Last fall, El Pomar Foundation embarked on a new project to examine youth development opportunities throughout Colorado. The goal is to work with communities throughout the state to match their needs with best practices. The first phase of the program was to identify a model that is working. And that meant getting up close and personal with The Youth Foundation in Eagle County.
Over the years, Eagle County has developed itself as a booming resort community, offering year round outdoor activities, world-class restaurants and lodging, and a community of affluent homeowners yearning to make the mountains their home away from home. Keeping the resort communities of Vail and Beaver Creek bustling requires a large and inexpensive workforce. As such, the community of Eagle County and its surrounding areas exist as a dichotomy of wealth and poverty on both a social and geographic level. Set against the majestic Eagle River, magnificent stone mansions hide the mobile home villages and low-income apartment complexes scattered throughout the valley. Opportunities abound for wealthy families to take advantage of outdoor activities in the Gore Range, yet kids who live in the mobile home villages and whose parents or guardians work in the hospitality industry, do not have a playground to play on.
Alarmed by these implications, a group of community leaders created The Youth Foundation in 1998 to provide kids in Eagle County with safe and inspiring educational activities. Today, The Youth Foundation fulfills its mission of “preparing children in need for success in life through education and recreational opportunities” by offering enrichment-based programs ranging from cradle to career that serve approximately 2,300 of the 6,000 kids in Eagle County. The Youth Foundation utilizes its vibrant community assets and resource-rich environment to foster positive youth development and engagement for kids of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
For the past five months, we have been fortunate enough to work in partnership with The Youth Foundation to determine the feasibility of scaling and replicating the organization’s unique youth development programs and kid-centered culture to other communities throughout Colorado. During this time, we have observed and participated in programs, interviewed staff and community partners, and published a resource guide, all resulting in the identification of key components for replication and the development of a process that engages community assets to create customized solutions for kids. Some identified key components include building strategic partnerships with existing resources that serve kids and creating community ownership by utilizing strong, visionary leadership already present in the community. The knowledge attained and process developed during our time at The Youth Foundation, mixed with El Pomar’s resources, creates a sturdy platform from which to build and support comprehensive youth development programs in communities throughout Colorado.
Kate Deeny and Noel Gugliotta will provide updates on El Pomar’s Youth Development Project. Check back regularly for the latest information.