Club Story: Cowboy Ethics

Boys & Girls Clubs set high standards, not just for members, but for their communities. By adopting and developing programming around the Cowboy Ethics Code of the West, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming have had a HUGE impact that spread state-wide. I recently spoke with Sara Beth Lyon, the Cowboy Ethics Outreach Coordinator, to learn more.

Can you tell us a bit about the development of the Cowboy Ethics? Who was involved in creating them?

In his 2004 book, Cowboy Ethics – What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, Jim Owen made a heartfelt case for a new approach to business ethics — one that goes back to simple, timeless principles like those of the cowboy code. He also translated the unwritten Code of the West into “Ten Principles to Live By.” In 2010, after hearing of the success Ann Moore had with high school students in Colorado, through mutual contacts, Jim Owen met with leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming about developing an out of school program to address the needs of students. The program originally began as a set of 20 lessons, two games for each of the 10 Principles, and has now expanded to include both an elementary and a secondary program with over 500 pages of curriculum. In the past two years, the program has been re-branded as “Be Somebody” to be more inclusive of those who do not identify with the cowboy culture.



How are the Cowboy Ethics used in your Clubs?

The program is used daily in each of our 10 Club sites and is part of the culture of our Club. It is used by all age levels throughout our Clubs and all staff are trained in the utilization and implementation of the program. Our Board has also adopted the 10 Principles in the Codes of the West and utilize it in their decision making for the Club. It is posted in all our Club sites, and our Teen Center is named the Dick and Lynne Cheney Cowboy Ethics Teen Center.  


We say that the “Be Somebody: Cowboy Ethics” program is like water, it can fit into any container that you have. It is a game-based program which is our “hook” to get kids interested and involved. Once they are hooked, the discussion about the Principles (secondary) or the Values (elementary) provides an opportunity to make connections between the game and everyday life. We follow a simple 3 step programmatic strategy that has worked for over 95 organizations in 12 states. The steps are simple: 1. Game 2. Discussion 3. Life Application.

How have they been adopted by the community?

The Code of the West was adopted by the Wyoming State Legislature in March of 2010 as our state code of ethics. Currently, Wyoming is the only state to have adopted a state code of ethics. Other businesses in the state and the community have adopted and utilize the Ten Principles in their business practices such as Tri-Hydro, McMurry Foundation, NERD Gas, Jonah Bank, and even the McDonald’s in Casper and Douglas, Wyoming. The 10 Principles are a way of life for those in Wyoming.

How do you feel using the “Be Somebody” curriculum has contributed to a sense of belonging in your Clubs?

The program is used daily in each of our 10 Club sites and is part of the culture of our Club. Since everyone uses the same set of Values and Principles, it is a tie that binds us all together, from members to staff to leadership.  As lessons progress through the school year, our members learn more about themselves and their Authenticity.  The connections they make with other youth and their Youth Development Professionals helps them to know that they are unique and valued at the Club.

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming and throughout the Equality State, we definitely believe in hard work and perseverance, and still have a sense of community and a small town mentality. When asked to come together for the benefit of others, just as in the ‘Wild West’, we do not hesitate to work together to make sure that everyone is taken care of.


What advice would you give to an organization that wants to develop their own localized set of ethics guidelines?

For an organization that wants to develop their own localized set of ethics guidelines, we suggest finding a set that are relevant not only to the Club, but also to your community. By making a concerted effort to instill the values throughout the organization, it can become a standard set of beliefs that will become the core of the organization. .While the Code of the West was already a developed set of values and principles, it was incredibly fitting for our youth.  Organizations could look to value sets that have been created by others (such as a program or book) or they could develop their own set with the input of members, families, staff, Board and community.

Where can people find out more and be trained in your ethics programming?

For those interested in becoming trained in the “Be Somebody: Cowboy Ethics” program, we hold trainings at our Club in Casper, Wyoming every few months. Anyone is welcome to attend and can easily register on our website We also offer the option of coming to your organization to train your staff. You can contact us via email at or call 307-265-2427.


Sara Beth has been with the Movement for 5 years. She loves going on adventures with her husband and two children, as well as baking, reading, and spending time with family.

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