New Wyo. Cowboy ChalleNGe director: former UW player takes on next ChalleNGE

Capt. Megan Hoffmann, State Public Affairs Office

Eric Brooks’ stature and demeanor tend to command respect without much having to be said. As the new director for the Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy, a 5 1/2 month residential program for at-risk youth, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound, former bowl-winning defensive lineman for the University of Wyoming portrays the calm, self-assured, courageous strength that the WCCA staff aims to instill in cadets enrolled in the program.

Brooks never envisioned his California roots would eventually lead him to Wyoming.

He was a standout football player at Monrovia high school; a northeastern suburb of Los Angeles. His athletic ability earned him a scholarship offer from the Arizona State University football team to play on the defensive line. However, the scholarship offer was removed from the table after he suffered an injury during his senior year of high school in 2007. Arizona Western in Yuma, Arizona, subsequently stepped in and extended Brooks an athletic scholarship, which he accepted. After two years there, he graduated with his associate’s degree. He transferred to play football at the University of Wyoming, where he was part of the team that won the New Mexico Bowl against Fresno State. He graduated from UW in 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

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Soon after Brooks was offered a position with the staff at the Cathedral Home for Children, in Laramie, Wyoming. Cathedral Home is a program that offers a wide range of prevention, residential and transition services for at-risk youth with the overall mission of restoring hope, strengthening relationships and building futures.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with youth. A majority of kids in crisis centers or group homes are really great kids, they just need a motivational push in the right direction,” said Brooks.

Brooks spent several years earning seniority and respect for the work he did with the youth in the Cathedral Home, and was eventually offered the director’s position for Crisis Services in Laramie and Rawlins, Wyoming – a position he would hold for the next several years.

In late 2016, the director position for the Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy became available and Brooks’ interest was immediately piqued.

“The last two years I’ve been living in Rawlins and working for the crisis center, so making the jump to Guernsey was a fairly easy decision. I’ve worked with WCCA recruiters through the years and saw the opening and thought it would be a great fit for my family and I,” said Brooks. Then, as a slight smile came across his face as he added, “Plus, if you can live in Rawlins, you can live just about anywhere.”

“Director Brooks is a tremendous fit for the program.  His previous experience working with youth as well as his contacts throughout the state will greatly benefit the program,” said Doug Hensala, the program’s interim director.

“After six years working with youth in various capacities and environments, there isn’t a whole lot I haven’t seen,” Brooks said.

Brooks, who’s biggest challenge will be recruiting and networking the services of WCCA throughout the state, has already hit the ground running.

“We have a lot of kids that would be a great fit for the program, so our task is finding those kids and getting the pieces to fit together to allow them to enroll, ” he said.

“The fresh ideas he brings have already started paying dividends as witnessed by the increased numbers of Class 32 and the retention rate so far. The energy he brings is just what the program needs to take us to the next level,” said Hensala.

“We offer a great service to kids who might need a little extra motivation or push in their lives to steer them in the correct direction, and that’s our job – our task, if you will – to get them the information on what services we provide and then give them that positive push to pursue them. The view that these are ‘at-risk’ youth isn’t necessarily the case. These are good kids. The cadets that graduate are the ones who are willing to put in the hard work to make their dream future a reality,” said Brooks.

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