“Pain should not be wasted”— Deep Gratitude to Three Parents Who Have Not Wasted Their Pain

Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard.

Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein said, “Pain should not be wasted.”

And I am deeply grateful to three parents who live that wisdom.

Karen Ball began the Sturge-Weber Foundation when her daughter, Kaelin, was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome accompanied by a significant facial port wine stain.

Because this Foundation was there when my son, Byron, was born with the same syndrome, we were not alone.

Karen continues to blaze trail after medical trail in service to others.

The Shepards of Casper, Wyoming

And then there are the Shepards.

Their son, Matthew, was murdered 20 years ago this month.

It was a hate crime for being gay.

Judy channeled her anger and pain and created good:  The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

And for two decades, she and her gentle husband, Dennis, have traveled the country and the world erasing hate, promoting tolerance, and heralding human rights for all.

“This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.” – Judy Shepard

We spent this week-end in their presence.

On October 26, 2018 at 10 a.m., a public celebration of Matthew’s life will precede his interment at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

His remains are still not safe in Wyoming.

And that is unimaginable.

The Shepards model both public anguish and resilience as they counter the injustice of Matthew’s death.

And though their service to humanity cannot be measured, award after award attempts to quantify the shift their work is creating.

As Judy said during the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice in Laramie last spring, “This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.”

And for me, a mother still fighting for me children — sometimes out of fear, occasionally from anger, and mostly out of love — I spill tears every time I’m close to the energy that swirls like tornados around Judy and Dennis.

Because beyond the LGBTQ community, the work they do emphasizes justice for all human life on the planet.

“Pain should not be wasted.”

And for Judy and Dennis and Karen it hasn’t been.

•  •  •

An excerpt from Dennis Shepard’s trial statement:

“You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone . . . First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope. Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time — one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming . . . And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind — the ever-present Wyoming wind — for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God.

“I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone.”

Take Action!

•  Learn more at the Sturge-Weber Foundation

•  Help Erase Hate at the Matthew Shepard Foundation

•  Read about growing up in a moderately-tolerant town

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West


Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs

Abigail Strube, WFCC Executive Director, with her mom, Cathy.

Last year Abigail Strube’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And that’s when they both came to know volunteers from the Angels Care Cancer Program, a Casper-based organization that’s part of the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care (WFCC).

In fact, it was an Angel who suggested Abigail apply for her current job.

“WFCC is all about reducing the burden of cancer,” Abigail said.

And that translates to helping patients and families with non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

Help Beyond Medical Care

“We sometimes pay utility bills.

“We’ve even made mortgage payments,” Abigail said.

“We give gas cards, and this past summer a patient who needed to travel for a much-needed surgery had unsafe tires, so we just bought new ones for her.”

A large portion of WFCC’s budget goes to paying hotel bills.

Because of vast distances between Wyoming towns, people seeking cancer treatment must often travel hours for care.

It’s is all about reducing the burden of cancer.

WFCC Board of Directors includes (front row) Abigail Strube (ad hoc), Kara Frizell; (back row): Angie VanHouten, Michele Nash, Dr. Robert Tobin, and Sam Carrick (ad hoc)

More than 12 years ago staff at Rocky Mountain Oncology in the mid-state city of Casper saw patients struggling at home with non-medical needs.

So they considered how best to help.

The result was a grass roots organization as an arm of the large Tennessee based eplus Cancer Care foundation.

Then in 2018 WFCC received its own 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

Until recently funding came 100% from community donations and grants from individuals.

And now as they extend their reach to more of Wyoming and are eligible for federal grants, efforts are underway to grow the current $50,000 budget.

It’s about supporting patients and families with the non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

In 2017 more than 206 people state wide were served, and this year 176 patients have already been helped.

And the only eligibility requirements are that applicants be Wyoming patients currently undergoing treatment.

Partnering with Hands-On Care

When WFCC merged with the Angels Cancer Care Program more ways to offer non-medical support were possible.

That’s because many of the volunteers have, themselves, gone through cancer treatment.

“They know how to help make the stress of chemo more bearable,” Abigail said.

“Volunteers may sit with patients going through treatment, assemble cancer care kits, and drive patients to appointments.

“They have even put together teams to do house cleaning,” she said.

“In Wyoming we are proud to take care of our own.

“We believe in the spirit of the west and supporting cancer patients in our communities who are in need,” she said.

As for her mom, Abigail reports, “She’s 10 months out of treatment and doing really well.”

Take Action!

•  Read more about Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care

•  Donate to WFCC. Every small donation has a big impact.

•  Review Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Non Profit.

• Read Climb Wyoming where efforts to end the cycle of single-mom poverty in Wyoming are effecting change.

•  Read about a daughter who helped her mom live fully to the end of her life.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West



Positive Roadside Messages: Won’t You “PassItOn.com”?

I noticed a billboard on Interstate I-25 in Cheyenne, Wyoming with the then child Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai’s photo and quote, “Girls should learn history. And make it,” PassItOn.com

I saw it again in Laramie along I-80.

And a similar one a few miles away that featured a 13-year-old boy who started a nonprofit when he was 5.

Today in Tucson, Arizona I drove past a bus stop with a picture of Garth Brooks and lyrics from his song.

“When there’s only one race, and that’s mankind . . . We shall be free.”

And each billboard and post included, “PassItOn.com.”

The Foundation for a Better Life is the nonprofit that began in 2000 to promote positive values through public messages.

It is a 501(c)(3) that has, it says, “zero political or religious affiliations.”

They don’t accept financial contributions, and not a single thing is for sale on their website.

Rather, the Denver-based nonprofit that offers free billboard copy, radio and TV spots, posters and daily emails is funded entirely by Philip Anschutz through the Anschutz Family Foundation.

Its website says it “. . . exists solely to create and share uplifting messages . . .”

According to Variety, though, there has been significant criticism surrounding Philip Anschutz’s funding of conservative groups including pro-gun, anti-abortion and those touting anti-LBGT values.

A Gift to the Elton John AIDS Foundation

Yet earlier this year, Anschutz donated $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Isn’t passing it on what we human beings do really REALLY well?

He said, “My gift to the Elton John Foundation is intended to emphasize that we support freedom of all people to live their lives peacefully, without interference from others.”

Each passiton.com message includes a red rectangle identifying the value in its story.

Inclusion, inspiration, courage, service, soul, persistence, compassion, soul, optimism . . .



You could be driving across country on I-80 or getting on the same interstate to travel to the other side of Laramie.

It doesn’t matter.

Most of us can use a reminder now and again that we have it in us to do and be better.

As imperfect humans we look to one another for stories of encouragement and inspiration, even stories that fit on billboards.

And passing those stories on is something we do really REALLY well.

Take Action!

•  See someone — really  see someone with the eyes of appreciation, then tell them what you see.

 Access the entire passiton.com collection

 View Garth Brooks’ full We Shall Be Free video on Vimeo

•  Read about Rooted in Wyoming‘s efforts in Sheridan, Wyoming to bring people together through community gardening.

•  Get to know why Wyoming Untrapped‘s work to keep bobcats alive could be a tourist draw for the state.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

“The world needs more cowboys” — Self Discovery in the University of Wyoming’s New Slogan

Recently the Trustees of the University of Wyoming voted unanimously to adopt as the new recruiting slogan, “The world needs more cowboys.”

It has attracted negative press as well as praise, including from the Wall Street Journal for its unapologetic rebuff of political correctness.

I’m going to take a minute and think out loud.

I don’t have a deep connection to cowboys (we moved to Laramie less than a year ago).

So maybe that’s why I am flummuxed by the lack of unity I’m finding in those five words.

And specifically because of how I felt when I heard this slogan out loud, as I did last week-end.


I ached and pinched back tears that threatened to give me away as a dissident of the slogan while it was cheered by a room of supporters.

And, yet, like so many things in life, at the core of my discomfort was a chance for self-discovery.

Within my pain resides an awareness that I want things to be different than they are.

And its that very discontent, I understand from Buddhist friends, that feeds my misery.

Moving Away From Separation

Pistol Pete is the University of Wyoming mascot.

But still, I want there to be less separation in the world.

I want to live where there is respect and acknowledgment for others’ feelings.

I want to be in a place where attitudes of “that’s just the way we do things” is periodically checked and reconsidered.

Even if it’s uncomfortable and takes work.

Because that’s how and when real connection is made.

I  pinched back tears that threatened to give me away
as a dissident of the slogan . . .

I can trace the lump in my throat to lost possibilities for meaningful ways to connect with:

  • Bright Native Americans youth
  • Other peoples of color
  • Ideas that promote women and men moving toward balance
  • LBGTQ folks contributing vibrantly while assured safety in their lives

It seems introspection about this slogan is absent, though I can’t say that with certainty.

Most of us know that self reflections isn’t for the faint of heart because what you find can be hard to face and harder to remedy.

It’s lonely business.

Yet meaningful change and seeing the world in bigger ways can result.

So when I hear, “The world needs more cowboys,” I wonder. . .

If I stay the course with my feelings, especially the hard parts, will it lead me to understanding and empathy or deeper dissension?

It’s too early to tell but I’m willing to stick with it and find out.

.  .  .

Take Action!

•  University of Wyoming’s promotional video that accompanies the slogan.

•  “Higher Ed Needs More Cowboys: The University of Wyoming sticks to its guns against politically correct faculty,” Wall Street Journal, opinion, 7/13/18.

•  Safe Zone at the University of Wyoming.


•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West


Progressive Wyoming Ranchers: Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Jana Wilson in Centennial, Wyoming

“I never tire of the horses, and they never disappoint a visitor,” Jana Wilson said.

She was speaking about the stallions in her care.

Jana and her husband, Rich, Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyomingoperate the Deerwood Ranch
Wild Horse EcoSanctuary
 on the extended family’s 4,700-acre
property in Centennial, Wyoming.

It’s where 350 horses captured wild in Wyoming roam free.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming“Once people are here and we get them out with the horses, you can feel this peace come over them.

“You can sense a common bond,” Jana said.

Through tears, a recent guest from Georgia said visiting the horses was the highlight of her life.

“Therapists bring clients here,” Jana said. “They go to the horses then sometimes stay for a picnic lunch.”

“You can just feel how positive it is.

“Some kind of tranquility comes over them,” she said. “Horses have a way of bringing out emotions in people.”

One might say, healing of all sorts takes place here.

And it all came about from a small ad in a local paper.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
In Centennial, Wyoming, the nation’s first Wild Horse EcoSanctuary

BLM Horse EcoSanctuaries

In 2010 Jana’s father read that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was seeking private land for excess horses.

Three things were needed.

– Rocks to wear the horses’ hooves down
– Running water through all the pastures the horses would be in
– And plenty of natural shelter in the form of willows and trees so the horses could find refuge in the tough Wyoming winters

Jana, a self-proclaimed progressive rancher, said a two-year application process resulted in Deerwood Ranch becoming the first of three BLM-sponsored EcoSanctuaries in the country.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
photo by Byron Crane

The wild, albeit gelded, stallions, reside with four generations of people who have called this land home since early 1980s.

The “eco” part of EcoSanctuary stands for economy and ecology.

That’s because part of the BLM’s intention is to boost local tourism and offer education about wild horses.

“A lot of people come to Wyoming looking for wild horses living in their natural habitat, but they can’t find them,” Jana said.

Partnering With the BLM

So, lucky for the public, the pact between the Wilsons and the BLM states that the EcoSanctuary be open to visitors from May to September.

Another part of the agreement says that horses will live as close to their natural environments as possible.

That means feed is only provided in winter, and no vet care can be given.

The exception is euthanasia for a severely-injured horse or one that is suffering and near death.

Yet as a result of the agreement, the Wilsons get to witness instinctual healing.

On one occasion they observed a stallion with a cut leg spend big portions of every day standing in brook water until the injury had healed.

He was accompanied by a companion, something Jana said each horse naturally has.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, WyomingVisiting the EcoSanctuary

As to visiting Deerwood, all I can say is, “Do it.”

And do it more than once.

By way of truck or ATV (all-terrain vehicle) you’ll be transported to another world.

Once in the vicinity of the horses, there’s plenty of unrushed time to watch them graze, run, amble and rest on the magnificent land that extends halfway up a mountain.

But count on each tour being different.

Sometimes curious horses wander toward you, even nuzzling.

And other times the connection is made without touch.

It’s entirely up to them.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Friend, Debbie, approached by this horse who shares her coloring.

Wild Horse Protection

While wild horses have been protected in the U.S. since 1971, laws may be changing.

With few predators, their numbers are growing rapidly.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
College roommates plus a special friend at Deerwood.

The estimated number of mustangs roaming the west exceeds 86,000.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Byron Crane, my son, befriended by a wild horse.

Each year thousands are rounded up and kept in holding pens while others are put up for adoption.

Undeniable friction exists between the ranchers who use public lands for herd grazing and wild horses doing the same.

Yet 350 fortunate mustangs found their way to Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary.

And nearly 1,500 people will trek to Centennial, Wyoming to visit them this year.

I wonder if that number includes the five to six times my family and friends and I will be there?

Take Action!

•  Visit Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary.

•  Read the full and edited text of the Wild Free-Romaing Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

•  Read “Wild Horses and the Inmates who ‘Gentle’ Them,” by Steven KurutzNew York Times Fashion and Style, 10/15/2017.

• Watch the full documentary, “Wild Horse Wild Ride,” on youtube.

•  Read “They’ll Shoot Horses, Won’t They?” New York Times Op-Ed by Ellie Phipps Price, 7/21/2017.

•  Read  “The Quiet War Against Wyoming’s Wild Horses,” by Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, 8/11/2011.

•  Stay at the Wilson’s 2-bedroom, river-side cottage on the grounds of Deerwood Ranch.

•  Read “Wild Horses, Wilder Controversy,” by Ben Masters, National Geographic, 2/6/2017.

•  Read “Wild Horses: The Consequence of Doing Nothing,” by Ben Masters, National Geographic, 2/7/2017.

•  Visit the two other BLM EcoSanctuaries:
Mowdy Ranch Mustangs in Coalgate, Oklahoma
Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lander, Wyoming

•  Read about Home on the Range Animal Sanctuary.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Civility Leads Climate Discussions

Citizens' Climate LobbyDiscussions at Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) are led by civility.

Wesley Frain, Wyoming’s founding member, says CCL also stands for courtesy and listening.

“Whether we’re talking to people on a national level or in our communities, we address concerns cordially.

“We strive to build relationships,” he said.

The mission of CCL is to “create the political will for climate solutions . . .”

And the remedy they propose is twofold.

•  First — a carbon fee on fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases

•  Second — carbon fees become dividends to all American households34

Therefore, CCL’s integrated solution equals a carbon fee + a dividend.

“We exist to create the political will for climate solutions . . .”

Not surprisingly, studies show that implementing this plan will reduce carbon emissions to half of 1990 levels within 20 years.35

And at the same time nearly three million jobs will be created.36

Economics Drive Climate Discussion

Frain says conversations involving CCL are surprisingly non-confrontational.

“I bypass the whole climate science debate and go right to economics.”

And that’s when things get interesting.

“We’re focused on currency and dividends and building relationships at CCL,” he said.

Weekly information calls explain CCL’s plans for the greatest change to happen in the shortest amount of time.37

Environmental Issues and Social Justice

Frain says environmental issues and social justice are deeply connected.

“Climate change disproportionately impacts poor people,” he said.

“And justice means making sure everyone has an equitable chance at a successful life.

“Those who don’t have resources can’t move away from changes caused by climate,” he said.

“For instance, people living in Bangladesh and other low-lying areas are going to be severely affected.”

Wesley Frain
Wesley Frain, Wyoming’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby founding member.

“Climate change disproportionately impacts poor people.”

Frain says local resistance to transitioning from coal is driven by fear.

Specifically there’s worry that state services such as roads and education will suffer.

“But,” he said, “we need to be thinking about these things now.

“About solutions.

“Coal is giving way to wind and solar in so much of the world.”

Wyoming CCL chapters exist in Casper, Laramie, and Cheyenne.

And with nearly 500 chapters worldwide, Citizens Climate Lobby is ready to be part of the solution.

climate lobby in DC
CCL members lobbying in Washington, DC

Click here to see a
1.5 minute CCL intro video




Take Action!

•  Find a local chapter of CCL

•  See the 2017 movie The Age of ConsequencesClimate change, including climate-based migration, are discussed from a military perspective. (Dreadful music and nonstop bad news aside. . .)

•  Join a CCL weekly Wednesday introductory call.

Related posts:

•  Hole Food Rescue Feeds 1,000 in Jackson, Wyoming 

•  Kate Muir Welsh and the Social Justice Research Center at the University of Wyoming

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West


Sanctuary Provides Animals Home on the Range

Home on the Range Animal HavenFortunate creatures live out their days at  Home on the Range Animal Haven (HORAH), a sanctuary in Laramie, Wyoming.

Since 2011, abandoned, abused, and those needing care find their way to this southern Wyoming refuge.

Standard donkeys, Webster and Chester, recently arrived when their owner entered a nursing home.

And sharing the same pasture miniature Sicilian donkeys, Caesar and Hercules, entered the scene after being rescued from auction.

Home on the Range in Laramie, WY, sanctuary for animals
Boer goat, Pong, will spend the rest of his life at Home on the Range.

Boer goat, Pong, and his sister, Ping, were raised by a 4-H’er and moved in when the boy hadn’t the heart to take them to market.

In all, 46 donkeys, horses, goats, cats, sheep, chickens and turkeys roam the 67-acre animal haven.

“When animals come here, they stay for the rest of their lives”

Sanctuary for Life

Since its inception, healing humans and animals has been at the core of this nonprofit’s work.

Its mission includes supporting “companion animal’s wellbeing and the human interaction with them.”

This is done while providing “sanctuary, assistance, emotional and physical rehabilitation and education . . .”

“Justice for animals means giving them respect and understanding with concern for their emotional and physical well being.”
— Deb Roberts

Deb Roberts founded Home on the Range and is its executive director.

“When animals come here, they stay for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“We don’t adopt them out because each one has already been passed around enough.”

Frequent visitors to the ranch include students from organizations such as Upward Bound, the Cathedral School, Cowboy Challenge, and the Open School.

Children help out by grooming and petting animals while older volunteers pitch in where needed around the property.

“The interactions are as good for the animals as they are for the people,” Deb said.

Her vision for the sanctuary is simple, “I do it because I love animals.”

And from what I saw, the feelings are mutual.

Home on the Range in Laramie, WY, sanctuary for animals
Deb Roberts, founder and executive director of Home on the Range Animal Haven in Laramie, Wyoming with Secilian donkey, Caesar.

Take Action!

•  Donate to Home on the Range.

•  Purchase raffle tickets for this year’s Home on the Range fund raiser.

•  Follow Home on the Range on facebook.

•  Check out Deb Roberts’ business, Hydro Hound, also focused on animals with water exercise and therapeutic massage for dogs.

Previous posts of interest:

•  Disconnect Between Animal Protection Laws and Economic Benefits of Keeping Animals Alive a Focus for Wyoming Untrapped

•  Part 1:  Why I care: Witnessing Childhood Injustices (part 1 )

•  and Part 2: Witnessing Childhood Injustices

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Climb Wyoming Breaking Multi-Generational Single Mom Cycle of Poverty

In a state like Wyoming where poverty is pervasive19 and often invisible,20 permanently interrupting the multi-generational cycle of impoverishment for single moms is a big goal.

Yet one woman at a time the chain is being broken at Climb Wyoming.

Reaching the top of the stairs in the Laramie office, I could have been entering an urban law firm or a boutique medical suite.

“Poverty can inhibit executive function, so by providing resources, counseling, life and communication skills, our moms are supported in becoming successful.” — Katie Hogarty

“The setting is intentional,” said Katie Hogarty, Climb Wyoming program director and lawyer by training.

“We want our space to mirror the environment our moms will be working in.”

Twice a year groups of women move together through the program, and on average 130 will graduate from six sites throughout the state.

“So much magic happens when the women are together,” Katie said.

“Poverty can inhibit executive function,21, 22 so by providing resources, counseling, life and communication skills, our moms are supported in becoming successful.”

“People can say, ‘Just put one foot in front of the other,’ but if you’re not practiced at knowing your priorities and how to get form a to b to c, you feel stuck — you’re just spinning.”

Katie Hogarty, Climb Wyoming program director in Laramie.

Remarkably, graduates typically double their pre-program wages, and the up-front investment yields tangible savings for the state of Wyoming.

And the business model of lean site offices supported by experts at the headquarters in Cheyenne permits Katie to stay focused on what she loves.

“I just want to be working with these moms,” she said.


Take Action!

•  Watch a short Climb Wyoming video intended for the women they serve. “This is a judgment-free zone.” “You’re amazing, mom.” “You already have your gifts inside of you.”

 •  Donate to Climb Wyoming

•  Read about Hole Food Rescue in Jackson and community and school gardens supported by Rooted in Wyoming in Sheridan.

• Check out Columbia University’s statistics on Wyoming at the National Center for Children in Poverty

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Rooted in Wyoming Supports School and Community Gardens, Fresh Air, and Digging in Dirt

At Rooted in Wyoming, where school and community gardens grow, there’s no substitute for kids being outside in fresh air and digging in the dirt.

“It gives them keen self-awareness,” said Bonnie Gregory, volunteer executive director of this Sheridan-based nonprofit that funds and encourages school and community gardens.

“The problems of the world could be solved at the dinner table.”

And  gardens are laboratories and classrooms combined. “We get to explore history, math, science, and critical thinking skills,” she explained.

Building a garden in Sheridan, Wyoming

“We’re trying to hold onto the historical appreciation for our agricultural state while we teach self-sufficiency.”

Rooted in Wyoming offers support and momentum, but the gardens themselves belong to the students.

“They design and name them.

“They decide what to plant and how they’re going to water and maintain them through the summer.

“Do they share crop or take the produce to farmers’ markets? It’s up to them,” she said.

Even early-education students get to take home grow kits and work alongside elders as multiple generations frequently tend the gardens together.

“The problems of the world could be solved at the dinner table,” Bonnie said.

Yet she’s amazed at how many children aren’t sitting with their families, eating healthy food and getting asked, “How was your day?”

In this northern Wyoming town, moms and dads, grandparents, teachers and children work to give community members something to be proud of.

“When you get people invested and working toward a goal, that’s where you effect change,” Bonnie said.

Rooted in Wyoming

Take Action!

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Kate Muir Welsh and the Social Justice Research Center at the University of Wyoming

social justice research centerThe Center for Social Justice Research at the University of Wyoming was founded 10 years ago.

And its creation emerged from an endowment set up after Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie in 1998.

Kate Muir Welsh directs the Center.

While her public talks often begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, they linger on, “. . . and justice for all.”

“What, exactly, is ‘justice for all?'” she asks.

“Is it equitable access?

“Equitable resources?

“Assurance that needs will be met?”

She points to examples of campus-wide justice projects: the Martin Luther King Days of Dialogue, the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, and the student-led Good Mule Project.

Likewise, social justice is strong at Muir’s home. She said she and her husband share the same beliefs.

“We do small acts of kindness.

“We donate money to causes we believe in.

“And we engage politically.”

“What, exactly, is ‘justice for all’? Is it equitable access? Equitable resources? Assurance that everyone’s needs will be met?”

Current Research Areas

Regarding critical issues in Wyoming, Welsh says the wage gap is front and center.

As recently as 2017, Fortune found that Wyoming ranks lowest for female/male wage equality.

Sadly, women earn 64¢ to a man’s dollar15 compared to the national average of 80¢ on the dollar.

kate muir welsh
Kate Muir Welsh directs the Social Justice Research Center at the University of Wyoming.

And adding to the concerns, Muir pointed to momentum gaining for immigration issues.

Ironically, Wyoming is the only state without a refugee resettlement program16 and yet is considering hosting an immigration prison17.

With a primarily white population (about 92%), race and intolerance are also perennial concerns.18

Currently the Center awards research grants based on individual applications.


Take Action!

•  See video highlights from the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice is April 11-14, 2018 in Laramie, including talks and panels that feature Matthew Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard.

Matthew Shepard Foundation, in its 20th year of  striving “to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

•  Watch any of 165 Ted Talks on Social Justice.

•  Likewise, read about Safe Zone training at the University of Wyoming

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West