Thursday, June 3, 2010
GALE GERINGER
Perspective
TRIB.COM




It’s hard to believe that June 4 marks the third anniversary of U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas’ death in 2007.

Craig’s wisdom and dedication to Wyoming people is dearly missed.

The passion he had for making Wyoming an even better place lives on strong when we need it most. In these economic times, when some young people have an especially tough time with financial or family issues, Craig Thomas’ dedication to our future is an example we need to remember.

Craig was compassionate but it came with toughness. He respected young people and so expected a lot of them. He encouraged our youth to succeed and he approached that from the standpoint of a captain in the United States Marine Corps. He taught personal responsibility and self-reliance. He believed in being on time and ready to learn or work

Craig motivated thousands of young people, urging them to be the best they can be, whatever their circumstances. He didn’t come from money and didn’t place a lot of value on pedigrees. He believed each individual had it within him/herself to rise above hardships and become productive, contributing members of society, but he also recognized that everyone learns at a different level.

So for kids who might have fallen through the cracks, or were in the middle or bottom of their class, what a welcome inspiration they could find in Craig Thomas.

The Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation is born directly from that ethic and from the life-long experience and caring counsel of his wife, Susan.

The Foundation, now in its third year, continues to fulfill a promise and helps young people try for that second, third, even fourth chance at education and life fulfillment.

With scholarships to Wyoming’s community colleges, the University of Wyoming, vocational and technical schools or online education, the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation is changing lives. The Foundation believes that it doesn’t matter where students are from, what their grade point average was, or whether they had excelled in something before. It matters that today they want to try and know that someone cares.

In addition to its other programs, the Foundation also gives annual leadership awards to adults who work to support at-risk youth in Wyoming, mentoring, educating or counseling children to achieve their goals.

One scholarship recipient, who is finishing his second year in college, tells this story: "My early years were spent in various stages of poverty, abuse and neglect. I spent my teen years in foster/legal guardian care situations. I am and will remain drug free. I choose my circle of friends wisely. Now I'm majoring in business management at LCCC where I am getting good grades. It is very expensive and I need help. I ask for your assistance in helping me to make the very best of my life. College expenses are the greatest obstacle between me, my education and my success as a self-reliant, valuable member of my community."

To date, 53 scholarships have already been awarded, including five to students who are older and have been able to improve their job prospects because they’ve obtained degrees or certificates.

The idea is simple. Our children deserve an opportunity to build happy and successful lives for themselves regardless of power or place. And when and if they fail, we have a responsibility to show them another way and offer them another chance.

Craig Thomas never thought he would grow up to be a United States senator. He was a humble kid from outside of Cody who liked people and was willing to work hard at whatever he did. He would have also told you that there were special people in his life that pushed, prodded and, at times, literally willed him to succeed.

Not all of the students who are awarded a scholarship from the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation and receive mentoring from Susan Thomas will become elected leaders some day. But one thing is sure, they will build Wyoming’s work force and they are inspiring assets to a better state -- because they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps ... with a little help.

To learn more about the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation, please visit www.thomas-foundation.com, or call 307-634-8195.

Gale Geringer is a consultant based in Cheyenne and is a board member of the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation. She served as chief of staff to Thomas, as well as campaign manager throughout Craig Thomas’ career.

As seen on Trib.com

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