Serving youth since 1993
In 1993 a group of dedicated passionate community members came together to address the growing issue of youth violence and school drop out rates in our city. Denver had just experienced what was referred to as the “Summer of Violence”, a period of intense gang activity.
Determined to do something to stop the senseless youth violence that was making drive-by shootings weekly occurrences, a group of Denver residents came together to form Colorado Youth at Risk.
The group recognized that caring adults were absent from these youths’ lives and started a mentoring program called Steps Ahead for Youth to work with teens in a justice system diversion program. In the first group, rival gang members were thrust together to identify their life goals and take action towards achieving their dreams. Beyond the founders’ wildest imagination, these youth started working together to have a positive influence on the community.
Studies show that students who drop out of high school cost society an average of $200,000 over their lives as they access needed services through the social services system.
In 1996, in response to the changing needs of the community, Colorado Youth at Risk redesigned their programs. CYAR leaders realized that youth involved in the juvenile justice system already had access to many programs and services. In addition, a Colorado state law was passed to change public school policy regarding offenses meriting expulsion. This dramatically increased the number of expulsions from Denver Public Schools (DPS), and CYAR chose to concentrate on making a difference with youth before they got expelled or became involved in the juvenile justice system. In partnership with Denver Public Schools, Colorado Youth at Risk turned their focus to working with high school students.