Over the last six months, we have focused each article in this series on Theory in Practice, Theory Integration and work that The Youth Connection (TYC) has and continues to do throughout the Denver Metro Area. In our last article we discussed the impact of incorporating youth voice in service integration.
As a result of this approach, during the first two weeks of August, youth participated in three events (as described below) and one in September. During August, in three events, we served an unduplicated 71 youth and saw a dramatic decrease in street violence during that time period.
Our first event was a graffiti arts class sponsored by State Senator Mike Johnston, Community Service Apparel, TYC, and Patrick “Girr” McGirr. Youth from different and rival communities worked together to create a beautiful mural to honor those whom lost their lives in the Aurora Theater Tragedy. Additionally, DJ Amuse donated his time and talents to teach an impromptu DJ class while youth worked on the mural.
The second event was a Flag Football game hosted by Manual High School and sponsored by Senator Mike Johnston, City and County of Denver, King Soopers and TYC. Youth got the opportunity to play football with various volunteers and Senator Johnston.
The third, and final public event, was an open-mic night in Civic Center Park sponsored by Senator Mike Johnston, City and County of Denver, Arts from Ashes and TYC. At this event, Senator Johnston read his now infamous “Love Back” poem for youth. Additionally, they were honored with a speech and visit from Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock to honor all the hard work they put forth to keep our city safe from the street violence that they experienced that sparked these conversations.
Our final event, a fishing trip, just completed on Saturday September 15 and sponsored by Senator Mike Johnston, TYC and Angling University. Youth learned how to fly fish on a private fishing resort and each and every one of them caught and released fish for the afternoon.
All of these events were planned and executed in a few weeks; with minimal funding. What makes each of these events such a success is that the youth were a stand for their community. They created, distributed and promoted these events with pride and enthusiasm. They proved that if we, as a community, listen to them, they can be the change they want to see in the world.
I have said this before and will continue to stand in this statement: when one thinks about a degree in Counseling, one assumes that you will be a therapist for the rest of your career. However, there are so many ways you can take your skills and impact a community at large; all it takes is purpose and passion.
Heidi Grove began her work in the advocacy field in 1998 when she worked at a local not-for-profit agency in Denver, which provides affordable services for Substance Abuse Treatment. From 2001 to 2008, Grove worked with Gang, Urban and Homeless youth; has presented research findings on youth populations at Local, State, National and International Conferences and her findings have been published in academic journals. In September of 2008, Mrs. Grove independently published her first book, which is a curriculum based intervention for Gang Involved youth. She received a Master of Arts in Counseling from Regis University and was nominated and awarded Regis University’s most prestigious Social Justice Award. Since graduation, Heidi Grove became the co-found of the nonprofit, The Youth Connection (TYC), supporting and caring for at-risk youth in Denver. She is currently a member of Chi Sigma Iota International Honors Society, and is a participant of multiple state and local committees that address: Juvenile justice, policy reform, and research. Follow TYC on Facebook and Twitter.