Investing in Change: YouthZone’s Comprehensive Approach to Our Valleys’ Challenges

by Written by Ali Naaseh-Shahry for YouthZone, published in the Post Independent on December 4, 2023

Read the Article on the Post Independent website HERE.


YouthZone staff members accept a generous donation from Alpine Bank employees. YouthZone Alpine Bank

As the days become shorter and snow covers the mountains in the picturesque Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, there is a quiet force at work, bringing hope and transformation to the lives of our youth. As the season of giving approaches, philanthropy takes center stage, and there is no better cause to rally behind than YouthZone — a beacon of hope for young souls navigating the challenges of the juvenile justice system, community conflict, substance use, and mental health issues.

Our valleys, despite their affluence and charm, are not immune to the struggles faced by youth around Colorado and the United States. One thing is certain: the youth in our communities are facing more challenges than they did in the past. We’re seeing more youth come to YouthZone with not just one hurdle to overcome, but multiple. They may be turning to alcohol and substances in order to cope with an unsafe or unstable home life. They might be struggling academically, while simultaneously feeling like their community doesn’t support the way they express their gender or ethnic identity. They might be caught in a vicious cycle of chronic recidivism because they haven’t developed the appropriate skills or confidence to succeed in today’s challenging world. YouthZone’s multifaceted approach is designed to tackle these issues and inspire hopeful youth, strong families, and safe communities.

YouthZone is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was founded in Garfield County in 1976. We’re committed to providing comprehensive assessment and services to youth and families from Aspen to Parachute so we can move the needle in areas like delinquency, substance and alcohol use, trauma, and mental health issues. Our highly-trained advocates provide a host of services to clients, including case management, life skills, substance use classes, counseling, restorative justice programming, and community service. One of the unique aspects of YouthZone’s approach is our emphasis on prevention and early intervention. By addressing issues at their roots, we aim to divert young individuals from the juvenile justice system and empower them to make positive life choices. On average, our services cost approximately $2,000 per client, but are provided to our families for a one-time fee of $150.

John Stelzriede, Jami Hayes, and Hayley Harris. Courtesy/YouthZone

With so many amazing nonprofits between Aspen and Parachute that donors can support, why should they choose to invest their resources in YouthZone? The answer lies in the profound impact their contributions can have on the community’s well-being. By supporting YouthZone, donors become architects of positive change, helping to break the cycle of disadvantage and creating pathways for the youth to overcome obstacles that may otherwise seem insurmountable. Last year, we served almost 500 kids, and almost 1,500 additional family members in our area. Philanthropy is more than just giving. It’s a commitment to investing in communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

The true joy of philanthropy lies in the stories of transformation that emerge from this investment. Consider a teenage YouthZone client who, after being charged with a violent crime, received guidance through our pre-trial supervision program, which granted him access to mentoring, parenting classes, victim-offender mediation, basic needs support, and job skills training. With the support of dedicated mentors and counselors, this individual not only successfully navigated the legal system but also discovered a renewed sense of purpose, pursuing employment opportunities and hobbies that once seemed out of reach.

As the holiday season approaches, let the spirit of giving echo from Aspen to Parachute. YouthZone asks you to join us in shaping a future where every youth has the chance to rise above their circumstances. Philanthropy, in its purest form, is an investment in hopeful youth, strong families, and safe communities. By supporting YouthZone, you will contribute to the creation of a vibrant and thriving world for generations to come.

Ali Naaseh-Shahry is the data and development specialist for YouthZone. If you would like to learn more about the services that YouthZone offers, or make a donation, please visit