Katie Hogarty: Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life


Katie Hogarty grew up in Sheriden, Wyoming.

She is a former policy analyst for Governor Dave Freudenthal and now works as the Director of External Relations for CLIMB Wyoming.

She serves on the Board of Equal Justice Wyoming, volunteers with Wyoming Public Radio, and is a proud member of the Wyoming State Bar.

Emy DiGrappa: 00:08 Welcome to First, but Last? brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. I am your host, Emy DiGrappa. Wyoming is called The Equality State because we were the first to give women the right to vote. 150 years later, we wonder what Wyoming women think about the progress toward equality now. Let's find out, and thank you for listening.

Today we are joined by Katie Hogarty, who is the Director of External Relations for Climb Wyoming. Welcome, Katie.

Katie Hogarty: 00:43 Hi, Emy. I'm so excited to finally be able to connect with you.

Emy DiGrappa: 00:47 I know. Uh, it's, we've had so many mishaps in our connections. We're like, there's a little gremlin running around making [crosstalk 00:00:55]. (laughing) But I'm really excited, because I've, I've learned that you actually grew up in Wyoming.

Katie Hogarty: 01:03 I did.

Emy DiGrappa: 01:04 Where'd you grow up?

Katie Hogarty: 01:05 [crosstalk 00:01:05] I grew up in Sheridan. Born, born and raised.

Emy DiGrappa: 01:08 Oh, my. That's a beautiful place to grow up.

Katie Hogarty: 01:11 It really is. I feel so, so grateful, because I didn't get to choose this time and place that I popped onto the planet. And to be able to grow up in Sheridan, I feel very connected to home. Very connected to Wyoming as a place, as a big part of my identity and my values. I really appreciate being here.

Emy DiGrappa: 01:31 Did you, did you ever leave to go off to school?

Katie Hogarty: 01:34 I did. I ventured to the East Coast to start college and then, I don't know that I was ready for that experience. And learned a lot about myself and where I wanted to be, and then transferred to a school on the West Coast. And after college, came back to Wyoming. And then stayed in Sheridan for a little bit, and then came down to Laramie in 2004 to start law school and have been in Laramie since then.

Emy DiGrappa: 02:01 Okay, so what was your law degree?

Katie Hogarty: 02:03 I had, didn't specialize in any particular type of law. I was pretty general. I really, I worked in the defender aid clinic, so I did some work with [inaudible 00:02:13] public defense work, which I really loved and started law school, thinking that I had wanted to be an environmental lawyer. And the more I learned about family law and the more I learned just about the law profession in general, really knew that my passion was in policy work and studying history through, through case law.

And so, feel very grateful to have had that degree and a broad education. And I started law school knowing that I likely wasn't going to practice law.

Emy DiGrappa: 02:40 Oh, really?

Katie Hogarty: 02:40 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy DiGrappa: 02:42 But you wanted to go anyway.

Katie Hogarty: 02:43 I had been working as a, like, a personal assistant to a film director who owned a beefalo ranch outside of Sheridan.

Emy DiGrappa: 02:43 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Hogarty: 02:50 And had such a, just such a valuable experience. And I had a lot of fun doing that, and realized that I didn't quite know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And that studying law would give me a foundation where I could have more choices, and I could have some opportunity to study what I was really passionate about. Study history, study our culture. Just learn more about a lot of different things. So, law school was a good fit for me in terms of wanting to give back to communities and help, and give me some options for being a young, 20-something but not knowing what I wanted to do with a, as an adult.

Emy DiGrappa: 03:27 So, what was your career journey after law school?

Katie Hogarty: 03:30 I, my first job out of law school was working as, as a policy analyst in Governor Freudenthal's administration.

Emy DiGrappa: 03:37 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Hogarty: 03:38 I worked on Governor Freudenthal's campaign and got to meet him through that journey. And just really developed a passion for health and human service policy work while I was in law school. And so it was a good, it was a good fit for me. And I also don't know that, if I had been average law student at any other law school, that I would have ended up in a career like that working policy.

But I don't want to undersell my capabilities. And I really appreciate this place that we can learn through relationships and stay connected with each other. And that I was afforded the opportunity just, I sometimes want to pinch myself that this is my life.

Emy DiGrappa: 04:18 Well, I think we are very fortunate. That's one thing that people say over and over again when I talk to them on this podcast, is that the fact that we can call our, our legislators and say, "Hey, I want to talk to you," and they pick up the phone. And there's not separation, you know? There's not these degrees of separation that you have to go through this secretary and that secretary.

I remember when I was interviewing our first lady, Jenny Gordon, for a First, but Last? Podcast. And I called her, and she picked up the phone at her home. And I was expecting, you know, a secretary or someone to pick up the phone. Nope. She picks up the phone. She goes, "Hi," she goes, she goes, "It's me." And I go, 'cause I was so surprised, and I g- I go, "It's, it's who?" And she's like, "It's me, it's Jenny."

And I go, "Oh my gosh." I did not expect that. So, I was just so taken back.

Katie Hogarty: 05:17 Well, that says a lot about her, too. And it says a lot about our state, that we can continue just to really value those relationships and to stay connected as humans. And I also understand the, my privilege in that, that I can pick up the phone and talk to a legislator. I, I understand the, my privilege.

Emy DiGrappa: 05:34 Well, tell me, because when we were talking and the first time we made an appointment, something happened and it was about your foster daughter. And I'm really wanting to hear that journey, how that became your passion. How you just do that in your life, with, with young people.

Katie Hogarty: 05:55 I had shared with you that my husband is a high school counselor, and so he's connected to a var- wide variety of kids that are at-risk and not at-risk, and he's great at his job. And just loves the kids that he works with, and he was at a rural school in Albany County. And was working with a student who'd been in a, a crisis care center for many months. M- more, more time than any kid deserves to be in a crisis situation. And it's hard to find placements for adjudicated teenagers. They're hard kids to take in.

And we don't have kids, and so it was, it's easier for us to be able to t- to open up our homes to those kids that need the most support. And Brian, with his background in, um, mental health counseling and the work that I've done in the legal field and the work I've done at Climb, just, I felt like we were well-positioned to be able to open our homes to those kids that have been most in need.

Emy DiGrappa: 06:54 When this happened, and this was obviously the first kid you fostered, and did your husband come home and say, "Hey, this is what's going on. What do you think about this?"

Katie Hogarty: 07:03 Yeah. (laughs) He, that was actually almost verbatim what happened. So, he said, "I'm just worried about this kid, and what, what do you say? What, what would it be like?" And we dipped our toe into, uh, temporary placements, knowing that the, the goal really is for family reunification. And if we can be a safe place while kids are working and getting back to their homes, and while the parents are working for the kids to come back into their homes, we just knew that we could be a safe place.

So, that's been our focus is temporary placement, so that kids can just get the support that they need until they either find a longer term placement or are with their, go back to their families. And we haven't done, we have, to be honest, we haven't fostered for a while, because we keep such strong relationships with the kids that have been in our homes. And pushed pause while we, one of our, one of our foster daughters went to college. And we've kept, uh, our, this, the one bedroom that we have extra, we've kept open for her to be able to come back to, so she has a place to land during the summers and Christmas break and has a home.

So, that's been our focus for the past couple of years.

Emy DiGrappa: 08:05 What does it mean to be in a crisis center, when, when you're a young adult? What does that mean?

Katie Hogarty: 08:11 Yeah, it means that you are living in a temporary place that's designed for short-term crises. So, if a child or a family is feeling unsafe with a kid in the home, or it's, kid is physically or emotionally not safe, they have a, a place to go where they can get support or get their needs met, or have an opportunity to cool off. Or whatever it's, that the ... Crisis shelters are so important and offer really critical resources that are designed to be very temporary, for families to be able to figure thing out. And not meant for kids to be living at for months on end.

But they're such a critical resource in our communities and really designed to be short term.

Emy DiGrappa: 08:49 Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). And how many foster kids have you had to date?

Katie Hogarty: 08:55 We've had three, like, really long, like, longer term significant placements. And then a few shorter term placements over the years.

Emy DiGrappa: 09:02 So, how is foster care different from, say, adoption?

Katie Hogarty: 09:09 Adoption, you take on the, the legal guardianship and parental rights of a, of a child. And fostering is, in the way that I, I'm sure there's technical definitions. And it probably looks different for a lot of different families, but for us, it just means offering our home and offering our love and support and spirits, just offering ourselves to a family while they're just working on some really hard things.

Emy DiGrappa: 09:38 Hm. Okay. So, yeah, I think that's interesting, because I've often wondered about that. And so, you're taking on a young person, like, how old are they? Say, 16, 17?

Katie Hogarty: 09:54 16, 17, 18. [crosstalk 00:09:54] 16, 17. They age out when they turn 18.

Emy DiGrappa: 09:58 Yeah. And then, so they know how to drive. And they're staying in your home. Do you make rules? Like, you have to be home at this time. Do you, do you have parental guidance for them?

Katie Hogarty: 10:12 What I know about, I know about the brain, which is not very much, is that humans need structure and relationships to feel safe. And so, I think we can provide some safe structure through the relationships. And oftentimes, foster kids don't, and I'm by no means an expert on fostering or foster parenting or foster kids at all. Just, we've had experience that's been life-changing for us and I hope life-changing for the kids that have been in our homes. But I don't want to make myself, this is not ... This is a small part of our life, and I'm by no means an expert in this.

But oftentimes, the kids that come into our house are 16 but maybe don't have a drivers license. They haven't had an opportunity to participate in something like that. Or sometimes they work, and we have, you know, they go to work and come home. And they see friends, and come home. And we try to make it as normal and as structured and as safe as possible.

Emy DiGrappa: 11:11 I think that's interesting that you said it's a small part of your life, but sounds like, Katie, you have a really big heart. So, it, I think that would be, you know, a big deal for anybody to, to take in another human being into their lives and embrace them. And, and obviously you, you have a big heart to do that. And so, that's, that's kind of what leads into my questions about your work for Climb Wyoming, what it is you do. And it's kind of reminds me of fostering, in a way, where you open your heart to single women who are trying to survive in, you know, this complex world.

Katie Hogarty: 11:52 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Again, I just, I think, if there's any time to reflect on gratitude, I think 2020 has done that for me. It's forced me to slow down a little bit, to take stock of all the things I'm grateful for, like it has for so many of us. And I've been working at Climb for about 10 years. Uh, I started as the program director in our Laramie office, and then just ...

Well, I met Ray, Ray Fleming Dinneen is our executive director and our founder. And is the most visionary, compassionate, intelligent women I've ever met in my life. I li- really deeply love and admire Ray, and I met Ray when I was working in Governor Freudenthal's administration. And thought, "I'd follow that woman anywhere," and was so grateful that a job opened up in Laramie that I thought was a good fit for me.

And I've been with Climb since then, and just have been so moved and inspired by the women that we work. Their courage and motivation is like nothing I've ever witnessed before. Uh, moms will sacrifice a lot and risk a lot for their kids, and it's ... I'm very grateful to be on that journey with them.

Emy DiGrappa: 13:02 And so, how do you find these moms? How do they find you?

Katie Hogarty: 13:07 A lot of different ways. We know that when you don't have money, you have relationships. That's how you, uh, it helps to get by in the world through relationships. And so, we, we want to make it as easy for the moms to be connected with us as we can. And so, oftentimes, actually our biggest success with helping moms understand the program is through graduates. Graduates will say, "I did this program, and I'm in this amazing job, and look at, look at where my life is now." And they encourage their friends and their peers or family members to consider the program.

So we do a lot of our recruitment through word of mouth, just from our graduates talking really naturally about their program. And we also know that it's, when you're struggling to put gas in your car or struggling to put food on the table for your kids, just when you're in poverty, it's, life could be so hard. And we want to make the connection to Climb as easy as possible. So, we work with the relationships that the moms have outside of Climb to really help them understand the program and feel safe.

So if a mom is, say, working at a, a downtown clinic or working on housing assistance or with a school counselor, those are the relationships that we focus on in the communities. Help those collaborators understand the program, so that when they're working with a mom, they can say, "Let's call Climb. I think this may be a good program for you," and we'll meet all together so that the mom is with their trusted partner as they're meeting with Climb.

Emy DiGrappa: 14:32 And what do you think are some of the biggest challenges these women face? Is it education, a lack of education? Childcare being really expensive, for one thing? You know, what, what are the kinds of things that they face?

Katie Hogarty: 14:49 I, I don't know that I could pinpoint it to a certain area. It really is across the board. Some of, for some of our participants, it's childcare. For some of our participants, it's maybe substance abuse or a mental health issue. For some of our participants, it could be leaving a domestic violence situation. For some of our participants, it's, it might be that they have a learning style or just did not find success in a traditional classroom, that has made it hard for them to find success in a traditional job.

So, it could be a, it's a whole host of issues that are facing our participants, which is why Climb is a mental health based model. We work with cohorts, so women come the program 10 or 12 at a time, so that they can really grow their social capital and meet healthy, success, or healthy supporters and grow the number of people in their lives that are, that have their back in a really positive way.

Emy DiGrappa: 15:38 Oh, to, I think it's such a great program. I, I love what you do there. And I love that, what, who do you think has influenced your life work? Who has inspired you in your life, and influenced you?

Katie Hogarty: 15:53 It's so many people. Ray, primarily, she's just been so fortunate to have spent the largest part of my career learning from her and working alongside her. School was not easy for me. I have, am dyslexic, and kind of did okay enough in high school, but really struggled in some areas. Didn't think I was going to find success in college. I had an English teacher in high school, Pat Best, who really helped advocate for me and ... I mean, I just feel again, feel so grateful for the, the people that have been alongside me. And I just want to pinch myself.

I think about my parents were strong advocates and helped me think about where I wanted to end up. And made it safe for me to take risks in my career if they didn't work out. If job choices I made didn't work out. And so, if I'm answering your question honestly, I feel like I just have this whole beautiful community of, uh, of people that have helped me end up where I am. And I also feel like I've kind of stumbled where I am.

Uh, you know, when I went to law school, I certainly didn't think I was gonna end up working in a governor's office. And when I was working in the governor's office, I certainly didn't think I would end up spending, you know, many years with Climb. I feel very happy and miraculous things that have just kind of propelled me to where I am. It's hard to explain. I just feel, I don't know, I feel so fortunate.

Emy DiGrappa: 17:15 What do you think about, I think, well, I think it's interesting that you said you were dyslexic. And when did they f- figure that out and diagnose that?

Katie Hogarty: 17:26 Uh, when I was in my freshman year of college, [inaudible 00:17:28] took a calculus class. I remember this so perfectly. It's like, an eight o'clock AM calculus class, which I don't know why any freshman would think that was a good idea. And as my, as we were getting our first tests [crosstalk 00:17:40] handed back to us, and my professor, you know, I'm kind of sitting in the class. And people are getting their exams back.

And ev- you could see the grades on them. And mine just said, "Please come see me." I thought, "That's n- not a good sign for my first college test."

Emy DiGrappa: 17:26 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Hogarty: 17:54 And this professor was such a, uh, really astute. I don't know what he had seen the, on my test. He talked about the way that I wrote things, and the way that I analyzed things. And he said, "Did you know that you could, you can get more time to take your test?" And I said, "College is awesome. I get more, more time on a test?"

And he said, "No, it's like, for your learning disability." And I said, "I don't have a learning disability." And he said, "I'm not sure that's accurate." And so, he encouraged me to go through the testing process. I was diagnosed my freshman year of college.

Emy DiGrappa: 18:27 That is such an amazing story. How did you survive education all the way until that time?

Katie Hogarty: 18:37 Luck and parents being strong advocates. And I also think it, it was hard. I compared myself to all the other students, who I thought things came easier to, so I had to learn over time that I was good enough and I'm okay. Totally hard lessons for me. I think it was, I felt like I was kind of on an uphill battle, no, it didn't come easily to me. And I had to work really hard.

So it was a mixed bag.

Emy DiGrappa: 19:01 I think that's really interesting, and I interviewed, her name is Heather. And she runs the literacy organization out of Cheyenne. Do you know who I'm talking about?

Katie Hogarty: 19:12 Heather Fleming.

Emy DiGrappa: 19:13 Yup.

Katie Hogarty: 19:13 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy DiGrappa: 19:14 And just how unforgiving the educational system can be for kids who have undiagnosed, really, undiagnosed learning disabilities, that they don't know about. Their parents don't know about. But they go to school everyday, and they get frustrated in school because they can't succeed. And just how, I think her son is dyslexic.

Katie Hogarty: 19:39 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy DiGrappa: 19:40 And so, she's really worked hard to find solutions for kids, because you know, you can lose a kid really fast if, I mean, good for you that you just didn't hate school after a while.

Katie Hogarty: 19:58 Yeah, and again, [inaudible 00:20:00] wanna pinch myself for my parents. I feel like they were both so supportive and also held me accountable to, to doing well.

Emy DiGrappa: 19:58 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Hogarty: 20:08 And I don't know that I can take credit for that. I feel like I, it was finding the right teachers to help move me along and having the structure at home. And my parents to support me with that. I just again feel so fortunate. I don't know that, like, I think about the moms that we work with that are struggling with poverty. That's hard to manage, when you, information that you don't know about your kid's brain or your own brain. It just, I don't know. I think th- I think schools are catching up. I think schools are starting to do more in this area and are learning a lot [crosstalk 00:20:40] about how all of us have different learning styles and how they can accommodate all sorts of different learning capabilities.

Emy DiGrappa: 20:45 Oh, I, I think that's really important. I really do. Because I have learned with my kids that they learn differently. Individually, they are different from each other in how they learn. And so, one daughter's really excellent in the classroom style learning. And my other daughter is very terrible in that style of learning, because she's more of an experiential learner. So, she's not with someone standing in front of the class, lecturing her.

Katie Hogarty: 21:15 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy DiGrappa: 21:16 That doesn't work for her. It doesn't register, or she doesn't hear.

Katie Hogarty: 21:20 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy DiGrappa: 21:21 Because she's not involved.

Katie Hogarty: 21:22 Right, which has nothing to do with her intelligence at all. And so, I, I love that we're starting to broaden our definition of intelligence and how we, and just understanding that we're all, we all learn differently and are so capable and bright.

Emy DiGrappa: 21:35 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I'm glad you crossed that bridge and, and what a blessing that a professor was so astute that he said, "Well, wait a minute," and that you were willing. Because, you know, you could have kept struggling along. And, and thinking, "I'm not good at school. I'm not good at this. I'm not good at that."

And it does, really must just chip away at your self-esteem.

Katie Hogarty: 21:59 It is, it's hard. I, a lot of things clicked into my place when I had that awareness and understanding of how my brain works. Like, I could give my, give myself permission to laugh at all the time ... I was in a ballet class, and everyone was yinning and I was yanging and, you know, not doing, not doing the same things or needing more time to learn things. It gave me permission to, uh, be h- give myself more grace.

Emy DiGrappa: 22:21 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I have one last question for you, and it's really, if you had one piece of advice for young women, you know, especially women who obviously you work with young women. You mentor them. What is the most valuable thing that you can tell them [crosstalk 00:22:45] you know?

Katie Hogarty: 22:47 I don't think I've ever been in the business of giving advice, which I, uh, [crosstalk 00:22:52] ...

Emy DiGrappa: 22:47 Okay.

Katie Hogarty: 22:53 But I, these are Ray's words. She talks so beautifully about knowing that you already have your gifts inside of you. Like, who you are is good enough. Like, you are a beautiful and wonderful, strong human. And you don't need to change. And so I, I just, I think that really resonates with me and is something I would want to encourage every [inaudible 00:23:14] man, woman, young, old, to just be able to see their value and see their worth.

Emy DiGrappa: 23:20 Wow. That is so good to hear, and it's been so great talking to you.

Katie Hogarty: 23:24 Thank you for the opportunity, Emy, it's great to talk with you, too.

Emy DiGrappa: 23:26 Oh, yeah, thank you, Katie.

Thank you for listening to First, but Last? Brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. Please join us again next week as we continue our conversations with women from around the state. You can also find us at ThinkWY.org, where we continue the conversation on our blog about the history, journey, and the challenges of Wyoming's intrepid women living in The Equality State. And if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show and leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you for listening.