Young people are in the middle of mental health and substance use crises.
According to 2021 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data, 43% of Jefferson County high schoolers said they’d experienced depression in the past year.
To help, the Rotary Club of Golden enlisted local teens to help it launch a monthly Teen Night to give all high schoolers a place to gather and connect outside of school.
During the Oct. 24 City Council meeting, Rotary Club member Pamela Gould emphasized how when teens have a “third place” — somewhere outside of their homes and schools — they can gather, they’re happier and healthier because they feel like they’re part of a community.
Extracurricular activities can be good outlets, but Gould and her colleagues wanted something that was more relaxed and inclusive. She likened it to the Golden Community Center’s Front Porch, but for teens.
The Rotary Club received a $20,000 Thriving Communities grant from the city in early 2023, and local teens started brainstorming and planning in February. The first Golden Teen Night was in May at the community center, and they’ve been on the first Thursday of the month since.
Attendance has fluctuated from nearly 40 to less than 10 as the organizers have worked to gain momentum. Teen organizers Ardena Jordan and Ella Sweeney said the summer events were better attended, as the community center’s pool was a major draw.
The group recorded 77 community center visits in its first five events, as attendees have done everything from game nights to Zumba.
The Rotary Club is planning to apply for a 2024 Thriving Communities grant. If successful, it should have enough funds to continue the monthly events through 2025.
Gould hoped the city would take over the program long-term and help turn it into a full-time resource for teens, as other cities like Fort Collins have. She said Fort Collins recently built a dedicated facility for teens, which is open in the afternoons and has a teen board to help with decision-making.
She said she sees a lot of similarities between the Teen Nights and the Front Porch, describing how they’re both centered on reducing isolation and loneliness, and helping connect their respective members to each other and to community resources.
A safe, relaxing ‘third place’
About 10 teens stopped by the Nov. 2 Teen Night for pizza, snacks, and games like pool, Rummikub and “Mario Kart.” While it was one of the lower-attended events, Jordan, Sweeney and their fellow teen organizers hoped to grow attendance during the rest of the school year.
They’ve been promoting it on social media, but they felt it’d really grow once more people found out about it and brought their friends. But, as high schoolers are very busy with all sorts of commitments and activities, they weren’t surprised that it’s taking a bit of time.
Still, whether there’s 10 teens or 100, the important thing was providing a safe and relaxing “third place.”
Jordan, a GHS graduate, and Noor Haloul, a sophomore at an online school, said they wanted to see third places that are safe and accessible for teens. Haloul described how many Bell Middle School students hang out at the Ulysses Skatepark simply because of how close and accessible it is.
Sweeney, a Golden High School junior, also wanted to promote wholesome activities and mental health, as she’s lost people close to her to suicide. She hoped local teens would take advantage of the Teen Nights to connect with each other in person and outside of the classroom.
“I think this is one of the healthier third places I’ve seen,” she said of the Teen Nights. “It has a very chill atmosphere. I feel like you can be yourself here.”
The next Teen Night will be from 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Golden Community Center. All Golden-area high school students are welcome to attend, and admission is free with a school ID. For more information, contact Pamela Gould at email@example.com.