Guest commentary: Youth Film Fest highlights annual YouthZone Ascent fundraiser

Carol Wolff
Guest commentary

Taking their cues from the world around them, eight young filmmakers created movies this summer to tell their stories of how the world around them impacts their choices. The 2021 Youth Film Fest provides a venue for these young advocates to express their view of a quickly changing world and the possibilities they envision moving forward.

Their messages will be shared during YouthZone’s annual Ascent fundraiser Friday.

Since May, these film creators have been meeting with YouthZone mentor Claire Hemme to hone their skills in creating short movies to share their vision. Each video gives perspectives that range from suicide awareness to mental health opportunities to topics that inspire them in art or science.

YouthZone applauds the efforts of these eight kids for their dedication and hard work: Nick Passerine Burkes, Levi Friday, Kateline Labrum, Ezequiel Palomares, Magdalena Palomares, Aurora Pizzelli, Cesar Torres and Emily Walker. We’re excited to share these films with locals at a live event at The Orchard in Carbondale or through access to a virtual event.

YouthZone’s mission is to provide comprehensive assessment and advocacy to inspire healthy relationships between youth, family and community. Seeing teens as contributing members of our communities is reflected in the effort kids make to give back to YouthZone through this annual fundraiser.

“It is important to recognize that our kids have something to give back to our communities,” said Executive Director Jami Hayes.

The youth-inspired compilation of films will be shown at a Watch Party at The Orchard in Carbondale Friday or can be viewed virtually at home Friday through Sunday. Tickets are $50 for the live venue or $35 to stream the film festival, and can be purchased by calling 970-945-9300 or online at The Orchard will open at 6 p.m. to give folks time to settle in, and films will start promptly at 7 p.m.

The silent auction will be open until midnight Sunday. You can browse the auction items using the same link for purchasing your tickets, and put in bids starting Friday.

Teens who participated this year will receive a cash prize for each completed film. Awards will also be handed out for Most Inspirational Film, Most Impactful Film, Most Creative Film, Film with the Boldest Statement, and Most Authentic Film.

For 45 years, YouthZone has provided services to youth and families from Parachute to Aspen. What began as an afterschool program in 1976 to keep teens out of trouble has evolved into a full youth advocacy, counseling, substance intervention and family resource center for our communities. These services have sustained more than 2,100 kids in crisis and given them the tools to work through mental health issues, substance use and addiction, and legal problems.

Youth are referred by the juvenile courts, schools, parents, law enforcement and are also self-referred. Over 85% of all juvenile cases in regional courts are referred to YouthZone. Ninety percent of the young people that receive help from YouthZone find the right path forward engaging in their communities with a more positive impact and do not repeat offenses.

The $150,000 fundraising goal will help YouthZone provide the services needed in our communities and provide scholarships for clients who might not be able to afford needed services. Client fees only cover seven percent of YouthZone’s budget, and funds from grants, foundation support, individual donations and our fundraisers provide the remaining financial support.

Carol Wolff is YouthZone’s Development Director.