Youth Coalition Looks To A Brighter Future
by Maddie Interdonato
On September 25th, multiple organizations with a shared commitment to the youth of the San Luis Valley met to discuss an action plan for the future. The San Luis Valley Youth Coalition (official title to be determined) meeting included organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Communities That Care, San Luis Valley GO!, Conejos Clean Water, Move Mountains and more. The Youth Coalition was created as a way for the organizations to collaborate to break barriers in the valley, in order to best serve youth. There are needs in the community that each organization is trying to address, and the best way to do so is to work together. These organizations support many different aspects of youth’s lives through education, social justice initiatives, out-of-school programming, mentorship and outdoor leadership programs. With a shared vision and a collaborative approach, they strive to provide youth voices with a forum and avenue to effect change in their communities.
The K-12 educational system in rural Colorado is under-resourced and stretched, and out of school organizations play a critical part in supporting youth outside of their schools. Priorities already identified by youth in an SLV Youth Voices Forum were to ensure every child has a safe space (such as an out-of-school program) and to give them the support that each individual needs (such as guidance for students obtaining trade certificates or support if their path is going college). The Coalition decided it is extremely important to gather input from youth, as well, to see from their perspective what they think are their specific community priorities.
Out of School programs are important for youth as they provide a safe space for them to go between school and home. Programs such as the High Valley Community Center and Alpine Achievers Initiative provide academic help, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and outdoor education into their programming so that there is a structure being maintained while still engaging kids. Despite these great programs, not all youth in the San Luis Valley are being reached.
During the meeting, the attendees mapped out what assets the community already has, and where gaps in services are. There are so many great organizations doing big things in the San Luis Valley, but unfortunately due to the expansive area, transportation tends to be a barrier. Stigmas around receiving support for mental health services also continue to be a challenge organizations struggle with. There is also a noticeable lack of LGBTQ+ support for youth and families. Organizations are already working to improve this by hosting an SLV Pride night in Alamosa at the Narrow Gauge Newsstand on October 16th at 6pm.
The Youth Coalition is also working on a collaborative grant proposal that could open many doors for future programs to assist kids. Together, we can make change for the better!