Laramie Safe Project
What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest achievement has definitely been graduating college. I have a large family, and I am the first person in my family (on either side) to finish college. I knew that I had to go to college, because having a degree would create so many opportunities for my future. In my first year of college I spent a lot of time struggling with school. I was a terrible student before I went to the University of Wyoming. I had a 2.6 GPA when I graduated high school. Education was not a priority to me - but I knew that I had to go to college, and I realized that universities have standards for incoming students. I totally panicked when I started researching universities at the beginning of my senior year of high school. With the help of an awesome admissions representative at UW and a dedicated school counselor I was able to get into UW based on my essay and my ACT score. I graduated 5 years later with a BS in Communication and a minor in Gender and Women's studies. I am so thankful for the experience that I had, and I'm really, really glad that I didn't give up and quit. I am looking forward to going back to school someday!
What is your primary personal development goal/business goal for the next 5 years?
I am the Executive Director at SAFE Project. Our organization serves survivors of stalking, intimate partner, family, and sexual violence. We have experienced a great deal of growth throughout the past several years. I began my time at SAFE in 2012, and I've been so honored to be a part of the work that our organization has done for the community. When I became the ED in 2016, we had just added two new positions to the program - a satellite position at UW, and a prevention position that focuses on youth in the community. As our outreach efforts have expanded, and as our presence at UW has increased, our client numbers have exploded - which is great. We know that people need our support, and they are accessing that support now more than ever. With the increased demands in client work we have seen an increase in the number of requests we receive for financial assistance. We provide financial assistance for rent, deposits, child care, transportation, education, medical costs, legal fees, and much more. In 2018 we gave out over $50,000 in financial assistance - which was over double the amount we gave in 2017. In the years ahead, I hope to expand our staff so that we can meet the demands of the community, and I hope to increase our revenue so that we can sustain the amount of financial aid that we are able to give. I hope to develop more meaningful relationships with local donors, because it takes a village to do the work that we do. We truly couldn't do this without the support of such a giving and thoughtful community. I hope that every child in a K-12 school in Albany County has an opportunity to meet our prevention coordinator - to participate in thoughtful discussions about healthy relationships and consent. Preventing violence starts when our children are babies, and we are doing our part to help schools and parents to raise healthy people who commit to ending violence in their lives and speaking up when someone needs help.
What is your biggest philanthropic achievement?
I have been so honored to work at SAFE, and to walk with people as they uproot their lives and move forward after facing unimaginable trauma and abuse. I have sat with people in the hospital, and the police department, and in court rooms. I've cried with moms in our shelter. I have watched as people have faced the world, head-on, forcing themselves to move forward when their circumstances should have knocked them down forever. This work has humbled me and has shown me the very best - and the very worst - of humanity. I have been given notes and cards from clients who want to tell me how grateful they are to know me, how I've helped them, how much I mean to them. They don't realize that I am who I am because of them. They truly are warriors and walk through fire every single day. Knowing them has been the biggest honor of my life.
What action or event that you’ve been a part of do you believe has made the biggest difference in Laramie? Or, which action or event are you most proud of?
Recently, SAFE has started a new program and I am SO excited about it! The SAFE Men program is our newest endeavor. We know that in order to mitigate violence in our communities, men have to be involved in the process. Laramie is home to so many awesome, caring, and passionate men who want to make a difference but don't know where to begin. In December, we asked community members to nominate men in the community who should take part in a year-long program that focuses on training, development, and ends with each person creating their own innovative project. At first, I thought that this would be a struggle, and that we'd receive a small number of nominations. Jokingly, I said that the SAFE Men group would be made up of SAFE Project spouses. We were so surprised and excited to receive 45 nominations and 20 applications! Many of the men who applied for the program weren't nominated by anyone, and they applied because they were so excited. We selected 10 men to be a part of the 2019 program. We have a few college aged men, a WyoTech instructor, a police officer, a counselor, local business owners, and youth workers. We are an all female staff and have mostly female volunteers, so I am really excited to begin engaging men in our work. I think that this speaks to where our community is, and I think that SAFE Project's staff (past and present) should feel so proud of their hard work in bringing the community along.
What excites you most about the future of Laramie?
I come from a long line of Laramigos. My grandparents grew up here, and so did both of my parents. I love Laramie. I love that Laramie is such a supportive community. Laramie is full of amazing non-profits who work so hard to keep people safe, healthy, warm, and fed. I collaborate regularly with other agencies, and it touches my heart to know that we all work together to do so much good for the people in our community. One of the best things about Laramie is that it's a great college town, and when the students leave it's still full of life. There's something about Laramie that brings people back. So many of my friends have deep roots here, and it speaks to how lovely this little town is. I am so excited to see where time takes us. I love to see new businesses pop up around town, and I see these new ventures continuing for people in the future. We are fortunate to have three really awesome higher ED institutions in Laramie because the students help to keep the town young and alive. I think the future of our town is bright!
What do you think has helped make you successful in your endeavors?
I refuse to give up, and I'm surrounded by people who push me to be the best version of myself that I can be. I have amazing friends, family, and coworkers who support me and encourage me everyday. I am not who I am just because of myself. I give a ton of credit to people who have supported me in my journey. I give credit to family members who helped to pay for college. I give credit to my husband who has never stopped telling me that I can achieve anything. I give credit to my friends, family, and coworkers for keeping me grounded. I give credit to the woman who takes care of my kids during the day so that I can have a career. Without the people I love I wouldn't be who I am and I wouldn't be able to reach my potential.
What advice would you give to other young professionals in Laramie?
Laramie is a great place for young people to start their careers. It's competitive and you have to set yourself apart from other people. I would tell young professionals in the community to network when they can, and to build relationships with people who are going to help you grow professionally. Most of all, do something that makes you happy and fuels your passion.