Wyoming has long contended with a large outmigration of young people. Several efforts aim to better engage young people in Wyoming. (Illustration by Eda Uzunlar)

Several groups are encouraging young Wyoming residents to get more involved in local and state civic matters, and endeavoring to involve more youth in shaping the state’s future.

The efforts include an essay and multimedia contest and a summit focused on how young Wyoming residents can more actively engage in civic matters.

Youth Vision for 2030

If residents aged 20 or younger wrote a roadmap for Wyoming’s future, what would it look like?

That’s the premise of the Youth Vision For 2030 writing and multimedia contest, sponsored by the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources and nine other entities. 

“Imagine your life in Wyoming in the year 2030,” the contest asks eligible contestants. “If all your dreams for this state come true, what will that day look like?”

Rather than just create an academic writing exercise, the contest’s organizers want to bring the voices of Wyoming’s young people to decision-makers and challenge leaders to consider those voices in the state’s policy discourse, Matt Henry said.

“There’s a disconnect between leadership at the state level and young people here,” said Henry, an assistant Instructional professor at the University of Wyoming’s Honors College. “There’s a generational divide.” 

Henry frequently hears from students who say state leaders don’t take them into account or engage with younger generations about what they need to feel secure in building a future for themselves here, he said. Young people who have engaged in local and state civic matters often say the experience has left them feeling dismissed, he said.

“I hear from a number of students who say ‘I’m from Wyoming. I grew up here. I care about it, but I’m leaving for the Front Range as soon as I’m finished.'”

“We have to continue to create these opportunities that our demographic, and many others, have been asking for, like the need to feel safe, to feel welcome, to feel as equal partners in the Wyoming experience.”

Amber Pollock, ENGAGE Wyoming president

Several nonprofit groups around the state have stepped up efforts to recruit and elevate young Wyoming voices in recent years, Henry said. He and others see real value in new ideas from people who already have a major stake in the state’s future. The hope is that the Youth Vision 2030 contest helps coalesce those types of efforts, Henry said.

“I think that there’s some untapped potential in the state’s youth to really steer the direction of the state, and so this contest is just part of a broader effort.”  

ENGAGE Wyoming

ENGAGE Wyoming is compiling a list of action items following its youth summit earlier this month in Casper.

The list includes building better networks, sharing strategies to engage with public and private entities and creating more entry points for young people to get involved, ENGAGE Treasurer Tyler Cessor said.

“We talked a lot about keeping energy focused on cultural development and cultural equity — the cultural environment that we want to inherit and that we want to create and live in,” Cessor said. 

There’s a strong desire to encourage leaders to be more receptive to cultural change, Cessor added, particularly among Wyoming’s LGBTQ community. But to get there, young people and others who want to see more cultural diversity and acceptance must learn how to effectively engage with government and business leaders, he said.

“You don’t just show up when you need something,” Cessor said. “You have to build relationships.”

There’s a sharpening focus on creating the change people want to see while accepting the change that’s already happening in Wyoming, ENGAGE President Amber Pollock, of Casper, said.

“We have to continue to create these opportunities that our demographic, and many others, have been asking for,” Pollock said, “like the need to feel safe, to feel welcome, to feel as equal partners in the Wyoming experience.”

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Any relationship to UN AGENDA 2030?
    The Magic 8 Ball says… Yes.
    Get the young to repeat the nonsense they are fed in class and the county commissioners do what their handlers had already told them to do. This is what ruined blue states.

  2. When I talk to young people, they are leaving for better career opportunities, better weather, more exciting places to live – legal gummy bears included, and because partners are moving or living in another state.

    It is unlikely Wyoming can change those things to make a real difference. Too many young people see Wyoming as a cow town of boredom with jobs to match.

    Having young people more in involved with the decision makers is nice but voting might be a better goal.

    1. Wyoming definitely needs to juice the economy. Legal gummy bears would be a start. Attracting the outflow from blue states is the key. Retirees want to escape the rise of fascism and enjoy the freedom that comes with less government. The young don’t understand how important that is. They see the authorities as ubiquitous. They have never known a life where the left has been kept in check. They get indoctrination from media and politics and teachers so they don’t feel the water in the pot heating up. Youth is flexible after all, and they accept things we won’t. Hopefully they will become aware and return once they realize the grass is not really greener if you can’t leave the house.