Founder Reflects on 10 Years

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By Lacey Books

Ten years?!? Can we verify that please? It seems like only a few weeks ago, I had a profound sense of obligation as I stepped out of my car at Cherry Creek High School. I was going to talk with students for the first time and hopefully recruit them to apply to YouthRoots. This was the reason I had spent 12 hour days, missed weekends with friends, and poured my heart and soul into starting this. It was the first time my idea was out in the open for the people I cared so much about.

And now it’s so much bigger than the idea and for that I am the most grateful. There have been over 600 students who have experienced YouthRoots and close to 200,000 children and youth who have benefitted from their grants. Some have smiled a bit more, felt a bit lighter, some have started nonprofits, some have dedicated their life to fundraising, some have had kids (that one is hard to write… means I’m getting older), some have found their passion in finance, real estate, human resources, art, traveling. Some I have meals and coffee with (my favorite). Most I follow on social media. All of these students are the real inspiration. They inspire their communities to do a little bit more to make it better. They inspire adults to be aware of the issues. They inspire the staff and board at YouthRoots to work their tails off to make sure we are doing right by them. They have the passion, the energy and the ability to make change, we are just here to support them.

So, for a fun little activity, I thought it would be interesting to do a little “back then compared to now.” I hope you enjoy!

Back then we had 15 students who believed a 5’2” young woman when she said she’ll help them change the world. My heart will always be indebted to the students from the first few years and their impact on me as a leader and the impact they had on the curriculum. Now we have over 160 students this year alone across 11 YouthBoards in Colorado and South Dakota.

Back then we had 5 founding board members. I think it took three meetings to just try and explain the concept to them. Now we have 13 board members who are passionate about the mission and excited to move it to the next level!

Back then we had a handful of critical volunteers who carried a lot on their shoulders. Now we have over 200 a year who help ensure the program goes off without a hitch!

Back then we had 1 volunteer who served as the ED, the facilitator and the janitor. Now we have the world’s best staff including Lauren Czajka as ED, Erin Button as the awesome Program Coordinator, the outstanding Alyssa Hornyak as Program and Administrative Coordinator, and Alyssa Chavez who is a past participant and helps us with everything! Last, but not least, the 10 absolutely amazing facilitators who are guiding the students through the curriculum day in and day out.

Back then we had a small yet mighty group of people who believed in youth and their ability to change the world. Now, we have a bigger, yet still mighty group of people who believe in youth and their ability to change the world. 

Here’s to another 10 years and then 100 more after that!

Alyssa HornyakFounder Reflects on 10 Years