YouthZone column: Youth participation, leadership part of YouthZone’s powerful interaction

Lori Mueller
For YouthZone

In the last couple months, kids have found themselves confined to their homes and families due to restrictions put on them by outside forces. Their interactions with peers and adults through school and community are limited to screen time.

YouthZone has three, youth-driven opportunities for local teens to speak to their needs and desires in a world that is confined by decisions made by adults and authority. These programs allow youth to express themselves at internet events: a youth-led webinar to provide local teens’ perspective on the impact of Covid-19 on May 14; the Youth Powered Restorative Justice Summit on May 20; and the 2020 Ascent Youth Film Fest.

YouthZone has always engaged youth as contributing members of our communities. It is important to recognize that our kids have something to give back to our communities. When young people are involved in what we do at every level, we find they help the process.

The youth-led panel discussion on Thursday, May 14, is the fifth in a series of parenting webinars that YouthZone has held over the six weeks. In a moderated conversation, “Parenting From Six Feet Away: How Are Your Teens Responding?,” parents and caregivers can speak with three local teens about how they feel in this rearranged world of a pandemic. Parents and youth can access and engage in the webinar at noon on Thursday through a Zoom invite available on the home page of

In partnership with Roaring Fork Leadership, YouthZone will host a digital Youth Powered Restorative Justice Summit on May 20. Teenagers from Parachute to Aspen will be able to express how they can help in their community. YouthZone’s Restorative Justice Coordinator Karen Barbee said there is a growing group of youth who want to be heard, be healers and strengthen community bonds.

Involving youth in YouthZone’s Restorative Justice program gives them a voice in community restoration. With guidance from adults, young people can develop skills to sit in the Restorative Justice circles that address adolescents who have committed harm to themselves, their neighbors and their communities. Through monthly trainings as peer facilitators in a Restorative Justices circle, these young volunteers can learn how their voice and wisdom can add perspective to a situation.

Karen has been inspired by movements that are for youth and led by youth. When the Parkland shootings happened in Florida, Karen said our local high school teens organized to honor the students and staff that were killed and injured. Standing in silence with these young people as they called out one name each minute was profound, she said. Karen believes the voice of our youth needs to be engaged before tragedy in order to strengthen and heal communities.

“Youth have power to support peers with the guidance of adults. They wouldn’t be ready to take on the gauntlet of the RJ process completely, but this will provide them the tools to refine their skills,” Karen said.

To learn more about how to use Restorative Justice to give their voice power, how to use Restorative Justice to heal and how to build bonds in your communities at the youth-powered event on May 20, regional youth can get an invitation to the Zoom summit by emailing

Another opportunity for youth to share their voice is by contributing a video to the 2020 Ascent Youth Film Fest – An Inspired View of Today’s World. The first youth film fest in the region provides an opportunity for young people to express the emotional impact of living in a world with a pandemic and the hopes and possibilities they envision moving forward.

Chris Tribble, President of Versatile Productions, Inc., will work with youth over the next six weeks to create movies or slideshows to share their videos, music, writings, poetry or photography. The first digital meeting with Chris will be May 18 at 11 a.m., but that is not the only opportunity for a young person to be a part of this film festival.

YouthZone will accept three to five-minutes videos between now and June 30 for this year’s festival. Email YouthZone to indicate your interest and find out how to be a part of the 2020 Youth Film Festival:

The youth-inspired compilation of films will be shared with the community during YouthZone’s digital Ascent 2020, a full week of events Sept. 11 through Sept. 17.

Lori Mueller is executive director for YouthZone.

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