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New staff members at Pagosa Springs Youth Center

Pagosa Springs Youth Center introduces this year’s AmeriCorps volunteers: Soledad Leo and Joanne Ferko.

With the help of Regional Substance Abuse Program Partners, which was funded by the El Pomar Foundation over three years ago, the Youth Center is also supported by a regional AmeriCorps grant to provide two full-time volunteers.

This program began last year with two part-time community prevention organizers staffing the center and doing support work out in the community. The contracts are for one year and include trainings, collaborative and regional projects, as well as staffing the center in the heart of downtown.

Last year’s volunteers were Lon Hofmann, who now is employed at the Archuleta County Education Center and Chimney Rock Interpretive Program, and who was also awarded AmeriCorps Volunteer of the Year for Colorado, and Carol Otis, an AmeriCorps volunteer who has done extensive volunteer work and who continues to work in the nonprofit sector. Otis was instrumental in the Teen Maze in Cortez last spring and updating of the Archuleta County Resource Directory — a wonderful resource for our community.

Currently, the AmeriCorps staff includes our two full-time volunteers, Soledad Leo and Joanne Ferko. “So and Jo” bring different sets of skills to the program.

Soledad is known in the community as an artist and art teacher, and she will bring her artistic talents to the youth in programs using art and creativity for self expression. It is our hope to bring this program free of charge or fund it with donations to the center. A student art auction is also in the works for the spring.

Joanne brings administration and organizational effectiveness to the center as it is growing rapidly, and there is a need to write more grants and encourage new donors to join our mission.

October was an intense training month for new AmeriCorps members and the staff at the youth center, and November brings an opportunity to begin applying all that was learned and to begin to build new relationships and programs.

Jo and So helped the youth run their first Haunted Youth Center fund-raiser this past weekend.

The center is open daily after school for our teens ages 13-18 and special groups, such as Destination Imagination and Project Americana make the center their home as well.

For more information, call 264-5030.