Stand T.A.L.L., be proud: Instilling leadership qualities in Wyoming high schoolers

Impact Wyoming provides civic, entrepreneurial and leadership training to help develop youth potential

Young people often fly the coop from small towns to seek opportunity elsewhere in the proverbial “big city.”

Impact Wyoming is taking aim at this trend by providing leadership training and enticing new grads to give their hometown another chance.

Impact Wyoming executive director Elissa Ruckle also owns Elevate Wyoming, a business that provides training and professional development for companies throughout the state. After watching the exodus of young people out of Casper and corresponding lack of employment skills, she decided to do something about it.

“We had students graduating from high school here and employers were noticing a lack of communication, critical thinking and decision-making skills,” says Ruckle. “So, we created programs to help these young professionals on the front end before they entered the work force.”

This led to the creation of the Stand T.A.L.L. (Trust, Awareness, Listen, Lead) program. Not only does Stand T.A.L.L. address the development of employable youth, but it aims to shift a generational narrative that Ruckle observed.

“When I was in high school I couldn’t get out of Casper fast enough, and I began to see that same thought process with my son,” says Ruckle. “I wondered – what if we could do something creatively to shift that mindset?”

Ruckle began to run three programs under Impact Wyoming to address civic, entrepreneurial and leadership training, of which Stand T.A.L.L. is the third. The uptake was quick, with students in Grades 9 through 12 participating in the afterschool program for months before COVID-19 set in.

“Our Stand T.A.L.L. program helps build self-awareness and effective leadership,” says Ruckle.

This year, Enbridge gave $2,500 to Impact Wyoming as part of our commitment to improving lives in communities near our operations and projects. The funding will go towards renting space, purchasing materials, and the most important part of after-class programs: snacks.

Development training in the COVID-19 context forced Ruckle to get creative. The organization currently rents a theatre inside a local hotel out with reduced capacity to continue in-person sessions.

“With the Stand T.A.L.L. program being so relationship-focused and face-to-face, it was really difficult to conduct it virtually,” says Ruckle. “The intention has not shifted, but how we do it has.”

As part of this, Impact Wyoming is considering offering fall and spring sessions to accommodate demand without sacrificing quality—or public health considerations.

Even before COVID-19 times, the Stand T.A.L.L. program was “all inclusive” and was available to Natrona County students, whether in an online, homeschooled, charter or public school setting. As the demand for training to an expanded age range grows, all that Impact Wyoming will need is continued funding, since it lacks nothing in the passion department.

“I’ve seen a huge shift in this and I love that there are organizations in the community who do more than just write a check—they’re invested in the process and ask what else they can do to be a part of it.”

(TOP PHOTO: Elissa Ruckle, top right, and participants of the Stand T.A.L.L. program with a guest presenter, Battalion Chief Jerod Levin of the Casper, WY, Fire-EMS Department.)