Youth Leader Spotlight Ruby Black

Posted on July 05, 2017

Eagle River Youth Coalition Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?
Taking a Gap Year has become the latest trend for many graduating high school seniors who are unsure about their next step. The year can be spent traveling the world, saving money for college or trying to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their life. There is plenty of data that shows the benefits of this emerging trend. "Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school and a desire 'to find more about themselves' are the top two reasons students take Gap Years," according to a survey of 280 people who did so by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson of Advance, NC, co-authors of a guidebook (The Gap-Year Advantage) on the topic.

Poised to Close The Gap
When Ruby Black graduated from Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy (VSSA) in 2016, she believed she could benefit from taking a Gap Year and subsequently reached out to the Eagle River Youth Coalition (ERYC) about possible opportunities. As Black reflects on her past year working with ERYC as a Youth Advisor and Project Assistant, she realized she learned about youth-serving careers outside of the classroom that inspired her to alter her plans of attending Northern Arizona University's teaching program. "I gained a new experience with life and changed my plans of becoming a teacher to working behind the scenes with youth," said Black. She is now enrolled in the Front Range Community College and is ready to earn an Associate Degree in Business. "I love working in the non-profit field and with youth. The marketing, social media and prevention pieces that ERYC blends together opened my eyes to a different path for myself," Black continues.

Highlights this past year for Black have included coordinating various elements of the Youth Leaders Council (YLC) while reshaping Eagle River Youth Coalition's signature program for the future. A former YLC member, Black brought a unique perspective to these tasks and was able to explore what goes into creating a successful program and what makes it tick. Black was also selected to present at a state-level collaborative event, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Risk & Protective Factors Conference, where she informed other state-wide non-profits and youth serving agencies about how ERYC is engaging youth. She presented to over 150 professionals, along with Michelle Stecher, ERYC Executive Director.

Safer Alternatives Needed for Local Youth
Serving with ERYC this past year exposed Black to additional learning opportunities; she enrolled in the 20-week Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) where she learned how to engage family and friends, and how to enact change at the state level. Her chosen project, called YouthHouse, meets a need in our community: a gathering place for teens to have healthy fun on the weekends. YouthHouse received support from the Gypsum Recreation Center and is in the initial stages of coming to fruition. "I started YouthHouse because I believe the biggest challenge facing youth in our valley is accessibility to safer alternatives. I would like to pass the torch to a friend who plans to take this next year as a gap year since it will be challenging for me to continue work on this project from out of town," shared Black.

All in all, Black was able to save money this past year between her ERYC position and another part-time position at Rimini's Gelato in Lionshead. Asked if she would encourage others to take a gap year, Black suggests making a pros and cons list and keeping an open mind about the possibilities in our community. "One of my fears was that I wouldn't have any friends, but my friend group tripled," smiles Black.

ERYC will be staying in touch with Ruby because having a Youth Advisor on staff is something that helps us stay on our toes. "Her perspectives on our programs and projects is invaluable," said Stecher. "More valuable than that, the presence of a youth advisor has ensured that we have constant access to youth input advising on all aspects of our work, and reflects our priority of a strong youth voice in a concrete way. It's been a pleasure working with Ruby and we hope to steal her away from the Front Range once she graduates!"

Written by Carol Johnson, the Community Engagement Coordinator for ERYC.



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Eagle River Youth Coalition - Making Youth a Community Priority
Physical Address: 34520 US Highway 6, C10 | Edwards, CO 81632
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4613 | Edwards, CO 81632
Phone: 970.949.9250 | info@eagleyouth.org
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