Charity Contest Nominee – Colorado Youth at Risk Helps Teens Stay in School

Citywide Banks - Community OutreachCitywide Banks’ next Charity Hand-Up Contest will take place on the bank’s Facebook page from September 1-14, 2012.  Colorado Youth at Risk is one of seven nominated charities that will be spotlighted leading up to the contest. The Denver/Boulder community is invited to participate and help raise awareness for these seven Colorado causes. The charity receiving the most votes on Facebook will receive a $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks. Voters can enter to win 1 of 7 prizes.

Colorado Youth at Risk - Citywide BanksToday’s teens live in a challenging environment. For many, the temptation to quit high school can become overwhelming.  Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR) is a local nonprofit that matches adult mentors with at-risk 9th graders to help provide the teens with the context to stay in school and move their life forward.

“Their wheels have already been set in motion,” explains Rick Buckman, executive director of Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR).  “You’re fighting these major factors and influences that are contrary to self-preservation, good social behavior and basically a good future.”

Most intervention programs work with younger kids, before the bad behavior has set in. But there are so many kids already at this critical teen stage, says Buckman, and it’s important to help them change their self-destructive patterns.

Youths at risk are defined as those that are failing one or more classes, and have an unstable family life, a criminal record, or a behavioral issue – or all of the above. They come to CYAR through school referral programs, but all kids must join voluntarily. 

CYAR’s main program, Steps Ahead, is a yearlong mentoring program – and it’s intense. The mentors must commit to a full year and undergo 24 hours of training before being matched with a mentee.

Buckman says that there is a lot of mentoring programs out there but none as labor and emotionally intensive as CYAR. “Our expectations for the first year are extraordinary,” he says.

“Once the mentors and mentees are matched, they spend on average about 10 hours per month together, which is higher than most mentoring agencies.  This is outside of the 2.5 hour monthly community workshops that both the mentor and mentee attend together.”

“It’s a significant emotional experience because you’re basically fostering this youth in a lot of ways,” says Buckman. “It’s a growth experience for our mentors as well.”

After the yearlong commitment is up, the students move on to the other CYAR program called Touchstone, which Buckman describes as sort of a maintenance program to keep the youths focused on their future.

And just this summer they launched their newest program called Real Talk, which is an elective high school course offered at Manual High School. It’s a first for CYAR because the kids are randomly assigned to take it, as opposed to their all-voluntary Steps Ahead program. Fortunately, the response has been outstanding.

“A month into the program and half the kids are already telling us it’s their favorite course at school,” Buckman says proudly. “They tell us they like it because they get to talk about what matters to them.”

Unfortunately, Buckmans says, they can only serve a limited amount of schools right now, yet there are so many school districts that could use their assistance. “We know we can make a direct impact on them but we don’t have the internal capacity at this time.”

What they could use most is financial assistance and volunteers in order to connect with more at-risk teens. A $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks, Buckman says, would go into the Real Talk Program so that they could reach out to more youths in the classroom.

For more information about Colorado Youth at Risk programs and ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.COYAR.org.

Vote to Give the Colorado Youth at Risk a $5,000 Hand-Up
As part of its larger community outreach program, Citywide Banks is spotlighting the great work and ongoing needs of local charities around metro Denver. Based on the results of a 14-day public vote on Citywide Banks Charity ContestFacebook, the community will determine how $7,500 is split among seven Colorado charities nominated by Citywide Banks employees. The charity receiving the most votes will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The remaining donation amounts will correspond to the voting results for each nominated charity. The voting public can also enter to win 1 of 7 prizes, including dinner for two at some of Denver’s top restaurants. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here.

How to Cast Your Vote – September 1 -14, 2012
The voting will take place at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to make sure they are logged into their personal Facebook account. If a user doesn’t have an account, it only takes minutes to set up a new Facebook account and it’s free. The online voting form will only be accessible for Citywide Banks Facebook Fans. To become a Fan, simply click on the “Like” button on top of any of the pages on Citywides Facebook Fan Page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Then, click on the link for the ”Charity Contest” tab to access the online voting page. Each Facebook account will be permitted one vote during the 14-day voting period.

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