Vail Daily column: Teen has developed a passion for helping others

Karely Duran
Picasa |

Many of us understand the critical role of a positive adult mentor during formative young years. Karely Duran, 2014 Battle Mountain High School graduate, struggled to narrow her list. While her parents and siblings have inspired Duran through their strong work ethic and commitment to family, Lee Jones and Bratzo Horruitiner, of Vail Valley Foundation’s Youth Foundation, became mentors for Duran during her formative childhood years due to their friendly, helpful and motivating nature. Then, in pedaled Brett and Tamara Donelson, who Duran worked with through Ells Angels mountain biking program.

“Not only did they show me how beautiful and fulfilling mountain biking was, but their personal background inspired me to want to play a very important role in my household as I grow up,” Duran said.

Major Stepping Stone

In an educational setting, a particular high school English teacher, Ms. Goolsby, enabled Duran to help other students through course assignments and language support — a major stepping stone for the teen. More recently, Doctors Plus’ Jill Kovacevich has inspired Duran professionally, exposing her to realities of navigating the healthcare system.

“If anyone is willing to help you out in any way, please take advantage of that and embrace the help. Not everyone gets help, and it can make a huge impact. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they did.”Karely Duran2014 Battle Mountain High School graduate

Support Local Journalism

While this robust list of positive adult role models might seem strong enough to offer any young person an advantage, Duran encountered her share of struggles and found support in peers instead of adults when it came to her most notable challenges. She shares of experiences as a bullying victim for most of her childhood and adolescence.

“Adults didn’t really influence me; I never really felt like I could talk to them about my real struggles,” she said. “I needed to be around older peers to feel safer.”

‘Simple as a Game of Soccer’

Enter the Youth Foundation. Duran received soccer coaching and academic tutoring in an environment that integrated conflict resolution, dealing with loss, and “kept the drama out.” With teammates committed to working out conflicts in the locker room, they developed into a strong team of soccer players and lifelong friends. The leadership of older peers influenced Duran more profoundly than any adults.

“Something as simple as the game of soccer can drive you to become a better person,” Duran said.

As a seven-year participant and coach for Vail Valley Foundation’s Youth Foundation, Duran has developed a passion for the sport of soccer and for helping others.

“Volunteering and working for Vail Valley Foundation’s Youth Foundation involves teaching character values and instilling a sense of discipline while focusing on continuing academic goals,” said Horruitiner, program coordinator at The Foundation. “Karely is reliable, a hard worker and a leader.”

Duran simply “gets” the return on investment of prevention.

“The sooner we can get a young person involved in any positive activity, the better off they will be,” she said. “There are links between activities and so many life situations, such as preventing drugs and teen pregnancy.”

Duran kept busy with soccer and a heavy homework schedule, all the while observing consequences of choices some of her peers and classmates were making. Duran has tasted the benefit of community involvement.

“It has been great to see how a simple action can change an entire operation,” Duran said.

Recognizing Opportunities

While citing examples of local needs, such as expanded hours for medical providers and increased school-based support for bullying victims, the humble teen recently recognized an opportunity to get involved with Eagle County School’s bus policy. The Edwards Elementary School bus route was not as safe or effective as she would have liked, so Duran spoke with the superintendent and helped increased bus access for children in her neighborhood.

“When I help others, I help myself,” Duran said.

Recently, Duran was recruited by The Youth Foundation to help local educational initiatives through the InteGreat! Community Coalition. Through her leadership role with the InteGreat! Steering Committee, Duran brings innovative ideas on how to better engage locals, such as through strengthening partnerships with employees who have a long-standing appreciation of challenges faced by their neighbors.

‘Embrace the Help’

Duran offers the following advice to others who may be dealing with any life challenges.

“If anyone is willing to help you out in any way, please take advantage of that and embrace the help,” she said. “Not everyone gets help, and it can make a huge impact. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they did.”

And if you may be considering a formal volunteer role, or informally lending a hand to someone in need?

“Helping out and lending a hand can change their life,” she said.

What lays ahead for Duran?

“No matter what I do, I would love to be able to help the community around me,” she said. “All the careers that I have wanted have surrounded helping people, including my current dream to become an immigration lawyer.”

Duran is currently enrolled at Colorado Mountain College with plans to double major in business and law.

Michelle Stecher is the executive director at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth including: substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting education and trainings for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit

Support Local Journalism