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Life & Work with Youth on Record

Today we’d like to introduce you to Youth on Record.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today? You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
Ah yes, let’s start from the very beginning–when we were extra-small and extra-mighty. 

Youth on Record is a Denver nonprofit organization that was originally named “Flobots.org. The organization was founded in 2008 by the musical group Flobots to improve academic success, increase opportunities for intentional mentorship, and support economic opportunity for youth through music education programming. 

And in the 14 years since its founding, Youth on Record has grown tremendously. 

We grew out of our tiny headquarters in RiNo (where Redeemer Pizza is now housed) and moved into our incredible Youth Media Studio that was built in partnership with Denver Housing Authority in the Mariposa neighborhood. 

Our talented staff has grown from less than 3 full-time individuals to nearly 20 full-time employees. 

We’re serving over 1,700 youth every year with our for-credit classes and free out-of-school programming. 

We’ve purchased a music festival, and we’re now the proud co-owners of The Underground Music Showcase

And we’re even incubating a new Music and Entertainment Company to support artists from historically marginalized communities. Our current services include talent buying and professional development programs. 

Needless to say, we keep busy! And we do it all with the support of our community of individual, corporate, foundation, and government donors. So if that’s you, thank you! 

And that’s really just a slice. If folks want to learn more about what we do, we encourage them to attend one of our YOR Intros! It’s a one-hour visit to Youth on Record where parents, students, schools, donors, volunteers, and community members can see the space and learn more about what we do. 

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The pandemic was an obvious bump in the road for our entire ecosystem. Students, parents, educators, and musicians–are all experiencing their own unique struggles. 

In response to COVID-19, Youth on Record made the critical pivot to virtual programming and made efforts to connect with students in new ways. We produced our first-ever virtual showcase,

Founding our Future. We embraced silly PJ Zoom meetings and showed extra compassion to team members and community members. 

And most importantly, we leaned even harder into our trauma-informed approach. 

We’re still experiencing the ripple effects of this trauma in the classroom, in creative communities, and in the workplace. And we’ll continue to advocate for populations most affected–as we’ve done our best to do since lockdown day one. 

We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc? What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
We’re known for our youth education and mentorship programs, and we’re also known for pushing back on the “sugar-sweet” narrative that’s often served up alongside youth work. 

The urgency of the youth mental health crisis, the inadequacies of social services and traditional education models, and the fraught concept of the “American teenager” leave organizations like Youth on Record with tremendous responsibility. We know that “youth work” includes young people ages 18-24. And we know that between the ages of 11-24, youth often go from being infantilized to being adultified, and worse yet, villainized. 

Our programs are designed to address these systemic obstacles–rooted in identity-affirming mentorship and liberatory education pedagogy. 

The bulk of our programming meets students where they are–in Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools.

In partnership with just under 10 different schools, Youth on Record offers for-credit classes which have proven to support academic success, student retention, and student confidence. 

The remainder of our youth programs is either free-to-attend or paid opportunities. Open Lab and Open Mic are our two drop-in programs for young creatives, our Podcasting department hires seasonally for paid interns, and our year-long fellowship program is also a paid professional opportunity. We’ve even rolled out an in-house counseling program that’s offering group talk therapy and individualized care. 

The sum of our programs serves youth ages 11-24, and we’re proud to uplift young creatives and help them realize how their voice and value can create a better world.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
We’re a mentorship organization! And a great place for young people to meet inspiring creatives who are eager to support their personal, professional, and creative journeys.

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Youth on Record

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