Wednesday, March 5, 2008
By JOAN BARRON
Star-Tribune Capital Bureau




Thomas foundation targets 'at-risk' youth

CHEYENNE -- On the nine-month anniversary of the death of U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, his wife announced the creation of a new educational foundation that will focus on "at-risk" youth.

Susan Thomas said the foundation will provide scholarships for young people who don't meet the guidelines of the Hathaway Scholarship program or other programs but want to continue their education at Wyoming community colleges, vocational-technical schools or the university.

She made the announcement at a news conference in the State Capitol Tuesday before a large crowd of friends, well-wishers and legislators.

Thomas said she thought long and hard about a legacy for the state's senior senator who always looked out for Wyoming's young people. The foundation is a continuation of his work and hers as a lifelong educator on behalf of all youth, she said.

"Today is launch day," she said. "My job now is to continue Craig's and my efforts."

In addition to educational scholarships for youth, the program will offer assistance to organizations and groups that support the foundation goals.

It also will sponsor leadership awards to people, such as teachers, who have inspired young people to meet their full potential.

The life of Albert Einstein is proof that people who struggle in school can achieve success in life, Thomas said. Many youngsters with high IQs have trouble in school for a variety of reasons, including lack of support in the home.

The Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation is seeded with $300,000 in unused campaign funds and will raise addition money to achieve its scholarship goals.

The foundation in January received the required designation from the Internal Revenue Service that allows the donation of unused campaign funds to charities, according to a release from the foundation.

"This is a remarkable step," Gov. Dave Freudenthal said. "There are an awful lot of people who slip through the cracks."

First lady Nancy Freudenthal presented a check to Thomas as a donation to the foundation on behalf of the governor and herself.

Also speaking in support of the foundation were Senate President John Schiffer of Kaycee and Roy Cohee of Casper.

Craig Thomas was a member of the Legislature from Casper before he was elected to Congress in 1988. He died June 4 at age 74 of leukemia.

He had been elected to his third term in the U.S. Senate in the November 2006 general election with 70 percent of the vote.

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