When I was in high school, I gave little thought to what my next day, week, month or year might look like. I was living my best life without the ability to think of a future of my own making.
Continuing my education beyond high school wasn’t something that was on my radar.
Sensing this apathy, in the fall of my senior year my pastor invited me to a college campus tour. He was a chaplain for a college athletics program, and I tagged along during one of his visits.
This tour had a meaningful and direct impact on my future. I was immediately convinced that a post-secondary education was a priority. It is likely that without this caring adult relationship I wouldn’t have experienced a life-changing opportunity.
Who was the adult that had a significant impact on who you are today? A parent? A teacher? A youth leader at your faith community? How would your life look different without this relationship?
Caring adult relationships are critical for youth becoming successful adults. They can encourage youth to try new things, use past experiences to help navigate difficult situations and make connections that open up new possibilities. These all build resiliency and a strong sense of well-being.
Youth who lack caring adult relationships are more likely to miss school, act out, abuse substances and suffer depression.
Thrive by 25 is a community-wide initiative striving to ensure that by age 25 every youth in Weld County has what is needed to lead a happy, healthy, productive life. In Weld County we are fortunate to be blessed with numerous organizations that share this goal. Our most pronounced tool is connecting youth to caring adults.
For example, Soccer Without Borders connects hundreds of youth to caring adults while using soccer as a vehicle for positive change. These immigrant and refugee students are new to our community, country and culture. Without new relationships and life skills, many would struggle to develop into successful adults. Program participants have a 95% high school graduation rate, compared to 61% for English language learning students not in the program.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Weld County provides a world-class club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person. All members are helped to demonstrate good character, live a healthy lifestyle and graduate from high school with a plan for the future. The organization connects over 3,500 youth annually with 200 staff and volunteers. 99% of Boys and Girls Clubs youth graduate from high school; 79% complete some type of post high school education.
Through financial and capacity building support, United Way of Weld County works with nearly 30 youth-serving organizations, providing as many opportunities for youth success as possible. Nevertheless, despite these collaborative efforts, we’re still not providing meaningful relationships to ALL youth. Your help in achieving our goal is needed.
You can volunteer with one of our trusted community partners, such as Boy Scouts or Partners or I Have a Dream Foundation. You can work with your local school district through mentorship programs or be a volunteer coach at a local recreation center. Your contribution could be as simple as getting to know the youth down the block who seems to need a little attention and direction.
There’s no better investment than spending time with our youth. I promise you will find that the impact of such a relationship has a significant positive effect on you as well.
Clint Dudley is United Way of Weld County board of director’s chair-elect and executive director for Thompson Rivers Parks and Recreation District.