Updated: Jun 5
Kaitlyn believes every student, from all backgrounds, with every kind of story, deserves access to education, resources, and not worrying about things that adults worry about.
Many Coloradans take the time to be outside, and bringing youth into the outdoors is something that makes Kaitlyn Merriman come alive. Growing up in Boulder, Kaitlyn spent her time mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, rafting; all the quintessential activities Colorado is known for. While at CU Boulder, studying Communication, she fell in love with how communication is at the core of all levels within change and society. Kaitlyn learned how to listen more effectively, how cultural communication styles abound within our communities, and started to think how to get youth connected to the outdoors while meeting some valuable communication needs.
Kaitlyn joined Walking Mountains as Community Programs Manager, where she experienced the joy and meaning that comes with youth education and the outdoors. “I was in environmental education for a decade,” she says. “Everyone deserves nature. Nature heals, teaches, reduces symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Getting our youth to have less screen time and more engagement in wilderness is powerful. People need to get outside, and have access to it”. Her work with Walking Mountains fueled a desire to meet youth in even more practical and accessible ways.
Kaitlyn believes every student, from all backgrounds, with every kind of story, deserves access to education, resources, and not worrying about things that adults worry about. That belief brought her to YouthPower365. The organization is able to meet even more kids where they are at. As Middle School Operations Manager, Kaitlyn gets to offer unique supports to youth. Afterschool programs are robust and diverse in selection, youth get to show up with no judgment. These programs are bringing a love of learning, curiosity, and age-appropriate activities they can enjoy while learning. They offer chances for kids to connect to friends they might only see outside of school. YouthPower365 wraps around kids with support as well, and Kaitlyn understands that the number one indicator of social success for youth is family engagement.
When asked about a motivator for her professional work, she says “Systems that work for people, course correction, and influencing a system that is going to work for everyone, and that is equitable is what continues to fuel her work and passion”. Kaitlyn and YouthPower365 listen well before acting. They hear from families, and stakeholders, before saying this is what we’re doing, part of that movement that leads by example. Kaitlyn’s work gives her the ability to walk the walk and talk the talk of youth empowerment and effective change.
Kaitlyn wants youth to know it’s okay to not be okay. Between social media pressure, school, and sports, students are constantly performing. Many are suffering silently. There are people and organizations to talk to, support like a trusted adult, friends, therapists, coaches, after school programs where you’re surrounded by other youth. As a reminder, it’s okay to talk about not being okay, to acknowledge the mental health of our youth, and to embrace them, with compassion and empathy, within our community.
Written by Marcus Carter, Intervention Specialist at Mountain Youth, firstname.lastname@example.org