By David Martin, Editor
December 9, 2021
Green River, WY– Stormie Prime remembers the day she decided to enroll in Climb Wyoming.
The Green River native had noticed an advertisement for the program, which aims to help single mothers learn job skills in high-demand and high-paying fields such as truck driving and nursing, and quickly became interested in what it offered. An unemployed recovering alcoholic who wanted to provide a better life for her children, she talked a friend into enrolling with her. That was the day when Prime began to feel empowered.
Climb Wyoming was originally founded in Cheyenne in 1986 by Dr. Ray Fleming Dinneen as a summer program for teen mothers. Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the program has spread throughout Wyoming, with a Sweetwater County branch in Rock Springs opening in 2007. Since its establishment, the Sweetwater County branch has helped 250 mothers and 515 children. According to data provided by Climb Wyoming, the program has saved the state an estimated $117 million through decreased dependence on public assistance programs initially used by its graduates.
“Your kids don’t have to be on Medicaid,” Prime said.
Prime graduated from the program in 2018, earning a Class A CDL that allowed her to enter into the trucking industry. Prime said the program wasn’t easy, but is designed to support women as they receive their education. One example she noted of this support related to some difficulties arising due to what she described as working with a group consisting solely of other women. Prime said the program offered therapy sessions to help her and other students cope with the stresses that came with the program. Brittany Grey, Climb Wyoming’s program director for the Sweetwater County area, said the program offers students tools to help manage conflict as part of the curriculum.
Prime said the support continued when she first sat behind the wheel of a truck, recalling how intimidated she felt as she did. Even after earning the license, Climb Wyoming helped give her tools needed to find employment.
“I learned how to basically get a job,” Prime said.
The program placed her with Basic Energy Services after graduating.
Following some time at the company, Prime applied to work as a school bus driver in what she believed would be a better opportunity for her, but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in her being laid off.
With the pandemic impacting driving jobs, Prime said she waited for something to happen that she could apply herself to. That something turned out to be a phone call that would involve her with Climb Wyoming again.
Prime said Mountain West Commercial Driving School contacted her to help train a CDL class for Climb Wyoming.
Prime described the experience as the best opportunity she’s had thus far, enjoying the chance to train Climb Wyoming students.
Right now, Prime is driving a mixer truck in the off season, making what she describes as “awesome money.”
As for Prime’s children, she said her new career has allowed her to take them to events and theme parks she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. She laughingly said they are spoiled, but said the program has benefitted them because they’re not living under the stress that comes from living with a parent who struggles to provide for them.
“I’m so empowered, words can’t even describe how it feels,” she said.
Gray said the program is conducting a commencement ceremony for its fall Certified Nursing Assistants course next week and is in the planning phase for a second CNA course for spring 2022.
Gray said the program usually alternates professions, but the severe lack of healthcare workers in the area and the field’s ability to pay self-sufficient wages prompted them to host the second nursing course.