YouthZone develops partnership to provide vocational path in effort to keep teens on track

The new YouthZone center is located in the old Glenwood Springs Library building at Ninth and Blake.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A new partnership in Garfield County aims to help teenagers who are trying to get their lives on track to stay the course by paving potential career paths. 

YouthZone, based in Glenwood Springs, has joined forces with the Colorado Workforce and its Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to give struggling teenagers a boost when it comes time to enter the job market.

“The agreement provides an opportunity for kids to have connections after they leave YouthZone, so they know that they have resources in the community that will help them over the long-term,” Samantha Freese, Youth Career Coordinator for Colorado Workforce, said.

Airen Goodman is the Colorado Youth Detention Continuum (CYDC) program coordinator for YouthZone, working in conjunction with the 9th Judicial District.

She and YouthZone’s trained clinical staff will determine at intake which youth clients, ages 14 and up, may need the additional programming as they make their way through YouthZone’s various prevention and intervention programs.

Goodman’s job is to work with youth who find themselves in the juvenile justice system to keep them out of detention and at home with their families. Through programs such as the independent life skills classes that she teaches, that’s possible.

A continuation of that, though, is to ensure they can be successful as they mature, which is where the new partnership came into being, Goodman said.

“For the last three months or so we have been discussing how both of our programs can support each other,” she said of the partnership with Colorado Workforce and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).

“By working together, we can connect youth with different providers, where the goal is to offer that continued support, especially if they are struggling in their education studies.”

Libby Walters is the DVR’s lead Transitioning Youth counselor for the region. She said that required education component as as extension of YouthZone’s work is essential.

She, Goodman and Freese developed a curriculum of five classroom opportunities that each participant is expected to need:

  • Job exploration
  • Work-based learning experiences
  • Counseling on post-secondary education programs
  • Work readiness training
  • Instruction in self-advocacy.

“Through their collaboration on content for these classes, youth will be offered a much broader opportunity to redirect their focus to a more stable economic future,” according to a YouthZone press release announcing the partnership.

Walters explains that the DVR offers vocational counseling to young people with diagnosed disabilities — such as depression, anxiety, PTSD or a learning disability — who need extra support to handle the complications of finding a solid future.

As a counselor, she helps young people show appropriate work behavior and social skills and serves as their advisor as they determine their career paths.

“This is the first partnership that I’m aware of working with a program like YouthZone that is specific to independent living and work skills,” Walters said, adding there are already four students enrolled in the program.

As the other partner, Colorado Workforce, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), helps students finish their K-12 education and explore career opportunities.

Freese does that by developing an interest profile and skills assessment, then outlines the student’s pre-employment readiness. Next steps include getting a high school diploma, learning the basics of filling out resumes and job interview techniques, and arranging for site visits, internships or apprenticeships.

The joint project is also designed to be a model program for other rural communities to consider adopting.

“If they are successful, this youth-oriented program orientation could be used as a template for other rural areas that have less accessibility to programs that are common in Colorado’s urban communities,” according to the YouthZone press release.

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