YouthZone wins El Pomar Award for Excellence |

YouthZone wins El Pomar Award for Excellence

Since 1989, the El Pomar Foundation’s Award for Excellence program has awarded over $6.1 million in grants to more than 450 Colorado nonprofit organizations.

This year, YouthZone was one of eight statewide nonprofits receiving the award, which recognizes excellent Colorado nonprofit organizations and leaders.

Serving 1,000 youth and families per year and reaching from Parachute to Aspen, YouthZone was a shoo-in for the award, which comes with a $25,000 grant.

The El Pomar Foundation selected YouthZone because of its track record of working with at-risk youth. They assessed the nonprofit’s leadership skills, community impact, engagement and partnerships across the valley.

Lori Mueller, executive director of YouthZone, wrote in an email to the Post Independent that YouthZone plans to make its programs even more sustainable and accessible to youth with the grant money.

“YouthZone provides thorough assessment to youth, meaning we don’t just have programs that we fit kids into, we want to know what they really need and want for support, so we assess their needs and then design a service program that fits their unique strengths and needs,” wrote Mueller.

This means that, when families come to YouthZone, they get family-directed support that is unique to their circumstances, she said. With the grant, YouthZone plans to continue providing solid, evidence-based or research-based programs to the area’s youth, just as it has been doing for the past 41 years.

YouthZone strives to be as relevant and accessible to youth as possible, and is constantly training youth advocates and counselors in areas such as social media, drug use and human trafficking. They also aid youth by organizing community service projects and group work around a specific substance use.

“Once we assess where kids are, we then can provide anything from substance intervention, restorative justice, counseling, to name a few,” wrote Mueller.

YouthZone has begun creating an art mural in Rifle as one of its community projects, and also has designated community service days in Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. The hope is to expand this part of the program to Pitkin County in the near future, Mueller said.

YouthZone also has a restorative justice program, which Mueller says has “exploded.” This program offers support to a harmed party, or victim, and provides a safe space for an offender to repair any harm that was done.

YouthZone has also recently adopted strategies to address areas of modern technology such as sexting and how to keep a relationship safe and healthy.

“We hope to educate youth about ways to have positive involvement with social media, how to keep themselves safe,” Mueller wrote.

Just having purchased a new building in Glenwood Springs, YouthZone is looking forward to hearing from the community how it can best support the area’s youth using the new space, at the former Glenwood Springs Library building on Ninth at Blake.

YouthZone will be hosting a free workshop from 8 a.m. to noon July 23 at Glenwood Springs High School. There, Jermaine Galloway, a nationally recognized speaker, will talk about how to assess youth drug use and what signs to look for. The workshop is designed to benefit counselors, law enforcement, school personnel and parents, according to Mueller.

Community members can support YouthZone by volunteering with the restorative justice or mentoring programs, giving a one-time gift or becoming a monthly donor.

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