JACKSON Wyo. — It’s not an easy time for Wyoming’s youth.

Many left school a week early and aren’t sure when they’ll be allowed back, if at all. Some were kicked off college campuses and are learning they will not be allowed to return for the remainder of the semester. Graduations have been canceled, educations put on hold. They’re staring into the barrel of a possible global recession and wondering how they’ll find a job in such a market.

“The world is not going to look the same after this, and the people who are most impacted are the youth,” said Michelle Sirois, an academic mentor and tutor.

Sirois wanted to give Wyoming’s youth something to do in these uncertain times — a way to connect with not only their peers, but also with game-changers across the state who have been through strife and adapted to it. Wyoming Youth Connection started last week and will offer weekly lecture-style virtual meetings for youth ages 16-22 across the state every Thursday from now until… well, until it doesn’t seem necessary anymore.

Sirois started the program with friend and colleague Mandy Fabel, the executive director of Leadership Wyoming. The idea, Sirois said, is to engage Wyoming youth in conversations about “how the pandemic is affecting life now and how it’s going to affect life in the future.” They hope that by connecting Wyoming youth with state leaders, they feel inspired to lead themselves.

“We really need to be fostering a sense of importance in having younger people give their input and feel as though they have influence in this,” Sirois said. “The truth is nobody knows [what will happen]. There’s no older person that can actually give an accurate picture of what’s going to happen. I’d love to see our younger people leading that conversation. They’re going to get to decide what happens.”

The next session is this Thursday, March 26 with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. The sessions are broken down into 15-minute “lectures,” then 30-45 minutes of Q&A facilitated by Sirois and Fabel.

Sessions will continue every Thursday at 11 a.m., indefinitely. Youth ages 16-22 from anywhere in the state are allowed to participate. Sessions are free.

Connect on Zoom, meeting code 436 784 788.

Buckrail @ Shannon

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.