Positive, inspirational young people

This week’s column will be more upbeat than last week’s, which focused pretty much on the dire financial conditions of our state government. Not that the financial news got any better this week, but other things were happening as well that were much more positive and inspiring.

The focus on last Monday was young people and how they’re engaging at the Capitol and in state government. I was delighted to receive the 2008 Champion for Youth award that morning from the Colorado Youth Corps Association. The Colorado Youth Corps is a coalition of 10 conservation corps that engage youth and young adults in land, water and energy conservation projects while promoting education, work and life skills in their participants.

It’s a special honor for me to receive the award. I participated in similar programs in Yellowstone and Canyonlands, before joining the National Park Service at Rocky Mountain National Park. I know how meaningful and productive hard work in the beautiful outdoors can be for developing a young person’s respect and sense of responsibility for careful stewardship of our land and natural resources.

I also had the privilege of presenting an award to Durango’s Lindsey Kolb, who has worked with the Southwest Conservation Corps in the Four Corners area. Lindsey’s enthusiasm and leadership of her trail crew brings her well deserved acclaim.

I was told many years ago that a woman (me) couldn’t be on a trail crew because she was female, so I’m thrilled that Lindsey has proven that not only can women be on a crew, but they can lead it and excellently at that! Congratulations, Lindsey.

It was also a treat this week to have the Colorado Youth Advisory Council gather at the Capitol and for me to be able to introduce them for the first time to the House of Representatives. This was COYAC’s second meeting and the youths are taking the reins in terms of the council’s organization and leadership. I couldn’t be prouder. Claire Carver of Durango is the council member for our area. Claire’s been a huge help from the start by working on the bill creating the council and now assisting the group to have a strong beginning. Thanks, Claire.

The middle of the week was consumed with committee hearings but, on Friday, we paid tribute to those in the military. Always a solemn occasion, it was heightened this year with a special recognition of those still missing in action. On Friday afternoon, I went on a legislator tour of Fort Carson, the Army base in the Colorado Springs area, and learned much about its operations and presence in Colorado.

From our corner of the state, it’s not as obvious what an impact the military has on our state. Through this job, though, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the military personnel and leaders who make up a significant portion of our state’s population. Their dedication to service to our nation is humbling and I’m very grateful for that. There are many challenges that face our soldiers, especially those returning from war, and the state needs to help however we can to meet those challenges.

Finally, my week ended wonderfully with another legislator of the year award, this time from Mental Health America of Colorado. Even in these challenging financial times, we’ve got to remember that our state’s physical and services infrastructure must be tended to. Behavioral health problems touch all of us in one way or another. From our soldiers returning home to addressing Colorado’s alarmingly high suicide rate to helping those with substance abuse issues stay out of our jails and prisons, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Just one more reason I’m so glad to see the many young Coloradans at the Capitol this week. We’ll need their commitment, energy and ideas to make headway in the tough times ahead.