My Future Pathways opens second youth center in Gypsum
Organization hopes to double its reach and create a safe environment for youth to thrive
On Saturday, My Future Pathways welcomed the community to its new Gypsum youth center with a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The new center, which officially opened two weeks ago, will nearly double the reach of the organization as it seeks to provide a safe space for Hispanic and Latino youth in Eagle County.
“There’s such a big need — especially in Gypsum — for a safe space, a safe environment where kids can thrive and where they can build a sense of belonging in a place that they can call their own,” said Bratzo Horruitiner, the executive director of the local nonprofit. “There’s lack of a unique space just dedicated to the youth where they can go and thrive.”
My Future Pathways started in 2019 with a youth center in Edwards, and this center will help it meet additional needs in the county. Transportation remains one of the greatest barriers for students gaining access to programs and organizations like My Future Pathways, Horruitiner said.
“We were seeing a lot of our youth from Gypsum coming to Edwards to be part of the programs,” he said. “Just by eliminating that barrier and being right there in the middle of the town of Gypsum, we’re really adapting to the needs of the community.”
The new center is located in close in proximity to the Gypsum Recreation Center, Gypsum Elementary School, Eagle Valley High School and not too far from Gypsum Creek Middle School and Red Hill Elementary School.
And already, Horruitiner said he has seen the Gypsum community begin to embrace the new center. Not only has the organization received support from the town itself, but also from parents and other community organizations — like Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, which sponsored Saturday’s event. At the center’s open house on Saturday, Horruitiner said he was “more than proud, happy and hopeful” at the amount of support the community gave the organization.
“Gypsum’s community is a little different than the Edwards side,” he said, adding that parents at the event were offering help, services and gratitude for the center. “That kind of community engagement is something that really warms my heart.”
This level of engagement and support, he said, will help the organization continue to grow and meet the students’ needs.
“We want to be able to listen for feedback, direction and be able to adapt our efforts based on need and not on what we think is the right thing,” he said. “Having that proximity with the community to be able to understand needs and gain perspective makes me excited. And we’re going to be able to serve a lot more kids.”
The new Gypsum youth center will provide a great deal of support and resources for its youth members. Not only does it have a classroom where it will provide gender-specific tutoring and mentoring, but it has a community room, a conference room outside organizations can also use, pool tables, video games, a ping-pong table as well as plans for a gym in the garage.
“There are not a lot of places where the youth can go and spend time and sit down and hang out and just be kids,” Horruitiner said. “But in an environment like our youth center, we have everything.”
The ‘special sauce’
For just under two years, My Future Pathways has been providing critical youth programming to Eagle County’s youth and their families, particularly those who are part of the Latino or Hispanic population.
This new youth center in Gypsum will follow a similar model with the same “special sauce” that helps the organization connect with kids and provide them opportunities and pathways forward, Horruitiner said.
My Future Pathways was started as an extension of the Guardian Scholars program to help provide not only scholarship money for college, but direction and guidance on the way to their next step.
Currently, through its partnership with Guardian Scholars, My Future Pathways has 33 students at Colorado Mountain College and 48 students at Colorado Mesa University. Plus, Horruitiner said the organization is launching a new trade school scholarship in partnership with Western Colorado Community College.
However, the work that My Future Pathways does with middle and high school students isn’t just about getting a student into college, but it’s about giving them the skills they need to succeed in whatever they do.
“We are preparing kids to be more competitive applicants for college, work or whatever their pathway is,” he said.
The organization achieves this through three pillars: social-emotional support through mentoring and expertise sharing from partner organizations, academic support through tutoring and scholarships, and physical health and wellness through sports and recreational activities.
Through this programming, not only is the organization attempting to increase graduation rates — particularly for Hispanic boys — but it is seeking to increase students’ employability, create leaders in the community and close the opportunity gap for its students.
The youth centers play an important role in the organization’s work, providing space for the programs and also a safe space (with supervision) for kids to be kids and a space to build long-lasting and trust-filled relationships. This is especially important for those that may typically go home to an empty or unsafe home.
These long-lasting relationships Horruitiner said, help build trust and also allows the organization to provide kids whatever it is they need on a case-by-case basis.
The organization’s “holistic approach,” through its three pillars, teaches students life skills, empowers them to think ahead and helps them learn about their strengths and values and how to leverage them.
Not only is My Future Pathways seeking to help kids, but the organization has a “two-generation approach, which allows us to affect the families a little bit better,” Horruitiner said. It does so by providing services to families and parents such as peer groups, workout classes, educational resources and more.
Last year, My Future Pathways served 158 kids through its variety of athletic, academic, mental health and social-emotional programming. However, Horruitiner said this is not how it measures its success. Rather, it is looking at the every day changes it sees in its students and the trust that it builds with the community, he said.
“Most importantly, we’re seeing the kids socializing and thriving and growing stronger together because they have a sense of belonging,” he said.
All of the programs that My Future Pathways offers to kids and families are free and will continue to be free, Horruitiner said, adding that this is “thanks to the generosity of our community.”
Currently, My Future Pathways’ founder and funder, Ron Davis, is matching all contributions to the organization, up to $2 million. Any support, Horruitiner said will help the organization continue forward.
“You never know what kids going to listen to or remember and sometimes that one thing they heard from a guest speaker makes a difference on their life,” Horruitiner said. “We can provide some support and in any way change their trajectory in a positive way, that’s what My Future Pathways is all about and that’s what makes me excited and hopeful for what’s coming up.”
Visit: 3293 Cooley Mesa Road, Gypsum or 69 Edwards Access Road, Edwards
Register: Online at MyFuturePathways.org
Donate: Visit MyFuturePathways.org and check out the Support Us tab
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.