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Climb Wyoming Celebrates Its 35th Anniversary

A group of women in hardhats pose on and around a forklift.
Kerry Lloyd
Climb Wyoming

Climb Wyoming is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Climb is an organization that offers job training to single, low-income mothers and helps them find work after they graduate the program. Wyoming Public Radio's Martha Harris spoke with Katie Hogarty, the incoming CEO for Climb Wyoming, about what Climb has done in the last 35 years and how the program works.

Katie Hogerty: A mom can only come through the program one time, so our program staff feel a deep responsibility to maximize her success and make sure that she's coming to the program at the right time for her. So say for example, if she's maybe going through an ugly custody battle, or maybe she's struggling with substance abuse, we really work with her to help connect her to those resources to help her through that so that she's more ready to come through the program in the future. And once a mom is accepted into the program, four days out of the week she's doing industry training. And we feel a strong commitment to employment, we know that our moms are coming to Climb to find a job and so we have to find the right training in that community so that there's jobs at the end of it. So our programs are pretty diverse. We've done Certified Nursing Assistant training, we've done plumbers and pipe fitting training, CDL truck driving, office careers, we've done an intro to HVAC careers. Whatever jobs are out there, we want to make sure that we're providing training for so we are really connected with business and community leaders in each of our sites to make sure that we're providing the right training. So when we've identified that and then moms start the program they're in industry training for four days a week, and the fifth day is what we call Climb Day. And that's where I think a lot of the magic sauce happens. That's where moms participate in group and individual counseling to really support the learning that they're doing and identify barriers to long term success. We provide really short trainings, we know that our moms can't afford to stay out of the workforce for very long and they really need to start the higher paying jobs as soon as possible. So, our trainings are between t eight to ten weeks on average. And towards the end of the program, we are matchmakers between an employer and a mom. We really want to make sure that we're finding a job that's a good fit for our moms because we know that that equals long term success.

Martha Harris: And why was Climb started?

KH: Climb was started because the state of Wyoming approached Dr. Ray Fleming Dinneen and her mom, who at that time were doing some job programs, to make their programs more effective. Poverty is a huge issue in Wyoming and for our communities. And Ray had an expertise and some ideas about ways that we could have strong outcomes. And there's a population in need and we know that the effective solution to poverty is work.

Shot of the three women of the Climb Wyoming leadership staff
Janelle Rose Photography / Climb Wyoming
Climb Wyoming
Climb Wyoming staff (left to right) Molly Kruger, incoming COO; Dr. Ray Fleming Dinneen, founder; and Katie Hogarty, incoming CEO

MH: Could you tell me a little bit more about how poverty affects a person overall, outside of not having enough money for their needs?

KH: I think a lot of us experienced trauma, and the impact that has on our brains in this past year, the impact that has on our memory. When things are uncertain, it's really hard to have high executive functioning skills. And so we know that the toxic stress of poverty really impacts our executive functioning - our ability to problem solve or organize, emotionally regulate. All those things that are important when you're keeping a job and finding a higher paying job and staying in that job. When you're struggling with the really difficult choices about how you're going to feed your kids or gas in your car, or paying for rent or paying for a medical bill, it's really hard to have high executive functioning skills. And I think when those are limited, it's really hard to get a job. And if you do feel really stuck.

MH: About how many women do you think Climb has worked with over the years?

KH: I can say that we've worked with 10,000 women over the last 35 years.

A group of women in black graduation caps and gowns
Kerry Lloyd / Climb Wyoming
Climb Wyoming
Climb Wyoming Commencement

MH: And can you tell me about one of those women that you've worked with, maybe a story that stands out to you?

KH: I want to be really protective of this mom's confidentiality but I had an experience several years ago where I got really sick. And I was like super sick and kind of nervous and not feeling well, and went to urgent care. And the RN that was working at urgent care was a graduate of our program that we had supported in getting her feet back underneath her in the medical career. And it turns out I had appendicitis, and I was scared and nervous and just not feeling well. And we had such an emotional experience. She felt so proud that she could be at a place in her career, starting off where she was really struggling, working at a grocery store and just struggling in life, and to be at a place where she could be like supporting the community in such a strong way and me to be able to be a person that she was able to impact and support was really meaningful for her. It was really meaningful for me, it was really emotional. I mean no one says that appendicitis is a beautiful experience but I was really grateful to be in the care of such an amazing nurse, who I'd help in her career a little bit.

MH: When you think back on that experience and your other experiences with women who we've seen come through Climb, how does that make you feel?

KH: I'm proud of the work that our staff does. It's hard work. It's hard to sit with moms that are really struggling. We work with moms that are some of the most vulnerable and barriered populations in the state. It's hard work. I feel proud of our staff and grateful for them. I feel grateful for the moms that have the courage to come into the program. It's hard to ask for support, it's hard to ask for help. And so, so much gratitude for the moms that are willing to participate in the program. Gratitude for our employer partners for working with these skilled women. I feel such a deep motivation to not take the foot off the gas pedal. Especially as the economy shifts, there's more and more families that are struggling and I feel a deep sense of commitment and responsibility to help them find jobs and to work with our staff to find the right trainings and the right jobs for our moms.

Martha Harris is from Portland, OR and is currently studying journalism at Brigham Young University, with minors in theatre and global women's studies. Martha loves playing rugby, writing, and cheering on the Portland Thorns.
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