Last week YouthZone, the Colorado Workforce Center and Department of Vocational Rehabilitation announced a partnership with the goal of giving teens at YouthZone guidance and help on their career path and first steps into adulthood. KDNK’s Lucas Turner has this story.
YouthZone is a local nonprofit based in Glenwood Springs specializing in intervention, prevention, and volunteerism for youth between the ages of 6 and 18.
Airen Goodman is Youthzone’s Colorado youth detention continuum coordinator for the 9th judicial district.
AIREN GOODMAN: A lot of the kids referred to us are from the court system mostly. We do have some self-referrals as well, but a lot of these kids got caught up in some trouble and so sometimes they’re ordered to community service hours. So we have a supervised community service project that we do with the kids. Part of that is repairing harm to the community, but also we want (them) to repair the harm to themselves too and recognize learning some of these skills to benefit their lives, and to stay out of trouble.
One way YouthZone works toward that goal is with life-skills classes. They are offered in addition to supervised community service projects.
GOODMAN: We start out with a personality assessment, and then their career exploration, what are they interested in? And then I’m connecting them to the community resources that they like to do. So if somebody wanted to be a lawyer, or kids are interested in going to City Council so we’ll set that up for them. It’s just letting them know that there’s a community, and that they can access those resources, and that they do have a voice in this community.
Goodman says the collaboration with Colorado Workforce center and the Department of Vocational rehabilitation expands the types of classes and experiences that kids have access to, and creates a streamlined partnership between services offered by all three organizations.
GOODMAN: And the hope is when they exit our program through YouthZone, when they turn 18 or they’re moving on to adulthood, we want to make sure that they have that continued support. So making sure we’re setting them up here with these services through Vocational Rehab or Workforce Services. And then they can continue being involved in those programs once they exit YouthZone. So I think that’s a really big benefit of this collaboration as well.
Libby Walters is the lead regional youth counselor for the department of vocational rehabilitation. She helped to clarify how the partnership works between the three entities
LIBBY WALTERS: So Airen is delivering this awesome curriculum about life skills, work skills. I’m providing some vocational counseling, and then Samantha’s coordinating a lot of the community experiences.
Walters says the vocational rehab center will also oversee student registration, provision of the curriculum, funding, and vocational counseling.
WALTERS: The idea is that as this curriculum is being delivered and as they’re having these community experiences I will be there to help navigate their career paths and pathways to different jobs, so that we can help direct that. As well as be a resource when they do exit this program.
So what are the community experiences? Youth Career coordinator for the Colorado Workforce Center Samantha Freese says they’re meant to allow students to get a real-world look at career paths that may interest them.
SAMANTHA FREESE: So we kinda see where they wanna be directed, and then I will base the field trips I plan on their career path so that they’re invested in where we’re going. And if we can’t go into the community we’ll have speakers come in so that they fit the kids’ needs. In other areas, we’ve taken the kids all over Glenwood and the Valley. Within the schools we’ve been up to the Caverns, the Hotel Colorado, the electrical schools in town, animal centers, we’ve kinda been going all over the map for what the kids are interested in, and we hope to implement that here too.
The overall curriculum helps students develop communication and self-advocacy skills, among others. Samantha Freese expressed how the combination of life skill classes, vocational rehab, and community experiences work to support the long-term success of youth involved.
I think that once kids get in trouble, there’s a lot of people that come together to try to help them and get over this phase of their life. But then once those services go away that are court-ordered or whatever it is, then they’re just left. And they don't know how to continue on. They’ve been given all these rules and then all of a sudden, these rules are gone. So we’re trying to set them up so that they have people they know they can call, or help in the community overall so that they can continue to be successful even after their services at YouthZone end.
You can learn more about the collaborative project by visiting youthzone.com