Monday, December 10, 2012
The Sheridan Press




Susan Thomas, founder and director of the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation was in town Thursday, visiting a local recipient of the foundation’s scholarships.

Savannah Beasley is one of two scholarship recipients this semester at Sheridan College. She is studying business and expects to graduate in a year and a half.

“I was very, very excited and very, very thankful,” said Beasley, about receiving the scholarship, which she plans to apply for again next semester. “Financially, it definitely helped. It really made it to where I didn’t have to stress about finances while I get my degree.”

Beasley moved to the Sheridan area seven years ago and has worked in various jobs. She is currently a full-time student and mother to two children and a stepdaughter. Her most recent job was as a manager at a local business.

“I’ve never had a problem getting a job,” she said, about her decision to pursue a degree. “My last job I was working at the Dollar Tree, and I was manager for two years. But I was making $11 an hour and working very hard. I was pretty much topped out so I figured it was a good time to rethink my options and try to get ahead.”

Thomas started the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation in 2008 after the death of her husband, U.S. Senator Craig Thomas. She wanted to create an organization that would combine their mutual love of young people and her experience as an educator. She worked with at-risk youth in Natrona County for 18 years and with at-risk youth in the Washington D.C area for another 18 years.

“It doesn’t make me an expert but I have a lot of experience and the one on one connection is vital,” she said. “It is what makes us all tick in one way or another. When Craig died, I brought together his love for young people and my love and experience for kids at-risk and it was perfect. I knew we were going to provide scholarships for kids who have struggled in school and I knew I would mentor them. We have been on the right track. We have grown and have pushed the mentorship program and that is why we are successful. That is my favorite part, is meeting with these guys.”

The foundation differs in its operation by providing not just financial assistance, but support, encouragement and advice. Rather than simply writing a check to help a student pay bills, Thomas mentors each student personally during their school careers and sometimes afterwards.

“I do meet with all of the students because this is a mentorship program with a scholarship component,” explained Thomas. “That is my job. I do mentoring all over the state. Thirty-three thousand miles worth last year on my Explorer! I really think that young people who have struggled or need a little extra help for whatever reason really need a champion and that is what I try to do. I really try to go to bat for them, whatever I need to do.”

Thomas will meet with each of the 15 current scholarship recipients in the state as often as needed, and remains in contact through phone, email and texting She noted that Beasley has been an exceptional student and has needed little encouragement, though Beasley herself noted this has not always been the case.

“I was really worried before I started school,” she said. “Even in high school I struggled, but I have really grown and matured since then. I have improved on that aspect and not needed a lot of support. I’ve been pushing my self a lot. I am excited about it and I am excited to have a degree.”

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