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Centennial's band stands on the steps to the courthouse while Jesse Sene speaks from a podiumLaunched four years ago by fervent youth advocate and champion Jesse Sena, and proclaimed by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Colorado Youth Awareness Week is a time to highlight young people’s positive influence while lauding the outstanding community organizations which encourage healthier lifestyles and life choices for young people. 

On Pueblo County Courthouse steps lined with the Centennial High School band and the Color Guard from East High School’s JROTC program -- and before representatives from pro-youth agencies and advocacy groups including Tanya Simental of the Pueblo Mentoring Collaborative and Pueblo United Way -- Mr. Sena officially ushered in the week Tuesday with a continued pledge to support the community’s most precious asset.

“Colorado Youth Awareness Week amplifies the youth voice by championing the strengths and qualities of young people and includes a number of local events to provide awareness of youth causes, promote youth engagement, and highlight family serving organizations throughout the community,” Mr. Sena said.

 “We recognize the youth and we recognize their families coming together to be a support for them and encourage them. It’s so important that we hear from our youth, because they have a lot to contribute.”

Added Mrs. Simental, “By celebrating youth and recognizing their dynamic role in our community, we can lift their voices and call attention to their challenges and victories. Pueblo is fortunate to have many essential organizations that spearhead the youth cause through vital programing, support, and services.”

Pueblo native and Colorado State Senate President Leroy Garcia presented his proclamation recognizing and celebrating the Pueblo Mentoring Collaborative after it was delivered by Pueblo firefighters with sirens blazing and lights flashing.

“Colorado’s young people are future leaders, and we have an obligation to help them overcome their challenges and find their path,” said Senate President Garcia. “Youth Awareness Week is an opportunity for all of Colorado to renew our commitment to young Coloradans. I am incredibly excited to help kick off this year’s celebration, and I am proud that my district is home to so many incredible organizations working tirelessly on behalf of Pueblo’s youth.”

After remarks from representatives of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Chamber of Commerce, and a performance from Pueblo Youth Speaks poetry performance winner Caiden McPherson, the ceremony concluded with a ceremonial cutting of the red ribbon and a succession of high-energy patriotic songs from the Centennial Bulldog musicians.

This week, area youth are invited to take part in host of activities and events, starting with tonight’s Ice Cream Social at Risley International Academy of Innovation, site of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pueblo County’s East Side Clubhouse, from 5 to 7 p.m. State Senate President Leroy Garcia with Mike Atencio and Noah Commerford.

On Wednesday, Dutch Clark Online at Paragon Learning Center will host a Recreational Drone Pilot License Class for D60 students from 6:30 to 7 p.m. 

There are several events slated for Friday.

A homeless youth and family outreach event at Mineral Palace Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will feature free food, clothing, haircuts, mobile showers, public assistance benefit sign-ups and more. Members of the South High School Key Club plan to donate their time to the event.

From noon to 1:30 p.m., the Impact Youth Initiative at the Pueblo Arts Alliance, 107 South Grand Avenue, will offer hands-on art activities with local artists. From 2 to 4 p.m., local artist Eric Sarracino will host a “Let’s Draw” event.

And at 6 p.m. in the Neon Alley in the Union Avenue Historic District, the Communities that Care Youth Board is hosting a “Chalk Walk.”

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Health Colorado is sponsoring a “Climb to Conquer Suicide” at the Pueblo Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center. 

From 6 to 7:15 p.m. Monday, September 13, the Impact Youth Initiative at the Pueblo Arts Alliance will host a “Mindful Mindset Movement Experience” with Julie Kim.

And through September 11, the Pueblo Zoo is offering half-off $5 youth admission tickets.

From its start in Pueblo, Youth Awareness Week expanded to become recognized statewide. Now, Mr. Sena plans to take his vision nationally, with hopes of establishing a National Youth Awareness Week by 2024.

The United Way Middle School Mentoring Program remains a vibrant and life-affirming force in several of our schools, and Mrs. Simental expects the mentoring to return to a face-to-face format next month.

“We plan to place 5 to 6 new mentors at each D60 school, and we are expanding to the D60 Online School,” she said. “In total, we have about 50 mentors in the D60 schools.”