By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Denise Wright says “There’s nothing more powerful than a group of kids with an idea.”
Wright should know. The Roaring Fork High School teacher has worked with kids for years. This summer, she is the part-time coordinator for a new student-driven group called Teens Giving Back (TGB), which volunteers at CARE, Heritage Park and other public and private organizations. Just this week, TGB volunteers helped pull weeds at North Face Bike Park, part of an on-going project so the town won’t have to spray the invasive plants.
“Kids are some of the most generous people you’ll ever meet,” Wright told The Sopris Sun. “They love giving back.”
Pre-collegiate mentor Bill Lamont hatched the Teens Giving Back idea with Carbondale Middle School students at the start of last school year. Getting to where they are today was a year long effort. “We met every Wednesday,” said TGB member Kendall Bernot. Not only did the students meet weekly, they took on some tasks that would require quite a bit of work even if they were adults. This included writing letters to the Carbondale Board of Trutees, and Parks and Recreation Commission, asking for the town to fund a part-time coordinator. Bernot said Isabella DeCano and “Gabby” Santana were the official spokespersons when they appeared before the trustees. Other TGB volunteers created and presented a Power Point presentation.
The students must have been persuasive, because the trustees funded their request for the summer of 2015.
Leading up to the recent request, TGB researched similar programs in Boulder, and also looked at the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers youth program. Part of this developmental phase included distributing a survey to high school and middle school students. About half of the respondents in each school said they were interested in participating in TGB. There was a little difference between the two schools when asked why they are interested in getting involved. High school responses included “college admission, community service and giving back to the community.” Middle school responses included “to be with friends, get out of the house, something to do.”
Even before all the TGB ducks were in a row, they were asking around about places to volunteer. Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) near the CMC Spring Valley campus was an early supporter. Later this summer they plan to help build an outdoor learning center at Crystal River Elementary School.
Each TGB member fills out a one-page application that asks for an emergency contact phone number, interests/hobbies the students have, days they are available and whether they prefer working indoors or outdoors. About 25 students are currently involved with TGB. The group does not have an office and Wright communicates with most of the members via the Internet and social media.
Bernot said the summer work year has just started, “But we hope to do it again next year.”
For more information on Teens Giving Back, call Denise Wright at 618-7178.
Published in The Sopris Sun on July 2, 2015.