Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Casper Journal
By Neva Bodin

Providing Inspiration and Leadership - Helping Wyoming’s at-risk Youth

"He loved Wyoming’s young people, and he really believed that part of his job was providing inspiration and leadership to Wyoming’s kids, as well as opportunity, and I had been teaching for 36 years, always students who were at risk -- I taught in Wyoming 18 [years] and right outside of [Washington] D.C., 18. I thought what a perfect thing to put together to honor Craig."

Susan Thomas’ eyes spark with enthusiasm as she explains the genesis in 2008 of the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation. Thomas’s husband, the late Craig Thomas, served as Republican United States Senator from Wyoming, Jan. 3, 1995–June 4, 2007. His accolades and accomplishments during his lifetime are many. And so are Mrs. Thomas’.

The foundation website has much to say about the unique and inspirational ways this special couple made, and are still making, their mark on their community and world. Although June 4, 2013, will be the sixth anniversary of Sen. Thomas’ death, his legacy continues with his wife’s commitment to not only honor his memory, but do it in a meaningful way by coming alongside at-risk youth and guiding them to a life significant to themselves and others.

Ask the right question and the stories pour forth: of the gang members -- the learning curve and challenges of teaching them about government in Washington, D.C.; of the drop-outs and homeless youth Thomas now mentors; of having her cell phone permanently attached so she’s available to the youth 24/7; of the student who hated high school, but due to the scholarship and mentoring is now in pre-med in college. There’s also the one who succeeded at becoming a dental assistant, then moved on to a nursing profession; the now cosmetologist; the one who attained an associate’s degree, and more.

A typical student call may come at any time of day, as did a recent one at 4 a.m., the young person in panic mode, and Thomas will now come alongside a student placed on probation for failing one subject, while making great strides for that particular individual by passing two subjects, because just maybe, there’s more to the story. Thomas becomes acquainted with the students, understanding what they may be dealing with in addition to school. She becomes an encourager, an advocate.

She combines teaching life skills with academic ones, saying, "My classroom has become the whole state!"

There are three legs to the foundation’s program: the scholarship program, the leadership award, and a grant. Applications may be found on the foundation’s website.

The website states that as a non-profit, charitable organization, the foundation has already awarded scholarships to dozens of students, enabling them to gain post-secondary education in Wyoming colleges and trade schools. Because this is a mentorship program with a scholarship component, Thomas personally mentors each student throughout his or her college experience. The foundation has also helped a wide variety of organizations that champion youth with grants, and it honors adult leaders who go the extra mile to teach and nurture young learners, with an annual leadership award. The leadership award includes $2,500 in cash, and the average grant is $2,000.

The scholarship program’s basic criteria is: high school diploma or GED or eligible for school or program for which you’re applying, Wyoming and U.S. citizen, not receiving Hathaway Scholarship, and attending a Wyoming school or program. Preference is given to learners who’re at-risk.

Recipients of the foundation’s awards are determined by a committee of six people -- two in Cheyenne, three in Casper, and one in Cody.

Thomas is the face and major fundraiser for the foundation, which is funded in part by contributions. But she has an "incredible advisor" in Gale Geringer, her "go-to person." Geringer worked with Sen. Thomas as his campaign manager and as a co-worker in the Wyoming Rural Electric Association; she’s in the Cheyenne office. Tammy Myers, who handles the difficult job of scheduling, is located in the Casper Office. Thomas praises these teammates as she continues her busy schedule, currently eight schools to begin visiting soon.

"All people that suffer from at-risk issues, I just want to put my arms around them," she said. It seems she’s found a way.



The Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation
P.O. Box 22246
Cheyenne, WY 82003
Phone: 307.634.8195
Fax: 307.222.0612
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