Youth Connections

Strengthening the capacity of schools to respond to and promote social, emotional and mental well-being for middle and high school students.

CEI has partnered with Caring for Colorado to launch Youth Connections, a project designed to support public middle and high schools in fostering a culture and climate that meets students’ social, emotional and academic needs. A primary focus of this work is equipping school staff to identify and respond to youth who experience the greatest barriers to feeling connected, supported, and engaged. As many as 20 schools across Colorado will work to:

  • Create school environments that are physically and emotionally safe, filled with trust, relationship rich, and focused on building social and emotional skills.
  • Build multi-tiered supports and stronger connections with community resources so that students and staff with behavioral health needs can receive services.
  • Engage youth to take an active role in climate and culture change within their schools and strengthen partnerships with teachers and staff to realize this change.
  • Actively engage families and community members in the design and implementation of an inclusive school culture.

Middle and high schools in the following districts were selected in 2019 to launching the Youth Connections project:

  • Alamosa School District;
  • Cañon City Schools;
  • Mesa County Valley School District 51; and
  • Sheridan School District.

Additional districts and schools will be added to the project in 2020.

The Youth Connections project aims to increase capacity and expertise over the next four years. Design teams consisting of community members, teachers, and students will build new vision, strategies, and systems. The teams will then create an implementation plan after connecting these ideas and feedback into a cohesive plan for schools.

Youth Connections in Canon City Schools

“It’s not just about learning math, it’s really about learning to be okay with who you are and what you can do and that there is hope in your future. We’ve interviewed some students to see how they were feeling in schools, and I think that’s a huge piece we were missing as a school – we look for hope in kids, but we weren’t looking for what is missing in kids. This project, the first piece of it, has given us a small glimpse into that, and I’m hoping that we take it to the next step so we learn and really see the main areas where kids are missing that connection in schools. The impact of building that social emotional connection, and having kids feel more connected to school, will be that we have built a stronger community within our entire town; we will build those connections with kids and families and community leaders, and the kids will feel like they belong more to Canon City as a whole. I think they will have more confidence in the things they can do and the things they can try, and they will build those trusting relationships to seek out help when they need it. I think youll see the culture change in the entire community and we will be more supportive of each other.”

–Harrison K-8 School Assistant Principal Sheryl Wiseman

Assistant Superintendent Adam Hartman

Social Emotional Learning Coordinator Jessi Hamilton