Urban Land Conservancy’s Youth Outreach Coordinator, David Lopez, has kept busy this summer as he balances his role with ULC and Groundwork Denver. Lopez, who is preparing to enter his final year in college this fall, has worked for ULC for just over two years. While his first position was as an intern serving the real estate team, Lopez’s passion for community engagement and helping children succeed was quickly realized by the ULC staff. As ULC continued our work in the Westwood neighborhood (primarily with the demolition of the abandoned Thriftway building, and subsequent redevelopment of the area into a community Pocket Park) we found a role for Lopez working with local Westwood youth.

After just over one year in the role, and Lopez has successfully worked with dozens of youth in Westwood and surrounding neighborhoods to encourage their participation in outdoor activities. A majority of Lopez’s work has been funded by Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to improving the overall environmental well being of low-income communities.

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This summer, Lopez is leading the “Green Team” in Westwood (Funded through Groundwork) to keep Westwood and surrounding neighborhoods clean. In partnership with Extreme Community Makewover, Westwood Unidos, ULC and Latino Outdoors, Lopez has ensured each of the teenagers in his summer program receive a rewarding experience throughout their time on the team. In total, Lopez is in charge of 14 kids, each of which had to apply to the program with a resume, cover letter and interview. They are paid for their time, and have the option to continue their work throughout the school year as well, instead of leaving the program at the end of each summer.

“We need to get more minorities out into nature, with more diversity and inclusion,” Lopez said. “This can really get them ready for the workforce, and there is a college aspect to the program as well. This can potentially lead to a career in nature and wildlife.”

Members of the Westwood youth with ULC's Youth and Outreach Coordinator, David Lopez.
Members of the Westwood youth with ULC's Youth and Outreach Coordinator, David Lopez.

During the summer months, the community youth stay busy to say the least. Lopez explained that on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays they complete a wide array of community service, ranging from graffiti removal to tending to the elementary gardens. When I visited Lopez’s youth group on a Monday afternoon (temperature hovering around 100 degrees) they were hard at work removing graffiti alongside houses in the Barnum neighborhood. As for the rest of the week, students have Friday and Sundays off, and Saturdays tend to vary. Thursdays are dedicated as “recreation days” which includes rafting, tubing and camping. Prior to their experience in the community group, many members of the youth group had not experienced nature-based activities.

Yen Nguyen is a rising freshman in college, and has worked with the Groundwork team for two years now. She said that she has learned a lot about the surrounding community, and about what interests her. Nguyen explained that after her work with Groundwork, she is considering a major in Environmental Science when she starts college in the fall.

Thank you David Lopez for all of your hard work and commitment in your work with ULC. Lopez was officially hired by Groundwork Denver last week, and we can’t wait to see how he continues to grow in this new capacity. Everyone at ULC is very proud of his dedication to improving the lives of local youth in the Westwood community, and are excited to see where the future takes him!

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