pilot program in Sheridan. Ever since, trainers from the Blandin Foundation have visited Sheridan to conduct CiViC Leadership Project trainings roughly every four years.

According to Sonja Merrild, who lived in Sheridan at the time and now works for the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota, Sheridan had the positive culture necessary to fit the foundation’s rural leadership program.

“The flourishing of a program like this, and an idea like this, is always going to be dependent on the quality of the leadership in that soil,” Merrild said. “And Sheridan had history to build on. Sheridan had history to build on, and Sheridan had the CVC.”

The CVC has since graduated dozens of individuals from the CiViC program, with the idea that at a certain point, Sheridan will reach “critical mass,” meaning enough people in the community will have gone through the training and have a shared language that can assist in furthering community projects.

“It’s knitting together this group of people that have such potential and power and the ripple effect to then make things happen in the community,” said Jenny Craft, the CVC’s second executive director who now serves as executive director of the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation.

Other programs that have found success include the youth leadership program CampFIRE, board training for local nonprofits, study circles and collaborations with the John C. Schiffer Collaborative School.

CVC employee Julie Greer coordinates leadership training with students at Schiffer, instilling the idea that everyone is important and a sense of community contributes to an organization’s success.

“To be known in the community is new to our students,” Schiffer educator David Petersen said. “These adults wanted more and more of our students, and they wanted to be more a part of the process.”

In the leadership class, students define what leadership means to them, then outline a course structure meant to help them grow in those areas. As part of the class, Greer helps pair students with leaders in the community and plans off-campus visits to see people in their place of work.

“You get the kids thinking at a deeper level that their influence on the world is more important than they think it is,” Petersen said.

What hasn’t worked

Not all projects the CVC has tackled have worked, but according to Ponce, that’s part of the process.

Ideas work their way through a funnel, which begins with the initial concept, workshopping the idea with CVC staff, more review with the CVC’s advisory board and generating buy-in from community stakeholders before implementation.

For example, one idea focused on organizing a retreat for nonprofit executive directors. The goal was to provide respite and camaraderie. But with no continuing education planned, the concept faded.

Other projects have experienced a mix of success and challenges. During Craft’s tenure as the CVC’s director, the organization hosted Earth Day events. Those, though, eventually petered out.

Another program — Community Conversations — has had both well-attended sessions and sessions where just a few community members outside the trained facilitators attend.

A few years ago, the CVC brought trainers from Essential Partners to Sheridan to teach community leaders about facilitating civil conversations about difficult topics. Since then, the CVC has hosted conversations on topics ranging from affordable housing, a well-attended program, to what community members want to see in their leaders. Those events shifted from in-person sessions to Zoom during the pandemic, and CVC staff said part of the challenge with attendance could be virtual meeting burnout.

While additional Community Conversations are planned, Craft said CVC projects beyond CiViC often come and go as needs arise in the community and the CVC staff and board members continue to generate new ideas and partnerships.

“We don’t make the community, we make it better,” Albrecht said. “We don’t get to own a lot of stuff, but we get to look at the successes and know we had a piece of it.”

Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.

Article written by the Sheridan Press: https://www.thesheridanpress.com/news/local/cvc-promotes-leadership-cooperation-in-sheridan/article_6e23261a-76a2-11eb-87cd-4f8b830bb9f7.html

Prompted by inequities, local campaign efforts strive for change

Prompted by inequities, local campaign efforts strive for change

By Margaret Austin and Kathryn Palmer

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Originally published Sunday, April 18, 2021

CHEYENNE – When Ward 1 Cheyenne City Council candidate Miguel Reyes started knocking on doors ahead of the 2020 election, some residents of the city’s south side were shocked to see him.

“The reason I say that is because (politicians) are not walking on the south side,” said Reyes, who has lived in south Cheyenne since he was about 11 years old. “Once they get elected, for the next four years, (south side residents) don’t hear a peep from them.”

It’s an enclave of the city with one of the highest concentrations of non-white and low-income residents. Neighborhood advocates say people on the south side have historically struggled to find adequate representation in local governmental bodies, which determine how schools are run and tax dollars are spent.

Over the years, Reyes said, that lack of political representation and communication has cultivated a wider distrust in the systems governing Cheyenne’s increasingly diverse population.

“Talking and listening is one thing, and then creating the actions that are going to help them is another,” Reyes said. “A lot of people lost confidence because (elected officials) don’t do that.”

To him, getting more candidates who want to earn that trust interested in running for local office is a good first step to creating a more inclusive and equitable local government.

But that’s turning out to be easier said than done – both for Reyes and Paulette Gadlin, a retired local educator and substitute teacher, who has twice run unsuccessfully for a spot on the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees.

“When I first decided to run, I knew it would be a challenge, like it is for any minority – not just in Cheyenne, but everywhere,” said Gadlin, who is one of the about 1.2% of Black educators who has worked for the school district. “But I did not think it would keep me from being elected.”

Last fall, both Reyes and Gadlin experienced the reality of what it’s like to campaign in Cheyenne as a person of color without the political clout some of their opponents wield. Neither felt particularly called to political office, but both felt compelled to challenge the inequities they see every day in the place they’ve called home for decades.

Reyes performed best with voters in precincts on the south side, ultimately finishing behind Councilmen Pete Laybourn and Jeff White in the primary. At the same time, Gadlin struggled to find support in the district-wide election. Despite raising the most money of any candidate and erecting a massive campaign billboard downtown, she came in second-to-last place of the seven contenders.

Councilman Laybourn, who’s known Gadlin since high school homeroom, encouraged her to run for office in the first place.

“I was devastated when she lost. She’d be a real great addition to the school board,” said Laybourn. In his view, race “unquestionably, absolutely” played a role in the election’s outcome.

“There’s no doubt about it in my mind,” Laybourn said, noting the widespread support Gadlin had from civic leaders. “There is racism in our country, in our state and in our city, and the only way to deal with it is to get on and never give up.”

“We’re focusing everything everywhere else”

Reyes still walks by his old stomping grounds at Johnson Junior High, wondering why the kids there are playing on the same football field he did years ago. He’s noticed it’s not like that in other places around town: students north of the train tracks at McCormick and Carey junior high schools are practicing on new, artificial turfs.

“I feel the south side continues to get shortchanged for everything that they do in the city,” Reyes said. “(Local elected officials) are more willing to invest more money in developing the west side and the north side instead of developing the south side.”

For Reyes, a former youth soccer coach and the founder of the Cheyenne Volleyball League, the absence of equitable recreation opportunities on the south side is one of the most concerning results of the City Council’s lack of representation.

It’s also one of the major reasons he felt so compelled to run.

On the campaign trail, he found many residents shared his same concern: there isn’t enough for their kids to do on the south side. Pointing to the city’s West Edge development efforts – which voters approved $4 million for on the 2017 sixth-penny sales tax ballot – Reyes questioned why similar projects and improvements aren’t proposed for south Cheyenne.

“We don’t have a sports facility. We don’t have soccer fields. We don’t have anything on this side of town,” Reyes said. “From the gyms where kids can go play basketball to places they can go to play soccer – that’s all on the north side of town. We have a lot of vacant land. We can definitely do stuff like that for this side of town, but we’re focusing everything everywhere else.”

Reyes said he’d love to see some improvements to Johnson Pool on East Eighth Street, similar to the $5 million renovations from the 2012 sixth-penny ballot initiative that went into the Cheyenne Aquatic Center in Lions Park. Additionally, he proposed that a south side recreation center would offer opportunities for kids to play something other than video games, as well as bring in revenue to the city through tournaments.

While three proposed recreation facilities have been presented to voters on the sixth-penny ballots since 2008, none would have been located on the south side. One measure in 2017 had no proposed location; that same year, another was proposed for the Ice and Events Center, and one in 2008 was proposed for south of Dell Range Boulevard, near Cahill Park and East High School.

“I’m one of those people that if I see there’s an issue, you’re going to hear me on everything,” Reyes said.

Right now, that issue is the lack of representation in local government and how it translates into quality of life.

“I thought I could be a voice”

Not one member of the Cheyenne City Council or the LCSD1 Board of Trustees lives on the south side. For the all-white school board, the lack of racial representation has raised red flags for people of color in the community, especially after a student posted homophobic and racist fliers on the campus of McCormick Junior High School in 2019.

That incident occurred against a backdrop of ongoing inequities.

Non-white students across the district have lower graduation rates than their white peers, and data also shows Hispanic students are 1.7 times more likely than white students to get suspended, and Black students are 2.3 times as likely to face formal discipline, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Moreover, while less than 10% of educators in the district are non-white, that’s not reflective of the students they teach. Around 22% of the district’s student body identify as Hispanic, 2.4% identify as Black and roughly 5% identify as mixed race. At South High School, some 40% of students identify as Hispanic.

A wide body of research, including a 2019 report from the Journal of Education Sciences, shows that when children have role models who look like them, they’re more likely to engage with academic material and succeed in school.

“I didn’t learn anything about my culture when I was growing up, except that we were slaves and Lincoln freed us,” said Gadlin. “I never really saw anyone in books that looked like me.”

She was the only school board candidate to explicitly call for diversifying the district’s curriculum in an effort to create a more inclusive learning environment for an increasingly non-white student body.

Addressing some of these ongoing disparities is why Gadlin, who is an active member of the Cheyenne NAACP, the Wyoming Independent Citizens Coalition and Unity Missionary Baptist Church, wanted to run in the first place.

“I thought I could be a voice for some that were not confident enough to speak out,” Gadlin said. She worked in the administrative office of Johnson Junior High on the south side for a full decade, which also influenced her decision to run. “I thought I had some insights into what happens in that neighborhood and what happens to people of color.”

Bringing new perspectives to the leadership of Wyoming’s largest school district also motivated a vocal group of activists – including Gadlin, many other non-white Cheyenne residents and people from the south side – to push last summer to convert three of the seven at-large seats on the school board to residence-area seats representing each of the school district’s three triads.

Those in favor argued it would make it easier for candidates with fewer resources and less name recognition to run competitive races, with the idea that it could result in bringing more diverse perspectives to the school board.

The majority of board members rejected the proposal on multiple occasions, originally arguing losing candidates just needed to campaign harder and that creating residence areas would factionalize the board, which has a responsibility to represent all 13,840 students in LCSD1.

But public pressure kept the issue alive and eventually changed the conversation.

“As a Chicano man in this community, I’ve experienced everything from police brutality to racists threatening my life for raising my voice for my community,” Antonio Serrano, advocacy manager for Wyoming’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said at a school board meeting in June. “The community is growing more and more diverse – we’re changing. If we want our kids to feel like they belong here and they are part of Cheyenne, it’s up to us to make sure they see themselves represented in a place of power.”

By October, the board passed the proposal – which will impact the 2022 election cycle.

To those who advocated for it, changing the school board election process is a promising step toward diversified political representation. But it came too late to help Gadlin, who lives on the east side of town, but has lived, worked and socialized on the south side.

Electing candidates to local office who are acutely aware of the racism and classism some residents face, Gadlin said, is key to making life in Cheyenne work for everyone. Her days working as a secretary at Johnson before she earned her teaching credentials proved that to her.

“I remember when families from different countries would come in, they would ask to speak to me. I think it was because they saw a person of color and there was a trust factor,” Gadlin recalled. “Many times, teachers would misinterpret communication from families as being disrespectful, but I felt the opposite. I would be able to interpret the feelings of those families, especially if they were minorities or (low-income). … Because I lived in their community and they knew me personally, they would open up.”

“We’ve got to do more”

Although neither Reyes nor Gadlin won their races in 2020, their experiences haven’t deterred them from trying again. Both have witnessed the problems facing south Cheyenne and minorities in the community, but neither think leaving is a solution.

Instead, they hope to make Cheyenne a better place for future generations.

As a mentor to dozens of children on the south side, Reyes’ goals center on building a better future for those kids. That’s already reflected in his work with the volleyball league and through his nonprofit, Wyoming Advocates for Youth, which advocates for kids in foster care.

“I want them to understand that they will always have a voice and somebody to watch over them and to understand them better. That’s what I’m all about; it’s about helping people,” Reyes said. “We’ve got to do more for the kids on the south side of town.”

However, Reyes made it clear he doesn’t want the south side to be put on a pedestal. He said he simply wants all kids in Cheyenne to have an equal shot at the “American dream.” For residents in Cheyenne who may doubt the disparities affecting kids in different parts of the city, Reyes suggested spending some time south of the train tracks.

“(D)rive down to the south side and count how many bars, count how many liquor stores and count how many used car lots we have. Just do it; you’ll be surprised,” Reyes said. “We’re trying to raise families on this side of town with all of that, and that’s one of the big reasons why I was running.”

Gadlin, who had attended segregated schools in Virginia before enrolling in Central High School in the 1960s, has considered Cheyenne home throughout her adult life. She raised her family here, has made many strong community relationships here and has no plans to leave.

Despite all of those positive experiences in Cheyenne, she said there’s still room to grow.

“We have a very white culture in Wyoming, and I think we just don’t talk about the issues (of racism and classism) we have. We just ignore them,” Gadlin said. “I think Wyoming wants to learn, but we too often allow the outside stereotypes to seep into our state.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at kpalmer@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.

About this project

Reporting was made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities, funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Coming next Sunday

Some Cheyenne residents of color say they don’t feel heard by largely white leadership in local government and schools. This lack of representation makes it easier for leaders to, even unintentionally, overlook the issues that affect them, they say. In part two of this series, residents express why this kind of representation matters and how they’re working to achieve equity.

Ireton Just Happy with ‘Tips’ While Sprucing up Bartling Park, State Fairgrounds for Free

Douglas Budget, 4/14/21, text and photo by Zach Miners

Marcia Ireton picks up litter at Bartling Park on April 8. Since last year she has been making daily trips to the park and the fairgrounds, with her two dogs, to find and remove litter.

zach@douglas-budget.com

Marcia Ireton leans down and picks up a dirty, discarded mask from the ground. While it may have helped to save someone’s life in the past, now it’s just litter.

Then she spots an empty plastic bottle, then a piece of cardboard. She eagerly picks both of them up, looks up and around and continues to scout the area for other trash.

As she walks the grounds of Bartling Park, she amasses a small collection of detritus to properly dispose of.

This 20-plus year Douglas resident clearly likes to keep things tidy.

Since last year, Ireton, 72, has been making nearly daily trips to both Bartling Park and the Wyoming State Fairgrounds – with her dogs Samantha, 11, and Cocoa, 15, in tow – to clear the areas of trash.

“These are the things to keep me going,” she said. “If you just sit around, your mobility goes.”

But the exercise and fresh air may not be the only factors driving Ireton out of the house. Cleaning, and keeping things neat and organized, is part of her identity.

Before retiring, she worked for 16 years as a housekeeper for Wagonhound Land & Livestock, keeping owner Art Nicholas’ house and grounds clean and up to snuff.

She has also launched her own cleaning service in town called Professional Cleaning, aimed at cleaning the houses of people who have recently sold them before the new owners move in.

But above all, she’s proud to be a Douglas resident, and she takes great joy in keeping the public areas of the town clean.

Her dogs have also been known to goad her on.

“If I don’t do it, then the dogs start to look at me,” she says with a laugh.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Ireton has also helped clean and take care of the new restrooms on the north side of the park near the skatepark.

“We do appreciate her help; we enjoy having her company,” said Mike O’Brien of the Douglas Parks

Department, as he did maintenance work on the restrooms April 8.

Douglas City Council members have also commended her work during a previous town council meeting.

Though she is married, Ireton typically goes on her trash pickup outings with just her dogs.

“He keeps busy,” she said of her husband, Donald, adding, “He thinks it’s great.”

So far she claims to have not found anything super interesting or noteworthy in the litter at Bartling Park or the fairgrounds.

But sometimes she’ll come across dimes or quarters, “so I’ll get a tip,” she concedes with a sly smile.

‘Always worrying’: Oil Worker Lopez Struggles with Energy Industry Challenges

Economy Forces Phillip’s Hand

Phillip Hand, a machinist with Hunting Energy Services, stands by a CNC lathe that he operates at the company’s facility in Casper. The machine is used to create rotors and other parts for oil drills.

By: Zach Miners, zach@glenrockind.com

Thankful to still have work, family will soon relocate to Texas with new company

Phillip Hand, 36, has lived in Glenrock for 15 years – 2021 will be his last. This summer, he plans to move with his wife and three children to Houston, to continue his work as a machinist for the oil and gas industry.

“It’s a nice community,” he said of the town he will be leaving. “I’m going to miss it.”

Hand, unfortunately, has been put between a rock and a hard place. Relocating to Texas is not the realization of a dream or goal he has had; rather, he is making the move pragmatically, after the company he works downsized and acquired by another company.

He was one of a handful of employees given the choice to either relocate to Houston to work for his new employer or face an uncertain future at home.

Many of his colleagues were not so lucky. A large number of them were let go as the coronavirus pandemic and oil & gas energy bust took hold of Converse County last year, and more still were laid off after the acquisition by the new company this past December.

Hand’s story puts a face and a name on the larger issues plaguing the struggling oil and gas industry, which has been impacted not only by the pandemic and the energy bust, but now also the Biden administration’s ban on new federal drilling leases.

The company he has worked for in Casper – Hunting Energy Services, a subsidiary of London-based Hunting PLC – provides drilling tools, electronics and other products for the oil and gas industry. Hand specifically operates CNC lathes, which produce rotors and other parts for the drills that extract oil from the ground. The parts he has helped to produce have been used in oil fields in Texas and North Dakota.

Before the bust and the acquisition by Houston-based Rival Downhole Tools, Hunting, based in Casper, had upwards of 40 employees in their shop; currently they have less than 10, Hand said.

Hand’s hours were also cut, resulting in roughly $800 lost per month, though at the moment he is back to working a regular 40-hour week.

His wife, Julie, took a job at Walmart in Casper to help make up the lost hours.

The cuts did have at least one upside: Hand found the time to write a children’s book titled “Yamel’s Camel Wears a Flannel,” which was published by Christian Faith Publishing. It can be found on Amazon, Windy City Books in Casper and the Glenrock Public Library.

“The pandemic gave me time to do it,” he said.

Still, sales from the book have not been enough to live on, so Hand and his family are preparing themselves for the big move to Texas.

The Hands’ move comes amid a slowly returning national appetite for consuming fossil fuels, which helps drive up the price.

While oil prices have steadily risen in recent weeks to around $60 a barrel, continued uncertainty in the oil and gas industry, particularly as the Biden administration invests heavily in cleaner sources of energy, has created uncertainty in the market.

“A lot of people don’t have jobs. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people are still on unemployment,” Hand said during a video interview at the Hunting facility where he works in Casper.

Consolidation is one result. Rival’s acquisition of Hunting was positioned as a move to help the Houston firm expand internationally, starting with the Middle East.

Hand, for his part, is cautiously optimistic that staying on with Rival and making the move is the right decision for his family, though he acknowledges the volatility.

Working in the oil and gas industry, he said, “is always murky waters.”

“But now, with renewable energy kicking into high gear like it hasn’t before, and with the pandemic going on, it’s even worse than before,” he said.

Still, “I am thankful that Hunting has taken care of me. I am thankful that Rival has now taken care of me,” he said.

And, “I am thankful every night that I still have my job.”

(Editor’s note: Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.)

Changing the World One Shot at a Time

Douglas Budget, 3/10/21, text and photo by Zach Miners

Converse County Public Health Department Nurse Manager Darcey Cowardin brings paperwork to Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Russ Dalgarn during the department’s COVID vaccination drive-thru at the state fairgrounds March 4.

zach@douglas-budget.com

When Johnna Shepherd, Converse County’s public health response coordinator, started her new job in February last year, she was told by her predecessor that the work consisted of “planning for stuff that isn’t going to happen.”

She quickly learned that every- thing she was planning for would happen.

By March, Shepherd and others working for the Converse County Public Health Department under Nurse Manager Darcey Cowardin were thrown into daily meetings with health officials and other stakeholders across the state, as health experts, community and state leaders frantically scrambled to understand the scope of the novel coronavirus, and develop strategies for fighting it.

“I felt lost,” Shepherd said.
But over the course of the past year, the small but mighty team of nurses, coordinators and managers with the department have risen to become some of the community’s unsung heroes of the pandemic.

As of early March 2021, they’ve tested nearly 6,000 Converse County residents for the virus, inoculated roughly 2,500 people with their drive-thru clinics and have provided a range of informational resources and tools to help keep people in- formed, safe and healthy.

This past fall, the virus positivity rate in Converse County – the percentage of tested people who tested positive – was critically high, around 14 percent. Currently

the rate is below 4 percent. “They’ve done a spectacular job in helping to get us through this changing time in history,” Converse County Commissioner Robert Short said.

The department has also ex- celled in combatting misinformation around the virus and fear- mongering around the vaccine, Short said.

“It’s not always a friendly environment for them to do their job,” he admitted.

Indeed, the department’s success in providing care for the com- munity has not been without its challenges.

Particularly in the early days of the pandemic, the team of six faced backlash over the business operating restrictions, mask-wearing mandates and other recommendations designed to keep the com- munity safe.

Cowardin confirmed the department received angry phone calls during the early quarantine and business shutdown orders last year.

Other abrasive interactions she had with residents – some of whom opposed the early restrictive orders – “felt like personal attacks,” which shook her faith in the com- munity, she said.

“This has been the most difficult time in my nursing career,” Cowardin said, adding that staff turnover has also been a concern.

But she would not let the department be deterred.

Going forward, the department will be providing training sessions to help combat burnout and rising stress levels among its staff members.

“We just have to keep our heads down, plow ahead and keep going. There’s no option to stop,” Cowardin said.

Thankfully, the sense of pride and accomplishment felt by the department’s staff appears to trump the negativity and backlash they have experienced.

Through the drive-thru testing and vaccine clinics the department has held, community relationships have been strengthened with a host of local partners who have helped to organize the events and volunteer at them, including the fire and police departments, the emergency management office and the Memorial Hospital of Con- verse County, Cowardin said.

But, she conceded, her proudest moments might be when she administers the COVID vaccine and sees the smallpox vaccine scars on the arms of some of those very same people.

“We’re changing the world, one shot at a time. I’m so proud to have a part in that. I’m so proud of our staff going through it,” she said.

Shepherd feels a similar type of pride.

“I like feeling useful to the community,” she said, particularly during the vaccination drive-thrus held in Douglas, Glenrock and Rolling Hills.

In the months ahead, the department will continue to hold their vaccine drive-thrus. Clinics for the second dose of the vaccine are scheduled for April 1 and 10 at the fair- grounds in Douglas and April 24 at the maintenance shop in Rolling Hills. Other clinics are on tap and will be advertised as they are scheduled.

Staff members said as the weather gets warmer and days become longer, they are also looking to hold events in the evenings and possibly on Saturdays.

Residents can stay on top of what the department is up to by checking their Facebook page or by checking the ads and articles in The Budget.

The work being done by the Public Health Department is having an effect. COVID hospitalizations and cases in Wyoming have declined over the past couple months, prompting Gov. Mark Gordon to relax attendance limits for various events and, his office announced Monday, eliminating restrictions for masks and all limitations for restaurants, bars and gyms, among other changes as of March 16.

While the pandemic and all of the political, economic and social impacts have dominated the news and most of our lives during the last year, the Public Health Department hasn’t stopped doing its job . . . providing a range of services beyond just vaccinations and tests for COVID. They provide family planning services like birth control prescriptions, emergency contraception and STD testing and treatment, a larger communicable disease program for disease outbreak investigation and tracking, maternal and child health services and adult health programs like blood pressure screening and monitoring and diabetic support groups.

“There’s more to the world,” Cowardin said, “than COVID.”

Editor’s Note: Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why It Matters: Civic and Elector- al Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Community Finds Own Solutions Through Study Circles

FEATURED

CVC, part three

BUY-IN

Community Finds Own Solutions Through Study Circles

By Ashleigh Snoozy | ashleigh.snoozy@thesheridanpress.com

Feb 26, 2021 Updated Apr 19, 2021

Editor’s Note

This article is the third in a series of three articles on the Center for a Vital Community, how it affects the community and attempts to replicate its success. Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sheridan Press Publisher Kristen Czaban is president of the CVC’s advisory board.

SHERIDAN — Study circles — a program of the Center for a Vital Community — has produced lasting change in Sheridan County in a variety of sectors.

Study circles run for five consecutive weeks and function similarly to community conversations in that all people carry equal importance in a conversation regardless of a title they hold. CVC staff structure study circles to allow all voices to come to the table equally — from someone who has never felt they had a voice to someone holding public office.

“It doesn’t matter if the mayor or county commissioner or a legislator is in your group and the president of a big company,” CVC Executive Director Amy Albrecht said. “What you have to say is just as important and will be just as listened to and encouraged and brought out.”

Choosing a topic

Albrecht said study circles are conversations around a subject that you see as a need in the community and an opportunity for stakeholders to gather and “work on it” to come up with community-based solutions to that broad topic.

“It has to have a broad appeal,” Albrecht said. “If you make it too specific, then you don’t get enough people to come.”

The first study circle was held between 2008 and 2009 and encompassed “Our Children, Our Future,” focusing on education and youth in the community. The second, held in 2012 and 2013 looked at poverty, “Thrive vs. Survive,” in which several initiatives still function today and derived from the study circle. The most recent study circle, held in 2014 and 2015, focused on creating a dementia-friendly community, which translated to the successful launch of Dementia Friendly Wyoming.

From the poverty circle came Community Connections, Sheridan County School District 2’s NextLevel, Compass Center for Families Parent Liaison program and a local National Alliance on Mental Health chapter and several Bridges out of Poverty trainings, among others.

Many initiatives supplement work completed by governments and are often funded by non-governmental entities, thus filling the need that governments may be unable to in the current financial crisis at the state level.

Starting conversations

The work of a study circle begins months before it reaches community members, with CVC staff conducting outreach, including conversations and presentations in different formats to community members describing why the topic was chosen and why it proves to be an issue in Sheridan County.

The format of study circles was derived and adapted from Everyday Democracy, a nonprofit supported by the Paul J. Aicher Foundation, aimed at bringing diverse groups of people together, helping them structure and facilitate community dialogue on pressing issues and training them to use a racial equity lens to understand longstanding problems and possible solutions. CVC staff over the years has adapted that model to fit a broad range of community conversations.

Then, CVC staff trains community members to effectively facilitate conversations through the Everday Democracy model in small cohorts that meet with each other each week. Cohorts are determined simply by who shows up at what time slot allotted throughout the week. CVC offers around five options to participate, all at different times on different days throughout the week. While participants may switch groups, some remain in the same day and time slot throughout the duration of the five weeks. Participants are asked to come willing to simply share their experiences and expertise with a willingness to collaborate and listen to others’ voices as well as share their own perspective.

Groups work through a book to help participants share their experiences. At the end of five weeks, groups conclude with potential action items to implement in the community.

Facilitators meet with CVC staff to share and compile all action items from each group to present in a sixth and final week culminating in an action forum. Citizens, whether they participated in the five-week study circles or not, may come to the action forum, where ideas from the groups are presented as possible community projects, further allowing cooperation among community members. Participants present each idea in front of attendees, tables are set up and those interested may sign up for a community meeting regarding the action item, chaired by a participant or facilitator. The CVC then assists, but does not “own” the project any longer and leaves it up to motivated community members to initiate.

“The CVC isn’t going to own many, if any, of them, but we will at least incubate or help them get off the ground, if that’s where they need to go,” Albrecht said. “Some stuff just doesn’t happen. It tries, it tries, and then it just dies. But that wasn’t meant to be.

“The reason why these go so well and they actually happen is because you have all these people who said, ‘This is a thing that I believe in, I’ve worked through this process, so it’s not like the government said this is how it’s going to be, it’s not like this organization is saying this is how it’s going to be. I’m the one that helped come up with this idea. I have buy-in and ownership of this and I want to see this happen. I think this could happen,” Albrect continued. “I think that’s why things happen out of it, because you were part of the solution.”

Next study circle

This year’s topic will focus on mental health and comes at a time when most recent data bumps Wyoming to the top of suicide losses in the U.S. in 2019.

“The denial is spectacular, which is all part of the mental health quandary in the state, as well,” Albrecht said. “Between the stigma of ‘I can’t let anyone know I went to counseling,’ or that I’m taking antidepressants or that I might have anxiety or that I just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and no I can’t pull up my boot straps, actually, and put on a happy face.”

As a prelude to the conversations, the CVC will host another community conversation April 13 and 14. Study circles will begin the last week of September and run through the entire month of October. The action forum will be held the second week in November.

Organizers are hopeful to match or exceed the last study circle participant number of 140 by at least 10 people. Regardless of actionable items, CVC staff just want to see improvement in mental health awareness in the community.

“If you could just blow some of that stigma out of the water, and we got no initiatives out of it: Win,” Albrecht said.

Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.

Read article here: https://www.thesheridanpress.com/news/local/community-finds-own-solutions-through-study-circles/article_7447618c-77b5-11eb-b98c-338f84e5b7dc.html

FCCLA President Heaps Unfazed by Year’s Challenges

Zach Miners photo

FCCLA Glenrock and Wyoming President Haylee Heaps, dressed smartly in her FCCLA red blazer, stands in front of boxes for the shoe drive at Glenrock Junior/Senior High School Feb. 16. Heaps helped organize the drive. The donated shoes will be distributed to people in third world countries.

By:

Zach Miners, zach@glenrockind.com

How does one engage with the local community, let alone launch new programs and initiatives to support it, at a time when many community members are still quarantining and social distancing due to the pandemic?

That is the question faced by Glenrock High School senior Haylee Heaps, who is the Glenrock president – and now also the state president – of the national nonprofit Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

The career and technical student organization, also known as FCCLA, is focused on empowering its student members to make a positive difference in their communities, families and chosen career fields.

Heaps, who also acts as the FCCLA VP of Community Service in Glenrock, admits that it has been a challenging year.

In previous years the group has provided volunteer services to the Glenrock Senior Citizens center, but not as much this year, due to the pandemic.

FCCLA membership this year in Glenrock has also dropped.

“A lot of kids are afraid to go out, to attend meetings and events,” she said Feb. 16 during an interview at school.

“It makes me sad,” she said.

Last year, FCCLA had 70 members in Glenrock; this year the group has just 20 members at the high school and five at the middle school, Heaps said, though some of last year’s members also graduated.

Still, Heaps, 17, is committed to preserving and enacting FCCLA’s mission.

She’s helped to organize a shoe drive at the high school through the company Funds2Orgs; donated shoes will be delivered to people in third-world countries.

So far Heaps and her fellow FCCLA officers have collected more than 300 shoes, she said. They  plan to continue the shoe drive at other Glenrock schools, and the senior center, until it ends next month.

And, she is still thinking about other ways they can engage with the senior center while still keeping residents there safe.

For instance, FCCLA members, Heaps said, are looking to create a billboard sign to place in front of the center to honor St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

There are still plenty of promotional activities Heaps and her co-officers are organizing at the high school, to raise awareness around FCCLA and its mission.

The high school held a variety of FCCLA dress-up days the week of Feb. 8, which culminated in the concoction and distribution of root beer floats to the student body by FCCLA members.

It’s those types of events that Heaps said she loves the most, because they allow her to work closely with her fellow FCCLA officers and other students.

Her favorite thing about being part of the group, she said, is “working close together and forming a bond that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Next month, the group will be holding activities at the school to raise awareness for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

It’s an issue Heaps holds close to her heart. She intends to study and pursue child development and elementary education at Casper College, which she said she plans to attend in the fall. While there, she will help to provide care for her 11-year-old brother, who has special needs. She then hopes to matriculate to either Black Hills State University or Chadron State College.

Up until that point, she will help to plan the FCCLA state convention scheduled to be held in Cheyenne March 24-26.

But there is one member of the larger Wyoming community Heaps also recently had the pleasure of working with.

On Feb. 16, she took part in a group video call with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, to discuss career and technical education in Wyoming.

“FCCLA has enhanced my high school experience and prepared me to go out into the world confident to meet the challenges that are ahead,” she told the governor in her remarks.

Judging from her efforts this year, Heaps seems ready for the challenge

Spools R Us, Chamber, Partner to Bring Beautiful Benches to Town

Zach Miners photo

Paul “Cujo” Gudgel (from left), Evan Casey and Kjell Elisson stand by some of their completed works in their woodshop in Glenrock, all made using repurposed spools from energy farms and landfills.

By: Zach Miners, zach@glenrockind.com

As you explore Glenrock’s new walking path or the community’s new town square behind the Higgins Hotel this spring and summer, you may find some new handcrafted wooden benches for resting.

That’s because there’s a new woodworking group in town and they’re chomping at the bit to create some new rustic furniture for Glenrock residents to enjoy, and others too outside Converse County.

Spools R Us, formed in October of last year, is comprised of co-owners Paul “Cujo” Gudgel, Evan Casey and Kjell Elisson.

The way they source their materials is what sparked the name: The three Glenrock residents use discarded electrical wire spools from oil and wind energy farms like Cedar Springs, as well as discarded lumber at the Glenrock and Douglas landfills, for their creations.

“We’re taking something that would be thrown away, and building and making something good out of it,” said Elisson, who also coaches wrestling at Glenrock Junior/Senior High School.

The group’s first order was for Knotty Pine Saloon owner Rusty Henderson, for his cancer benefit auction held last October. The group crafted a sturdy wooden bench that was auctioned off for around $300.

The woodworkers have since created a number of other pieces, including a large round gathering table (its base is a repurposed spool), a dog crate, another bench, and a large wooden bar that is going to the Horseshoe Bar & Grill in Casper.

For Gudgel and Casey, the outfit is now also their primary work, after Gudgel lost his job last year at contractor A+ Builders, and Casey left his job at Short Powerline Service.

The group is now being commissioned for more work too, through a partnership they’ve formed with the Glenrock Chamber of Commerce.

As part of the town’s beautification project, the chamber is looking for local businesses and individuals to sponsor new furniture items made by the group, which could then be placed around town, like on the new walking path or at the new town square site once it’s completed.

The workers are ready for the assignments.

In fact, they’re already working on new pieces pretty much every day in the shop.

“We build what the customer wants,” Casey said.

Those interested in sponsoring new pieces can call Kristy Grant at the chamber at 307-436-5652.

Spools R Us can also be contacted directly at 307-258-2304.

50 Years Later, Hunt Publishes her First Novel, Warbo

The Glenrock Independent, 2/10/21, text and photo by Zach Miners

Longtime resident Bonita Hunt stands in her bedroom next to the computer she used to digitize the typewritten manuscript of her first novel, “Warbo,” which she first began writing in the 1960s.

It was sometime in the late 1960s. Longtime resident Bonita Hunt had a black & white television with only two stations, no car, and her husband was spending much of his time working at the Glenrock coal mine.

A burst of inspiration struck her – or perhaps she was merely looking for an escape from her sense of ennui.

And escape she did . . . to her type- writer.

“This thought came to me: a story about a girl captured by Indians on her way to California to marry her fiance,” she said.

The idea stuck, and she kept at it for years.

After much hard work and time spent in the library, she produced a roughly 80,000-word manuscript for a novel – her first – called “Warbo,” a

romance western set during the great Western migration of the United States. But – it would be decades before she

actually got it published.
Now, some 50 years later, as Hunt

approaches her 80th birthday in June, the novel has finally been published, by Denver-based Outskirts Press.

Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, it may never have been published at all.

Hunt did a fair amount of research into the Pawnee tribe, which factors prominently into the story, took a writing course at Casper College, and even attended a writers convention in Riverton, during the 1970s when she was in the thick of writing the book.

Her first stumbling block, how- ever, came during that writers convention. She met with an agent from the Doubleday publishing company, who requested she cut down the manuscript to 30,000 words.

“I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know what to cut,” she said. Then, life got in the way.

“I got busy, raising kids, and I put it on the back burner,” she said.

(Hunt has three children, Ginger, Brenda and Lyle, and now also 10 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild.)

She also worked as a realtor in Glenrock, a job she held for 17 years.

Then, in January of 2020, her husband Cliff, after 61 years of marriage sadly passed away, after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 75.

As the family went through boxes in Hunt’s house in search of photographs for the funeral, they came upon the manuscript.

Two months later, her son Lyle became infected with coronavirus, prompting Hunt to quarantine at home because she was one of his close contacts.

With more time on her hands, she got back to work on the novel and began making some edits. And with the help of her grand-

son Cassidy Hunt, she began digitizing the typed manuscript. Her granddaughter, Alexis Durbin, created a beautiful design for the front cover.

But other than them, “Nobody gave me help on nothing,” Hunt said with a laugh, sitting at her dining room table.

She found a publisher in Out- skirts Press and got the book published, still at roughly 80,000 words.

Hunt was a little nervous about having the book published, partly due to some of its sensitive subject matter, and some nudity it contains.

“I was worried about what people would think,” she said.

But the audience reception, to her relief, has been positive. Some fans have even asked her to autograph their copies.

The book is available on Amazon as well as the local Flower Shop in Glenrock at 215 S. 4th Street. She is also looking to have it sold in more local shops, like Jen’s Books in Douglas.

Hunt said she has no other writing projects currently in the works, though she has expressed interest in having an audiobook version of “Warbo” produced. Still, “Right now I’m done,” she said.

“I didn’t go into it for the money. It just felt good to write it. I enjoyed the process of writing it,” she said.

But while Hunt might be done with writing, she’s not done with promoting the book.

The Flower Shop will be hosting a book signing event on Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WY it Matters: A Collaborative Journalism Project

America is at a crossroads, and so is Wyoming. Wyoming’s challenges are large and complex—a pandemic, an economic and fiscal crisis, significant social changes. To address these problems, Wyoming’s communities must be able to come together, work through differences of opinion, and find innovative solutions. This is not easy, but this is what democracy is about.  

A healthy democracy requires an engaged and civil citizenry.  Although there are many bright spots in Wyoming’s civic engagement, recently there have been troubling incidents. On November 2nd a Natrona County Commissioners health outreach session was interrupted and eventually ended by a cabal of loud hecklers. Several weeks ago, sheriffs in Teton County were harassed for trying to encourage mask wearing. Black Lives Matter parades have pitted placard-wielding protesters against weapons-wielding people not just in Seattle and Portland, but in Sheridan, Laramie and Jackson.

From newspaper reports and social media, it would appear that we are a nation so deeply polarized that our democracy is at risk. And yet, according to research by Professor Jennifer Wolak, author of Compromise in an Age of Party Polarization, “voters like compromise.” A stunning 80 to 90% of voters believe compromise is necessary for the functioning of civil society. Wyoming Humanities (WYH) believes the residents of our state can find common ground, especially at the community level, to address our many challenges. To do so requires trust, respect, engagement and commitment.  

Civic and Electoral Participation

Susan McCarthy, board chair of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, recently stated that, “The humanities provide much-needed context to understand the roles and impact, today and historically, of the American electoral process and the societal conditions and institutions that help shape civic participation.”

Wyoming Humanities has received a grant from the Federation of State Humanities Councils, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. With this grant, Wyoming Humanities is going to explore the state of Wyoming’s civic engagement.  Through assessments and storytelling, we want to ascertain what is working and where there are trouble spots in local civic engagement.  

Collaborative Journalism Project

Toward this end, Wyoming Humanities will provide ten $2,000 grants to Wyoming print or on-line news outlets (profit or non-profit) to report on local challenges, opportunities and successes in coming together to solve problems. (As a non-profit institution, WYH does not fund partisan political activities or programs.)  

Reports must include interviews with a wide cross-section of the local community: voters, non-voters, children, young adults, underserved populations, and various other demographic groups. Recognizing capacity constraints with smaller news outlets, we encourage news organizations across the state to partner together.

We will create a simple application form and applications will be reviewed by the Grants Committee of the WYH Board of Directors.  After grantees are identified, we will enter into a grant agreement and disperse funds and the reporting can begin.

Requirements

• Reports must be published by March 1, 2021

• Articles must include an acknowledgment: “Reporting is made possible through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.”

• Wyoming Humanities will have no editorial rights, but we will have rights to all products and photos resulting from the grant.

• There is no match requirement, but applicants must demonstrate resources necessary to complete the project.

• Applications will be evaluated on partnerships and creative approaches to the topic, as well as diversity in reaching out to disparate demographics.  

Sample questions

Journalists will ask questions about how their community can find common ground on difficult subjects. Below is a sample list of questions to consider, but we will give creative license to explore the topics of trust, how to agree on facts and information, and how we can better engage civilly for the future of our communities.  

• What are the challenges and strengths in your community for people to come together to talk and solve problems?

• Do you feel your voice and vote matters? Do you feel you are heard?

• What is your sense of civic duty beyond voting?

• Do you trust your elected officials, government agencies, even your neighbors?

• What conversations are important to have in your local community, and what are ways to make sure these happen.

• How effective do you feel our democracy is and what would you do to improve it?

For More Information

Shawn Reese, CEO:  shawn@thinkwy.org

Mark Jenkins, Resident Scholar:  mark@thinkwy.org