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  • Difference Maker: Cathy Stickler

    This month, we are excited to honor Cathy Strickler for her years of service to the youth in this community. Since 1990, Cathy has been an important member of Eagle County Schools, serving in roles of At-Risk Coordinator at Gypsum Elementary and Registrar at Eagle Valley High School. Cathy has not only seen students through their scheduling needs, but she’s also created safe and positive spaces for them, including being the faculty advisor for the Devils Against Destructive Decisions (DADD) Club. For this month’s Difference Maker article, we’ve asked members of the community to share their kind words about Cathy to honor her as she begins her much-deserved retirement. The following is a patchwork of their reflections. I have never met a more caring and sincere school leader as I’ve found in Cathy. She has opened her heart to every student who walks into the school and embraced them for who they are and the positive power they hold. She remembers every detail of conversations; she is authentic in her relationships, going above and beyond to be there for her students. Cathy Strickler was one of the first people that welcomed me to EVHS when I started here six years ago. She was kind, caring, and truly showed interest in getting to know me. She treats everyone she meets like a friend, especially students. When students come back to visit, years after they graduate, Cathy's desk is almost always their first stop. She seems to know almost everyone in the community. She has built relationships that will last a lifetime. She is always available for a laugh, a hug, or some stern advice when I need it. She is the epitome of a Difference Maker and has made a lasting impact on the EVHS community. I have been a school counselor at EVHS for the past three years and have worked closely with Cathy in many ways. She always greets staff, students, and families with the warmest smile and kindest words as they enter our counseling office. She makes new students and families feel welcomed, at ease and excited about EVHS and our community. Her roots run deep within the EVHS culture and our students. I have spent many, many hours with this amazing lady who is more than a coworker but an amazing friend. I have watched how much time and energy she has dedicated to not only our office and students/families but to the DADD group, Musical/Plays, and always pitching in to do various other activities with the students. With the DADD club, she brought in a Multi-Media show, won numerous awards for the Teen Seatbelt Challenge, contributed to the Victims Panel in various ways, organized the “Safety Fair,” and had numerous fundraisers while always keeping the students in the forefront and coaching/mentoring them along the way. As a former student member of DADD (Devils Against Drunk Driving) in the late '80s & early '90s at EVHS, it was so great to see that DADD was still an active club at EVHS and had been updated to its current name of Devils Against Destructive Decisions. Under the leadership of Cathy Strickler, it was refreshing to see such an active student group determined to keep fellow students SAFE and aware of safe driving, destructive decisions, and more. Working with Cathy now in my professional role and with community partners was an honor, and I would like to wish Cathy all the best in her next adventures. I am going to be lost without Cathy Stickler at Eagle Valley High School. She has been such a great partner in bringing traffic safety education to the school and her students. The DADD group has been such a joy to work with over the years. My favorite meetings in my job have always been with Cathy and her students. Not only has Cathy been a great partner, but she has also been a wonderful friend over the years. I wish her all the best on her new journey in life. Cathy is one of the most encouraging, thoughtful, and kind people I have ever met. She has taught me so much with how she puts people first and goes above and beyond to form a lasting relationship with them!! I just can't say enough about what she has done and been to our school. She has always been my "go-to" person whenever I have a question about something or need clarification and is the glue of our counseling department. Honestly, we wouldn't be half of who we are as a department without Cathy. Cathy has done so many things with and for students and made a massive difference in so many students' lives that it is impossible to list all that she has done. However, the common theme that makes the most difference is her ability and sincere, genuine, and personal relationship with each student. The rapport and strong relationships she builds with students make all the difference in the world in their lives. Every student knows she values them, and I feel this every day from her as well! Not only is Cathy a valuable asset to our school, department, and community, but she's become a fantastic friend. She has the kindest heart, always makes me laugh, and gives the most amazing hugs - which will be missed the most! To Cathy, we share these words: It has been an honor and joy to serve with you over the years. Your commitment to your student’s success is phenomenal, and I am [we are] continuously amazed by the amount of energy you pour into your work. You are a positive light for those lucky to be around you. Wishing you a delightful retirement- you will be missed!

  • Youth Spotlight: Bronte. P Nelson

    Happy Pride Month! To commemorate the month of June, we spotlight an LGBTQ+ youth in our valley who serves as a safe space for other LGBTQ+ youth. Bronte P. Nelson, an eighth-grade student at Gypsum Middle School, identifies as non-binary, queer and uses they/them pronouns. For those unfamiliar, a nonbinary person identifies with a gender other than "the male-female gender binary"—for example, an agender person whose identity is gender-neutral rather than specifically male or female. Bronte has gone through a lot to find their true self, and it hasn't been easy. It has been filled with phases of personal discovery, rejection by important individuals, and bullying. Like many other LGBTQ+ youths, Bronte's journey was difficult, but they always found a way to make it enjoyable. They used a magic trick to come out to their mother as non-binary in a recent self-discovery. Bronte is proud to have a mother who has supported them throughout their journey. Despite their mother's acceptance, Bronte says that they are overcome with anxiety about not being accepted for who they are every time they come out. Bronte wants everyone to know how important being supportive and following up these conversations with a hug and an "I love you" can benefit the LGBTQ+ person in your life. They also encourage parents to check in regularly and do everything they can to show that they are an ally! When asked what Pride means to them, they spoke on the importance of the journey. "The LGBTQ+ community has an extraordinary history, and the journey that we have been on since the stonewall riots has been important in developing what pride is today," said Bronte. Learning about the history of the LGBTQ+ community led them to their current passion project. Bronte doesn't believe that their generation will make flying cars; they feel that their generation will educate all generations that it's okay to be who you are. Bronte is making this change happen through their passion project, a community thumbprint progress pride flag. They designed an inclusive pride flag on wood and wanted to fill it with the fingerprints of LGBTQ+ teachers, fellow students, and allies at their middle school. The passion project was initially slow; some students ripped down project signs. But with the help of supportive teachers and even more signs, more and more people added their fingerprints each day to make themselves seen and pledge their support to the LGBTQ+ community. It was an opportunity for teachers to add their fingerprints to serve as role models in front of students. Students and teachers could pick the colors of their self-identifying flag and anonymously mark who they were. Bronte also took as many opportunities as they could to educate students and teachers about the history and meanings of the LGBTQ+ community. This passion project spotlighted Bronte as a trusted friend. Students thanked Bronte for doing this passion project because they felt seen and supported. Classmates even felt safe coming out to Bronte because they were in a safe environment. Bronte will continue to promote the importance of being a safe space at their second pride celebration, where they will be one of the few local speakers. Bronte will speak about their journey, the history of the LGBTQ+ community, encourage our community to pick their colors, and show their support by helping to fill out the rest of the thumbprint progress pride flag. Join Mountain Youth, Bronte Nelson, and many other community partners at Pride in the Park, June 12th at Nottingham Park from 12-7 pm. We hope to see you there, and make sure to stop by and add your thumbprint to the pride flag!

  • Difference Makers: Anne-Marie Desmond and Emily McCormack

    The Story: UB.U Written by: Amy Baker, Education Manager It all began about eight years ago, a local elementary school reached out to Anne-Marie Desmond and Emily McCormack and asked if they would help with their Wondrous Wednesday programming and bring yoga to the K-5 student community. After a year with students, they were blown away! Feedback showed that kids as young as 6 and 7 were struggling with stress and anxiety and begging for more time to relax and have an intentional pause in their day. The culture of go-go-go that is so pervasive with adults is also affecting our kids. With the encouragement of Tiffany Dougherty, principal at Eagle Valley Elementary, they set out to design a K-12 curriculum that not only taught students about their nervous system and stress response system but also provided lifelong tools for settling the mind, calming the body, and opening the heart. This was the birth of the first Social-Emotional Curriculum that was brought to Eagle County Schools. Students, teachers, and parents began to learn how to explore the mind and educate the heart through the UB.U programming. Inspiration: A quick straw poll done in the schools indicated that teachers knew little at that time about Social Emotional Learning (SEL). UB.U saw this as a gap in education and committed to creating a radical paradigm shift in our schools, addressing the emerging need for social and emotional wellness and brain health education. Carving out SEL time during the school day was the missing link for building emotional intelligence. The staff at UB.U saw that we were not educating and nourishing our children's social and emotional lives. Because of that, they were moving into their academic and post-graduate careers – and later into their adult lives – without the necessary tools for self-awareness, resilience, and overall mental and emotional wellbeing. At a time when children and teens are experiencing increased trauma due to the impact of world events, as well as incidents that hit closer to home – like school shootings, racism, sexism, and discrimination - more students than ever are being hospitalized for stress and anxiety. With screen time on the rise (averaging nine hours a day), increased feelings of loneliness & social isolation, and a suicide/suicide ideation rate that has nearly doubled from previous years, the need for earlier and more effective prevention-focused mental health care for children and teens had never been more critical. Anne-Marie and Emily saw this first-hand with their children and knew they had to do something. They believed the first step in addressing these behavioral health issues was with prevention programming that proactively educates and empowers the individual. Practicing tools rooted in mindfulness strengthens self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-compassion, creating more possibilities. They believe it is intentional to pause, that children (and adults, for that matter) can find opportunities. Their classes involved neuroplasticity, optimum brain function, brain education, mind-body connection and awareness, responding versus reacting and parasympathetic nervous system regulation tools. Gratitude: UB.U was the foundation for so many teachers and classrooms to learn, practice safely, and share their stories about how to integrate SEL into the classroom. They feel fortunate to have worked to help establish a wonderful prevention provider group, B.E. Partners. This group thoughtfully supports Eagle County K-12 youth with the creation and implementation of equitable SEL programs that align with state and national academic health standards and developmental student needs. During UB.U's extraordinary eight-year tour, they reached nearly 8,000 students in almost every public, private, and charter school in the Eagle River Valley. During a 2017-2018 impact study, they saw an average of 54% increase in student overall wellbeing. They are proud that UB.U students can confidently 'check-in' with themselves and use self-regulation tools to assist in their overall wellbeing. UB.U teachers often run into former students out in the valley and report back that their conversations are around skills, tools, and lessons on SEL. These exchanges are a source of great honor to the UB.U team, as it reinforces the impact they have had on the youth in our community and the skills they helped them to develop that will last a lifetime. UB.U wants to acknowledge and thank the B.E. Partners, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, Eagle County, so many principals, teachers, counselors, parents, and students that have lifted them up and kept UB.U going. UB.U is humbled by their support, partnership, and encouragement. When I think of UB.U and the impact it has had on my children and so many others, the Margaret Mead quote comes to mind: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." This is what UB.U was for our community, a catalyst for change that was born of the passion and vision of women who identified a need and catapulted into action. Our valley will treasure the benefits of their teachings for many years to come.

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  • | Mountain Youth

    Samantha Bryant Life Skills Educator Samantha joined Mountain Youth in 2020 as a Life Skills Educator. Samantha and her family picked up and moved across the country from Florida to Colorado in 2019. They wished they had done it years ago as they LOVE the mountains! Samantha is eager to help the youth in our community. Samantha believes that begins with tools and life skills. Our youth is our future and by educating them on how to be healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally it sets them up for a positive journey down the road called, Life. Samantha is also a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor and has participated in the ASIST training.

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  • | Mountain Youth

    Betsy Van Beek joined Mountain Youth in 2018 to teach the Life Skills program to elementary, middle and high school students. She teaches concepts such as +++ read more Joslyn Sanchez Youth Advisor Joslyn Sanchez joined Mountain Youth in June 2020 as a Youth Advisor. She was born and raised in the Vail Valley. She is passionate about the arts and looks forward to applying creativity into her everyday life. Joslyn enjoys making days interesting rather than dull! Joslyn is passionate about bringing as many resources as she can to the community. Being apart of this team allows her the opportunity to be able to be a resource and make a bigger impact on my community. Joslyn takes every chance she can to make a difference. She looks forward to applying an artistic touch to everything she does moving forward.

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