Teen organized substance-free movie night just the start for local youth council | SteamboatToday.com

Teen organized substance-free movie night just the start for local youth council

The Routt County Youth Council is meeting in person again and is putting the finishing touches on a substance-free movie night set for Friday.

But putting together their first event wasn’t as easy as they thought. They had to find a suitable location, navigate the city of Steamboat Springs event permitting process and locate a large screen. They formed planning committees, chose a movie — “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” — and have started to advertise for the event around town.

“Little things from like movie licensing to permitting,” said Grace Zanni, who attends Steamboat Springs High School, “I think that was kind of an eye opener for all of us, but it shows us that you really can organize an event.”

Students have a variety of reasons for being on the council. Some want to make a difference, give back and use their voice to better their community. Others want to get to know the community better and get involved through volunteer work.

“We’re really trying to focus on a healthy, substance-free event for young people to kind of end this crazy year that it has been and kick off summer on a high note,” said Jane Davis, Communities That Care youth development coordinator for Northwest Colorado Health, who says the teens are working her out of a job as students run the groups meetings.

The movie night is just the first thing the group has planned. They are also working with Steamboat Creates, Steamboat Pilot & Today and local artists to repaint newspaper stands and spread the message of hope throughout the community.

Substance abuse and mental health are two issues the council is focused on, using the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to better understand the issues locally.

“There is a lot more mental health issues than people actually realize,” said Makena James, an eighth grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School. “It is something that not many people talk about, and it is very stigmatized, too.”

The survey they reviewed was taken before COVID-19, and James said she would think the numbers would likely be different after. Davis said the group has had several conversations about how young people are doing with mental health right now and what the group could do to make sure they feel supported.

One thing that surprised the students was the number of their peers who are using substances, with the number actually being lower than they expected.

Zanni said the group has also met with local nonprofits Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Advocates of Routt County, learning more about the issues they work to address in the community.

“It is still something that is stigmatized in our community,” Zanni said about sexual and domestic violence. “We definitely learned a lot about that and how, even within our community, there is a lot of it going on, and people are sheltered from it.”

Right now, most of the students are from Steamboat, but the group, formally known as the Steamboat Springs Teen Council, changed its name to be more inclusive of students at all the county’s schools. Students from both Steamboat Springs middle and high schools, as well as Steamboat Mountain School are currently on the council.

“Steamboat isn’t really anything at all like Hayden, and what might be a problem there might not be a problem here and vise versa,” James said. “If we have more representatives from there, we can put the communities best interest in mind and not just Steamboat.”

The students meet weekly, choosing to meet more frequently than the every-other week schedule Davis first suggested. After starting on Zoom, the council has had its past few meetings in a community room at Old Town Hot Springs, though virtual participation is available.

The substance-free movie night is at 9 p.m. Friday at Emerald Fields. Their goal for the first event is just to have people show up and raise awareness for their group.

“I think it is another way to get our name out there and into the conversation, so when we do more events in the future that help towards depression, mental health and other issues in our community, we can have more of an impact,” James said.

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