2021 Jefferson Award Profile: John Jorgensen
John Jorgensen carries on his wife’s passions each year through Wyoming Reads Day, and the program is not limited to the state of Wyoming anymore. This dedication to helping youth literacy has placed Jorgensen as a finalist for this year’s Jefferson Award.
CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - John Jorgensen worked in banking for many years, and he wasn’t much of a reader. Youth literacy was his wife’s passion.
He started the Sue Jorgensen Foundation after his wife passed away in a car accident in 1996, and it was a way for him to “empower her passions for small children and literacy.”
Through the foundation, Jorgensen has been able to get personalized hardback books in the hands of every first grader in Wyoming. “It’s a book they’ve selected from a menu of six titles that we offer them each year,” said Jorgensen in an interview in the Natrona County Library’s children section.
The program isn’t just in Wyoming, but it has extended its reach to states like California and Oregon, too. Jorgensen said after last year it had been able to give out over 225,000 personalized hardback books to first graders.
“It has just grown beyond our wildest imagination,” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen is the fourth finalist for this year’s Jefferson Award. “I’m grateful that people think what we’re trying to do is of value,” said Jorgensen about what the nomination means to him.
His value to empower youth literacy is not lost on libraries across the state of Wyoming. Megan Bratton, the Natrona County Library marketing and PR manager, said, “As far as John Jorgensen and libraries across the state of Wyoming, it’s not just us that think he’s fantastic. It’s all of the libraries in Wyoming.”
Jorgensen is retired from his career of banking, and Bratton said, “He could be doing any number of things with his time, yet he chooses to do this.”
“And work with organizations like the library out of the goodness of his heart. And he’s always a smiling face. Every time he comes in every one is so thrilled to see him.”
To know John Jorgensen is to love John Jorgensen, according to Bratton. She said his passion for youth literacy is “infectious.”
“People know that if there’s something you want to accomplish when it comes to youth literacy and reading that he is a good advocate and partner in that.”
If you’ve not met any of the other finalists for this year’s Jefferson Award, check them out here.
The winner of the Jefferson Award will be announced soon, and a live interview will be conducted with the winner later during May on Casper’s 5 o’clock newscast.
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