CASPER, Wyo. — A major opportunity for Wyoming’s youth to shape the state’s future and make it a place where they can work and thrive is coming up this weekend in Casper.
The 3rd Annual ENGAGE (Empowering the Next Generations to Grow the Economy ) Summit will be held live and virtually at ART 321 Friday and Saturday October 1-2. The summit will culminate Saturday evening with ENGAGEfest at David Street Station.
Panel discussions will address topics like food insecurity, community housing and youth homelessness, joining and serving on a nonprofit board, building a thriving arts economy, and local government — “the under-attended game changer.”
The nonprofit group’s leaders say that, with federal American Rescue Plan funding on the table for the next two years, now is the time for the age 16-35 demographic to network with each other, connect with existing power structures, and make their ideas known to state leaders.
“This is very pivotal year for us all,” said ART 321 Executive Director and ENGAGE Treasurer Tyler Cessor. “There’s this influx of support to realize these dreams we’ve been talking about for decades.”
The Summit is aimed at connecting the demographic with decision-making entities, boards and commissions. It is hosted in conjunction with the Wyoming Business Council, and there will be a joint work session Friday at 8 a.m.
The ENGAGE board also testifies before legislative sessions, so the Summit is an opportunity to consolidate ideas and initiatives for future lobbying.
Casper city councilmember, business owner, and ENGAGE President Amber Pollock said previous summits have been aimed at answering the question of what it takes to retain more youth.
Pollock said it’s clear from those summits that young people are looking for viable career opportunities in fields they’re interested in, including the arts and technology.
“Another thing we hear a lot is about some cultural rigidity, and not feeling like that is the type of environment they’d like to put down roots in,” Pollock said, saying that many young people say they feel like “outsiders” if they aren’t bound for the waning extraction industry.
She said some of them are still interested in energy, but are looking for a clearer picture of what technologies and industries are going to remain relevant in the future before they invest in training and education.
ENGAGE participants also have concerns about access to affordable health care and the cost of housing.
“We want this cultural atmosphere, but with the increase in housing, it’s getting harder and harder for working artists to be able to set roots [and] and to find themselves living here,” Cessor said.
Previous Summits have attracted about 200 participants, and Cessor emphasized that the event is the best chance for anyone in the demographic to make sure their ideas get passed along to the powers-that-be, and to connect most directly with the widest range of peers and decision-making entities.
“The Summit is kind of a launch pad for talking about what’s coming throughout the year,” Cessor said.
The event is free and tickets can be found here. Those over 35 are invited to attend as observers.
The Summit will conclude Saturday with ENGAGE Fest at David Street Station from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
The panel for “Let’s Talk Local Government, The Underrated Game Changers, & Why You Should Show Up,” will feature Cody Mayor Matt Hall, Laramie city councilmember Brian Harrington, school board board member Kiana Smith, and Teton County commissioner Natalia Duncan Macker.