Welcome to our series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to talk with Jess Freeman, a behavior therapist at Peak Behavioral Services, and avid volunteer. Jess found a passion for helping children with Autism, and made it her career, after her son was diagnosed. Her work has even led her to spend three weeks in China with the Global Autism Project to help spread knowledge on how to work with children with Autism.
Jess spends massive amounts of her free time volunteering to help others in her community. She has been helping with Stuff the Bus for over a decade, and has also helped raise money to help local foster care children find comfort when moving to new foster homes. Her love for volunteering comes from her love of the community and those who have helped her when she’s needed it. Jess loves Sweetwater County and Wyoming, and she sees the value in helping her fellow community members in any way she can.
Jess, what do you do for a living?
I work as a behavior therapist mostly supporting children that have a diagnosis of Autism. I use the principles of applied behavior analysis to help make socially significant change in their lives and families lives. I started my journey of studying for this line of work when my son was diagnosed with Autism and I was unable to find the support I needed. Through my schooling I was able to help him and now am able to help those in the community.
You won the YWCA’s Young Women on the Move award a few years ago. Can you tell me a bit about this experience?
I won Young Women on the Move several years back. I was honored with this nomination because of things I have overcome in life and the things I have done for the community. When I won it, I was surprised and very humbled. I felt very gracious that I was given this nomination, when so many other people do so much for others. This award actually became a catalyst in my life for other experiences I have been fortunate to come in contact with.
You also went to China to help children with Autism. What was that like?
I received the honor of going with the Global Autism Project to China for three weeks. I was the first individual from Wyoming to go on a trip with them. I worked in a center and helped the individuals in China gain knowledge on how to work with children with Autism. I was able to speak in a hospital and explain some of the principles of ABA (applied behavior analysis) and talk directly to parents learning to work with their child with Autism. It was an experience of a lifetime.
Additionally, you help raise money for foster care in the community. How did you get involved in that?
I was lucky to be able to raise money through a company called Together We Rise for our foster care children in Sweetwater County. With the help of several fundraisers and community support, over $5,000 was raised. This was raised so children would be able to move from foster home to foster home with a duffel bag, blanket, stuffed animal and other comfort items. I felt passionate about this because I was in foster care off and on until I was adopted at the age of 11.
You do a lot of volunteer work, what else do you volunteer for?
I also collect school supplies for children in need since 2010 through the Stuff The Bus program. We are currently looking for volunteers for this year.
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
We relocated mostly for work.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I think our community cares and truly wants to help one another. I am always amazed at the community support for all the projects I do. I also have seen when one member of the community is down on their luck, everyone rallies together.
What are some of your hobbies?
Volunteering, crafting on my Cricut, board games, and learning new things.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
I live always trying to treat others as I would like to be treated. We never fully understand another person’s struggles, so it is always best to be compassionate over judgmental. Maybe the person you are judging may one day be of some significance to you. We never know someone’s path. In my life, I have been judged for many things and now some of those who have judged me see my true potential. Just because that potential is not visible does not mean that person does not have value.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
Sapporo. One, I love the food. Also, Jerry and Angela are amazing at supporting the community and making everyone feel welcome.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about yourself?
Great question, I have no answer. I would like someone who has some comedic timing and is as funny as I have been through some struggles, and a good mix of humor is always welcome.
What would you sing at karaoke?
Ha… most likely nothing. If I actually could sing, maybe ‘What A Wonderful World’ or ‘Wonderwall’ as they are some of my favorites. Lastly ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ because it reminds me of a memory with my daughter.
How would your friends describe you?
They would probably mention the things I do and how self critical I can be. Or mention how I am always pleading for help with volunteer projects that I convince them to help me with. Also that I try to achieve as much as I can but I don’t enjoy talking about it. I like to stay private about those things.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
After being from three generations of my family that were not raised by their biological parents, I raised mine, and they are amazing children.
What is something unique about you?
I am always learning, always striving to do more. I have had more individuals non-blood related to me than actual family. Those are my mentors and I will always be grateful.
Why do you choose to live in Wyoming?
Because of the community and how we all take care of each other.