This past August, Urban Land Conservancy welcomed their newest tenant to the Tramway Nonprofit Center. Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR), is a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring for teenage students in partnership with Denver Public Schools. Founded in 1993, their mission to “empower teenage students to make life choices that positively impact their future,” also aims to decrease students’ chances of dropping out of high school. CYAR’s recent move to Tramway makes them yet another nonprofit tenant that focuses on youth development and success.

Working solely in Denver in conjunction with Manual, George Washington, Aurora Central and East High schools, CYAR runs two primary programs with high school students. The first is the Steps Ahead Program, which targets high school freshman and sophomores. The goal of this one year program is to provide support, workshops and challenges through one on one mentorship. According to the organization, 95% of students that participated over the last four years stayed in school. This is significant for a public school system whose current on time graduation rate is 62.8%.


CYAR’s second program primarily serves high school juniors and seniors. Like its predecessor, Touchstone is also optional, but students must have completed the Steps Ahead program to participate. In this program, youth are encouraged to look towards the future, and focus on personal growth and long term goals. As many of Touchstone’s students near high school graduation, they begin to focus on career and skills development as well as options for college education.

Sarah McGills is the Program Manager for Colorado Youth at Risk. She explained that while grades in the classroom are critical for students to graduate, there is much more that affects a student’s ability to finish high school on time. For many children, especially those in low income households, factors often beyond their control play a major role in their day to day lives. This is why CYAR provides a mentor ship program to provide support in multiple areas.

“Instead of solely focusing on academics, the one on one mentoring helps students to develop skills and avoid obstacles that could impede their success,” McGills said.


The mentoring program is a critical component of CYAR, one that provides direct support to the organization’s teens. Barb Pyle, the Operations Manager for Colorado Youth at Risk, explained that all mentors must undergo a rigorous 21- hour training prior to their start date. Mentors are mainly recruited through word of mouth, but others learn of the opportunity through volunteer fairs and internet searches Pyle said. Mentors are expected to meet with their mentees on a weekly basis, for at least an hour. The program lasts for one year, and CYAR hosts group events for mentors, students and staff each month.

This year, Colorado Youth at Risk will be operating two Steps Ahead programs, and two Touchstone programs. Their second Steps Ahead group is set to launch on October 15th, welcoming 40 new students to the program. CYAR has also entered into a partnership with Adams City High School for implementation of the Real Talk curriculum developed by CYAR. Based in experiential learning, Real Talk provides social and emotional support and skill building for students. This curriculum allows CYAR to expand its impact beyond the mentoring relationships.

ULC is proud to welcome Colorado Youth at Risk as our newest tenant! As they prepare to welcome their newest group of students this October, they will also be raising funds to help support their program. Specifically, CYAR will be hosting a Sky Full of Stars Gala at the History Colorado Center on October 8th. Tickets are available here if you are interested in attending and supporting a great organization!