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Jeffco youth help inform county's efforts to become a community that cares

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Youth today have a lot to deal with.

They face the pressures of fitting in among their peers and the stressors of succeeding in academics and extracurricular activities.

And all this at an age when they are developing their individual sense of self and figuring out their role in society.

“We want to make sure we understand what’s going on with our youth,” said Pamela Gould, the Communities That Care coordinator for Jefferson County Public Health.

So to better understand and recognize youths’ needs, and to prevent some of the problems they face before they even start, Jefferson County is one of 50 communities in Colorado implementing the Communities That Care program.

“All of these communities are working to improve the lives of their youth,” Gould said. “We are really lucky to have a community that truly does care.”

The Communities That Care program is designed to prevent substance abuse, reduce violence and improve mental health among youth. The goal is to create policies, systems and programs that reach children and families, and help youth grow into productive adults.

It was important to first hear what youth had to say. To do this, 21 youth, ranging in age from 14 to 18, were selected to intern as youth researchers to gather data on what they are experiencing in the Jeffco community.

Eight focus groups took place in March, and the 21 student researchers hosted and ran six of them. Participants of the focus groups were 67 youth ranging in age from 13 to 18+ who came from Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and surrounding communities. Here is a sampling from the hundreds of quotes the youth researchers collected during their internship.

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