LIFT Wyoming Educates, Inspires, and Empowers Wyoming Teenagers
That was the theme of this year's LIFT conference, according to LIFT founder, Tom Grogan.
LIFT stands for Lead, Inspire, Fulfil, Together and it's a conference for young people to do just that.
LIFT Wyoming was designed to "promote leadership in our young people for Wyoming's future," and it aims to to create a new generation of Wyomingites that can lead the state in new and exciting ways.
According to the LIFT website, the program is made up of those four words, Lead, Inspire, Fulfill, Together, and each one of those components provide a glimpse into the program as a whole.
Lead: In Wyoming, our age demographic has become lopsided with a predominantly older group of citizens. In the years to come, we will be forced to rely heavily on the leadership of our current young people to create a vision for this state and direct it where we want it to go. LIFT creates a platform to engage our young people and entice them with what Wyoming has to offer.
Inspire: Wyoming has relied heavily on natural resources to sustain its economy for generations. As we have seen, this pattern can be extremely unpredictable and swing from tremendous wealth into an uncomfortable economic situation, quickly. Wyomingites need the inspiration and passion from our youth to help propel us into new economic markets and continue developing existing ones.
Fulfill: Due to our small population, the infrastructure of Wyoming cities appears to lack the necessary tools to accommodate well-rounded economies. We need our young people to rise up, fill the void, and create opportunities for strategic growth.
Together: Wyomingites are PROUD! Pride in our work ethic and our commitment to each other has laid the foundation for great schools, businesses, and cities . More importantly, it has created a sense of cohesion. TOGETHER, we must continue to work for the betterment of our state and produce ground-breaking new ways to promote economic and population growth. We all know this is a great place to live and now we need to work and grow together.
The 2022 LIFT Conference happened on Wednesday, September 28 and high school students from all across Wyoming gathered at The Lyric in Downtown Casper to hear a myriad of speakers relay their own stories on how they have become leaders in their community.
"In terms of what the speakers spoke about at this event, 'Inspiration' is the first thing that I think of," Grogan told K2 Radio News. "LIFT stands for Lead, Inspire, Fulfill, Together and I think one of the most important, propelling things that we have as human beings is what inspires us. And so having speakers that have lived in many of these kids' shoes, and to be able to share their story and what's inspired them to be in the role that they're at; it's really important."
The speakers at the event came from vastly different backgrounds.
Eric Towbridge, Jon Prather, Megan Degenfelder, and Dr. Alan Buss have found success in many different industries, from politics to Apple, to universities. Each have become vastly successful in their chosen fields, and they all attribute much of their success to lessons they learned while living in Wyoming.
Students listened to each speaker share their story and then they broke off into separate groups across Downtown Casper to apply what they learned to real-world situations - situations that the students themselves got to help solve.
"The cool thing is that the kids are going to be able to use some of the things that they've heard in terms of leadership and inspiration and areas that need fulfillment. and they'll be able to go apply it in these community breakout groups," Grogan said. "Business owners are going to be working with students and community leaders to solve a problem in these individual industries, which will help the adults, but they'll be able to give the kids some real world experience on what it looks like to be in a leadership role in an industry that they don't really know anything about."
It's a chance for young people to explore the various industries that are available in Wyoming, with the goal of keeping the students in Wyoming after they graduate.
"One of the things that we have struggled with as a state is that our young people are literally going elsewhere [after graduation]," said Grogan, who is also a history teacher at Natrona County High School. "I've been teaching in our school district for 16 years and about six years ago, I had this epiphany that the greatest resource [Wyoming is] exporting is not oil or coal or natural gas; it's actually our youth."
LIFT aims to remedy that, by showing young people that they can find success, they can achieve their dreams, and they can do it in Wyoming.
"One of the things that we hold very near and dear to our heart as a board, is the idea of values," Grogan said. "What are our values as the state of Wyoming? I think, when you get right down to the core of who we are as Wyomingites - we have this sense of community and this sense of unity that not a lot of states have. And it crosses county lines, into different cities. Wyoming is a very unique place. We're very rural, which means we have to rely on each other. And I think the idea of what we are trying to do as the LIFT Wyoming board is to try and get our kids and our adults unified, and going in the same direction. And I think it is leadership. I think it is what tomorrow looks like for our kids. I think it's how we, collectively - not just kids, not just adults - but combined, can work to make Wyoming a better place."
That was the goal when LIFT Wyoming was created 4 years ago, and it is still the goal today. And, judging by the turnout at this year's event, it seems to be a goal that more and more people, regardless of age, are getting behind. This year's event, for the first time ever, featured students not just from Natrona County. There were also students from both Sweetwater County and Converse County. The theater at The Lyric was packed with students who chose to be there. These are students that are choosing to invest in their own futures, and in the future of Wyoming. LIFT Wyoming is a program that is growing more and more each year.
"I think the big thing from last year to this year, there's one key word; it's momentum," Grogan said. "I think more people are aware of LIFT than ever before, which is a great thing and it's been part of our big push as a board over the last 12 months. And the fact that there are more people aware of what we are trying to do is a great thing."
Photos from the LIFT conference, as well as a video explaining more what LIFT Wyoming is, can be seen below.