YouthZone’s Restorative Justice Program: An Alternative Path to Conflict Resolution 

By Chelsea Smith


Are you looking for a more compassionate, effective way to address conflicts and repair relationships in your community? Look no further than YouthZone’s Restorative Justice (RJ) Program. As the Restorative Justice Coordinator, I am passionate about finding creative solutions to resolve conflict and help youth and families navigate challenging situations.   

Restorative Justice is a transformative process that aims to find resolution and repair relationships through open and honest conversations. By bringing together those involved in a conflict, such as a shop owner and a youth who stole from their store, or a parks and recreation employee and a graffiti artist, we create a space for understanding and accountability. Participants engage in sharing stories and perspectives, which nurture understanding and healing. This shift from hurt to healing occurs through RJ Conferences, where all parties share their perspectives, foster empathy, and agree upon a contract for the youth to repair harm with actionable steps.   

YouthZone also offers monthly Restorative Justice Community of Practice meetings that support conflict resolution, relationship building, and community growth. Additionally, we aim to make our training and Restorative Justice Programming as accessible as possible with translation services and support with transportation and childcare. 


YouthZone Needs You – Get Involved Through Restorative Justice Training 

To expand the impact of RJ in our community, YouthZone is offering two upcoming training opportunities. The RJ 101 Bilingual Training on March 26th is designed for anyone interested in learning the basics of RJ and how to participate as a volunteer at YouthZone. This training is a prerequisite for the RJ Facilitator Training, taking place from April 19th to 21st. Led by RJ consultant Deb Witzel, the facilitator training equips participants with the in-depth skills needed to facilitate restorative conferences with confidence. 

RJ has the power to transform lives and create stronger, more resilient communities. By participating in these trainings, you gain valuable conflict resolution and communication skills that empower you to make positive changes in your own life and the lives of others. 

One youth who participated in our most recent RJ 101 training stands out as having been particularly impacted by the RJ process. This youth had initially learned about RJ after participating in a restorative conference of his own at YouthZone after committing petty theft. He found the process to be so powerful that he signed up to participate in the RJ 101 training and paid it forward by then teaching middle schoolers about the RJ process at a local school. Not only did this young person take accountability through RJ, but they also gained the ability to give back to their community.


The Future of Restorative Justice at YouthZone

We are proud of the progress made in YouthZone’s RJ program. In 2023, our two full-time staff provided approximately 100 RJ sessions to 73 individuals. It has become one of our flagship programs, reflecting the trust and support of the community.  

Moving forward, we aim to build capacity. Through our bilingual training and community of practice meetings, we hope to build and strengthen the RJ community. We believe that by refining our skills through collaboration, we can establish high-quality RJ practices throughout our valley. 

If you’re ready to explore a more compassionate approach to conflict resolution and contribute to the healing of our community, sign up for our upcoming RJ trainings. Visit or email me, Chelsea Smith, at [email protected] for more information. 


YouthZone is a nonprofit that prioritizes family support for parents, guardians, families, and adolescents. Our services, available from Aspen to Parachute, include parent counseling, education, family resources, and comprehensive assessment and advocacy to foster healthy relationships among youth, families, and communities. For more information and to access our support, visit or call 970-945-9300.  

Chelsea Smith is YouthZone’s Restorative Justice Coordinator. She has been working with children and teens in diverse settings for over 10 years. Her curiosity about Restorative Justice Practices first sparked while in social work school. During that time, she took a course with Longmont Community Justice Partnership which further developed her passion for finding creative solutions to heal communities. Most recently, Chelsea worked as a district social worker within Roaring Fork Schools. Chelsea brings a collaborative approach to her work and is excited to join the Youth Zone team. When not practicing social work, you may find Chelsea on the slopes, on her yoga mat, with her family, or doing improv.