Jordan Smith Casper Star-Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange
Dec 24, 2023

CASPER — A recent episode of the podcast “Death, Sex & Money” produced by WNYC Studios and distributed to multiple national platforms features the stories of two Wyoming women. “Death, Sex & Money,” which is produced and hosted by Anna Sale, discusses the necessary but harder conversations of life, as the name implies.

In one of its recent episodes, released on Dec. 6, Sale interviews Hannah and Kendra, graduates of Climb Wyoming’s 12-week job training program for single mothers, and Climb Wyoming leadership Katie Hogarty and Molly Kruger.

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Climb Wyoming is a nonprofit aimed at providing counseling, job training and career matching services to single moms with children.

At the Casper location, the graduation rate is 94%.

That location is also where Sale interviewed Hannah, Kruger and Hogarty.

The episode is titled “Productive Discomfort: A Job Training Program for Single Moms That Centers Mental Health.” The podcast has about 100,000 to 500,000 monthly listeners, according to Muck Rack.

In the 32-minute episode, Hannah and Kendra explain how they were able to leverage the skills they learned through Climb Wyoming to secure steady jobs and provide for their children.

Kendra works at a bank in a small town in western Wyoming. Hannah is a truck driver who earned her commercial driver’s license with the help of Climb.

Both women said they experienced anxiety and feeling like they were lost. Though it’s never stated that they know one another, both said they saw an ad for Climb Wyoming on Facebook one day. They decided to give it a try.

While none of it was easy, they told Sale, it was empowering and life-changing.

Hannah, who still lives in Casper, shared that she has struggled with anxiety all her life. She used drugs and alcohol and experienced homelessness. For about 1½ years, she said, she wandered around Casper. Her kids lived with family members.

“(I) had my favorite bridge that I liked to hang out under,” she said in the podcast.

To stay warm throughout Casper’s aggressive winters, she learned to carry a candle with her at all times. She credits that with keeping her alive some nights.

Now, she sees her oldest child every day and lives with her youngest. She has the means to pay her bills and spoil her kids a little bit, she said. She has a dog.

“To me, that’s being rich,” she said.

Sale also speaks with Kruger and Hogarty, COO and CEO of the nonprofit, respectively.

Both leaders focus on creating the kind of work culture that they want to see the women in their program go into: Accountability, communication and “productive discomfort” are key aspects of Climb.

For those whom the nonprofit serves, consistency and learning from mistakes are also key points.

“You get to mess it up at Climb,” Hogarty said. “You get to practice and try again and get feedback or get validation. And so the first time your coworker gives you the side eye at work, you’ve experienced that at Climb. You’ve been able to talk about it. You know what that feels like.”

Unspoken office work culture rules inspire trepidation in many women, some of whom dropped out of school and/or struggle with mental health issues as they pursue steady employment.

Many enter the 12-week program completely expecting to be kicked out.

For Kendra, learning how to navigate that oft-confusing culture helped her to earn, and keep, her current job.

She mentioned that, when she came to Climb, the thought of writing emails intimidated her. But knowing that other women in the program were nervous too made her feel better. She wasn’t in it alone.

Sale first learned about Climb Wyoming after advising a photographer who was doing an interview and photo project titled “Women in Wyoming,” in which graduates, staff and the founder of Climb were featured.

Struck by the nonprofit and the stories within it, she wrote in an email for the release of the episode, she made a mental note of it until earlier this year. After “poking around on the Climb Wyoming website” and then “making calls,” she traveled to the Casper office to do interviews.

“(There) was a central theme in these interviews — how to push yourself to grow and do more than you thought possible, and at the same time, how to have compassion when you fall short and need help,” she wrote in the email.

“As Climb clients are reorganizing their lives, and meeting fellow moms doing the same, and as staff members run the program, everyone is committed to pushing each other with honest feedback in a way that’s braided with care.”