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Statewide nonprofit helps move families out of poverty through free job trainings for single mothers

A group of eleven young women in black graduation gowns and caps stand together. They are smiling and white cherry blossom petals fall around them.
Climb Wyoming
A groiup of Climb Wyoming graduates at a ceremony after finishing the nonprofit's job training program.

Over the past 37 years, Climb Wyoming has worked to break cycles of generational poverty by supporting single moms throughout the state. The organization’s 12-week programs prepare women for jobs that are tailored to the needs in their own communities.

According to the nonprofit’s 2023 Progress Report, Climb Wyoming has served 12,000 moms and 25,000 children since it was founded in 1986. Over the last five years, an average of 97 percent of people graduate from the programs. It guarantees that women who finish the training will be employed.

Katie Hogarty, the nonprofit’s CEO, said a big part of the programs’ success is that they’re all about connections within cohorts. Each cohort includes ten to twelve women.

“Oftentimes, in that level of poverty in rural Wyoming, you're isolated and alone. The cohort model really helps to build social capital right out of the gate,” she said.

According to Hogarty, women coming to Climb Wyoming have about $550 in their pocket and have two kids, on average. She said living in that level of deep poverty can have profound impacts on the brain.

“In order to keep you safe, you're anchored to the fight-flight-or-freeze part of your brain, the back part of your brain. When you're triggered in trauma, it's really hard to access executive functioning skills, which is where problem solving, brainstorming, and emotional regulation happen,” Hogarty said.

The client program was founded by Dr. Ray Fleming Dinneen, a phD psychologist, and her mother. The nonprofit’s approach is focused on creating emotional safety and is deeply rooted in brain science and mental health research.

“All of our participants go through group counseling and individual counseling to really identify what might be showing up in their way that is sabotaging their success at work, or what are patterns they’ve experienced in their lives or in previous jobs that are really impacting their future success,” Hogarty said.

Climb Wyoming has six on-the-ground sites in Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Rock Springs, Gillette, and Jackson, which collectively serve the state’s 23 counties. Hogarty said another part of the organization’s success is their hyperlocal approach and their connections with local employers, which allows them to provide training that helps to fill gaps in the workforce.

“Instead of overlaying a policy or an initiative over our program, we really build our curriculum and job training backwards from jobs,” she said.

The programs help prepare women for careers in truck driving and transportation, with training to receive Class A and B commercial driver’s licenses. They also help women get a foot into the medical world, with training to become a certified nursing assistant and certified medical assistant. In the past, they’ve also offered training in plumbing, pipe-fitting training, welding, and in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) maintenance.

According to the organization’s 2023 Progress Report, Climb Wyoming’s work has conservatively saved the state of Wyoming $120 million, as its graduates are less dependent on public assistance programs. Hogarty said the benefits also go far beyond that figure.

“When you pair that with women who are contributing to the economy in their higher paying jobs now, and their kids are more successful and healthier, the state of Wyoming and communities are really thriving and in better positions because of the work Climb is doing,” she said.

In the next year, Hogarty said the nonprofit will run 14 programs and will support about a thousand women in breaking cycles of generational poverty throughout the state.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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