By Timothy J. Woods
Oct 20, 2021
Roxanne Rosales came to Wyoming after high school to escape what she says was the embarrassment of being a teen mom. She kept to herself, kept her head down, didn’t make any friends — she didn’t have the desire to make friends — because she “didn’t want to have to explain my situation,” she said.
Fast forward to today, and Rosales, now the mother of three kids ages 14, 9 and 7, is an administrative associate with the Jackson Hole Land Trust. She has friends now, and is brimming with confidence.
She credits nonprofit Climb Wyoming — which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and its 17th year in Jackson — for helping lift her up and provide her the skills she needed to become a valuable member of Jackson’s workforce.
Founded in 1986 in Cheyenne by psychologist Ray Fleming Dinneen, Climb Wyoming has grown from its first location to touching 17 counties across the state. Climb’s goal is to help young single moms advance out of low-income jobs and train them for careers that lift them out of poverty. Its success stories number over 10,000 and counting, with Roxanne among them.
“Climb helped me in ways that I wasn’t even planning on,” Roxanne says. “It’s just had a mass ripple effect on everything. I’m a better mom. I feel so much more at ease. My self-confidence is something I haven’t had in a long time. It’s completely changed everything.
“If it weren’t for Climb, I know I wouldn’t have landed the job I did. I’m paying bills, I’m putting money in savings, and I’m able to buy my kids shoes or clothes or what they need. I couldn’t be more grateful and honored. At times I still feel a little undeserving … I couldn’t have been more proud to graduate this program, and I’m happy to say that I’m a Climb mom.”
Christy Thomas, program director of the Teton Area location of Climb, has been with the organization for about 5 1/2 years and in her current position for a year. She said the programs the local Climb branch offers align intentionally with the needs of employers, whether it’s professional office training, commercial driver licensing or certified nursing assistants, Climb researches and pinpoints industries in need of employees and careers single mothers can pursue and find jobs once trained. The Teton Area branch typically graduates two or three specific cohorts each year.
Particularly in Jackson Hole, which is grappling with a workforce shortage, Climb and its employees feel like their graduates are playing a key role in helping to fill the void.
“It’s been pretty phenomenal,” Thomas said. “We’ve had several organizations per week reaching out to us and inquiring if we have a participant who could work for them, and it’s been really exciting.”