Our communities have recognized YouthZone as a pillar in positive youth development and advocacy for 44 years. Serving adolescents and parents from Aspen to Parachute, YouthZone strives to keep our communities safe, our families strong and our youth responsible by providing young people the tools to succeed.
Once a year, local teens take a turn helping YouthZone and their communities during the annual Ascent fundraiser. This year, high school students sharetheir perspective of the upside-down world of 2020 during the Youth Film Fest – An Inspired View of Today’s World. Through the films, young people express the emotional impact of living in a quickly changing world and the hopes and possibilities they envision moving forward.
“We chose to call our fundraiser the Ascent, because our goal is to have every young person we work with look up and see new, higher possibilities in their life,” said Lori Mueller, Executive Director of YouthZone.
Typically, the Ascent fundraiser has been a live talent showcase in a theater setting. With the rise of COVID-19, YouthZone had to get creative in choosing the best way to move forward with this year’s event. In order to keep everyone safe, healthy, and creatively stimulated, the staff decided a virtual film festival was the best way to go.
A fundraiser of this size is naturally a challenge, and transitioning to a virtual format created new obstacles. In order to give the young creators as much support as possible throughout this process, local filmmaker Hannah Pike was brought on as a mentor. She has worked in the film industry for years and has a history and a passion for working with education through film.
YouthZone staff is proud of the teenagers who have decided to participate. They’ve worked hard to create something that artistically speaks of what it’s like to live as a youth during a year of transition due to COVID-19 and the movement for social justice.
This fundraiser is vital to the success of YouthZone and the services it provides: counseling, juvenile diversion, substance intervention and education, Life Skills classes, community service, restorative justice, and parenting education. During the initial Colorado Stay-At-Home period this spring, YouthZone had 89 intakes between late March and June 1.
“Our Ascent fundraiser is an opportunity for each of us to show up and shout from the mountain tops that we love our youth and that they are important to us, now more than ever,” said Lori.
YouthZone’s mission is to provide comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, family and community. Since 1976, YouthZone has been, and still is, the only non-profit organization that intervenes with youth in the juvenile justice system.
Youth are referred by the juvenile courts, schools, parents, law enforcement and self-referred. Over 85% of all juvenile cases in regional courts are referred to YouthZone. According to 20 years of evaluation, 90% of kids that receive services do not repeat another offense and there is a significant increase in self-esteem and decrease in delinquency and substance use.
YouthZone wants the community to know that though teens may slip or falter, there is always an opportunity for growth and understanding. “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,” said Lori.
The Ascent event begins on Sept. 23 with a silent auction. The film festival starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25, but the audience can check in at 6:45 to settle in before the show starts.
Carol Wolff is Director of Development at YouthZone. She brings to YouthZone 11 years of experience as Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, Colorado and then of the Colorado Honor Band Association in Denver since 2015.