Youth Connections

State graphic with Youth Connection project locationsStrengthening 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.

Photo: CFC Executive Vice President Linda Reiner

CFC Executive Vice President Linda Reiner

“Caring for Colorado Foundation is honored to work with school communities across our state. We believe that all students deserve well-being and supportive environments and are excited to be working with the Colorado Education Initiative given their long track record of success in this arena,” said CFC Executive Vice President Linda Reiner.

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 to launch the first cohort of the Youth Connections project:

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

These districts have been added to create a second Youth Connections cohort:

  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools;
  • Delta County School District;
  • Pueblo School District 60; and
  • Weld County School District RE-1.

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.

Assistant Superintendent Adam Hartman

Social Emotional Learning Coordinator Jessi Hamilton

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 you’ll 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

About Caring for Colorado

Caring for Colorado works with communities to catalyze and accelerate change to improve the lives and health of Colorado’s children, youth and families. With optimism and dedication, we work to improve the lives of children and families in Colorado through collaboration, partnership, shared knowledge and grantmaking. We take a long-term view of our work as we seek to address root causes, promote prevention, improve systems and advance policy change.