Residents engage in visioning

Pat Hill
Laureen Murray, director of the school-based health center, leads a discussion about how to keep kids engaged in the community. The discussions were part of the Voices of the Future event hosted by Gold Belt Communities Build a Generation April 18 at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.
Pat Hill

The weather in southern Teller County is an asset. So are the strong relationships, activities at the recreation center and community spirit at the Aspen Mine Center. Oh, and the donkeys roaming around Cripple Creek are a definite distinction.

On the other hand, the abuse of alcohol and tobacco are far-reaching and debilitating.

In a penetrating look at their communities, more than 80 residents critiqued the good, the bad and the ugly in roundtable discussions April 18 at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.

With the title “Voices of the Future,” the exercise was both an expression of gratitude and a wish list for making things better. “We’re trying to build relationships,” said Lisa Noble, coordinator of Gold Belt Communities Build a Generation, which sponsored the event. “Have fun and be kind to each other.”

In a discussion facilitated by Connie Dodrill, director of Cripple Creek Park and Recreation, the group listed positives such as the Butte Theatre, the school-based health clinic, contributions by the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining Co., Head Start for children and a liaison to the city for homeless students.

But the negatives, highlighted in a discussion facilitated by Brenda Mayfield, RN, with public health, are glaring. For instance, the use of drugs and alcohol by the youth puts a strain on the county’s Department of Social Services. In many cases, grandparents assume the responsibility of raising children.

The residents lamented the increase in crime because of the abuse of substances, which, in turn, affects the user’s ability to hold a job while fostering dependence on the welfare system.

Substance abuse also affects a parent’s ability to raise children responsibly and, in many cases, inhibits a child’s ability to cope with problems in a healthy manner. Children whose parents are not involved, or don’t take an interest in them, feel that nobody cares about them, said one member of the group.

Some felt that today’s kids don’t have the strength to pull themselves out of the drug/alcohol cycle.

In the discussion facilitated by Laureen Murray, director of the school-based health clinic, the residents listed the difficulties of raising and keeping kids in town after they graduate:

• Employment opportunities are limited, excluding CC & V, the RE-1 School District and the casinos

• Economic development is lacking

• There are no technical programs

• There is nothing for kids to do

To counteract the negatives, the residents put forth ideas to make the community more exciting for the younger generation:

• Initiate games such as paint ball, laser tag, gymkhanas, after-school and hiking clubs

• Create business opportunities for kids with a summer greenhouse project

• Create a beautification project as a business opportunity, with buy-in from the community

• Get kids interested in history, as part of a drive to increase tourism

• Fund a large bowling alley

• Offer better transportation

• Offer a technical vocation program

On another issue, Mark Platten, executive director of the Colorado State University extension office, asked his group why more parents don’t get involved in the school and why fewer people volunteer in the community:

The responses were varied, some indicating a strained relationship with the RE-1 School District:

• Parents don’t feel they have a voice

• Parents are uninformed about their children’s progress in school

• Schools do not hold parents accountable for their children’s poor grades or study habits

• Parents blame teachers for their children’s poor performance

• Parents are too tired after working all day to be involved or volunteer

• There are no parent-teacher organizations to spur involvement

• In rural communities, many parents live on the outskirts, don’t feel a sense of community

In addition to citing negatives, the group suggested ideas that might spur volunteering:

• Initiate better communication so that people know what’s going on and where they are needed

• Ask people to volunteer

• Host a community-pride day

The group took a break for lunch, catered by the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor , and resumed the exercise in the afternoon.