YouthRoots’ Executive Director reflects on 2020

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Dear Community,

In all of our ten years, we have never experienced a year like this one. We learned a lot when the world turned upside down with COVID-19. We learned how to move programming online. We learned how to hold a virtual celebration for all our students. But most importantly, we learned that not even global pandemics can stop passionate youth from changing the world. This year, 142 YouthRoots participants raised and granted $57,076 to struggling nonprofits during an international health crisis.

YouthRoots participants continue to inspire every day, even beyond the program. This year, we saw some graduates get into their dream colleges and others pursue world-changing work. One alum is working on coronavirus contact tracing with AmeriCorps. Another worked to eliminate medical debt. Some are pursuing human services, law, business, and medical degrees. To everyone out there working on making the world a better place, Thank You. We need you, especially now.

Highlights from the 2019-2020 year include:

  • Trends of the Decade Report: YouthRoots participants have been conducting community needs assessments on the most pressing issues facing youth in their communities every year for the past decade. We compiled this data on Community Needs from the youth perspective in our Trends of the Decade Report. The report revealed that Mental Health dominated as the top issue. Substance abuse and immigrant rights are the two biggest emerging issues. The full report can be found on our website.
  • YouthEd Program: With a generous grant from AJL Foundation, YouthRoots piloted an in-school program in two Colorado high schools to bring leadership and community change programming to students who may not otherwise have access. Beginning in fall 2020, we will provide an added service to support students in community impact work during remote learning.
  • YouthRoots Turns 10: Even though it looked different than we planned, we celebrated our ten year anniversary! As we step back and look at the past decade, we are incredibly proud of our impact. In 10 years, 594 change-makers have raised and granted over $245,000 to nonprofits, benefiting approximately 184,000 at-risk youth.

We are all entering a year of uncertainty, but we are confident that the core principles on which YouthRoots is founded will always be a critical part of our society:

  • Youth should have a voice in the decisions that impact them.
  • Training youth in leadership development and community impact is critical for the long term success of our society.
  • Youth are the future, and their perspective should be incorporated in all elements of society.
  • Youth can (and do) change the world every day. Knowing the important role we play in democratizing philanthropy and elevating the voices of an overlooked population strengthens our resolve to deliver.

We are committed to embracing all that the new fiscal year brings: the changes, the challenges, and especially the opportunities. We have found ways to make our existing programming more accessible, as well as new ways to achieve our mission as we further define our niche in today’s world.

Thank you for joining us in the critical work of developing young leaders who are prepared to handle the challenges of tomorrow.


Lauren Czajka, Executive Director

You can read our full 2020 Impact Report here.

Alyssa HornyakYouthRoots’ Executive Director reflects on 2020