I have wanted and needed answers to my questions on what resources and programs are available in our Roaring Fork Valley and in our schools to keep the mental hygiene of teens healthy. I have needed to learn what to do when I question the behavior of my boys, their friends or other adult influencers in their lives. I have needed to stand up and say no when other parents were saying yes, and to be empowered to hold my ground when it was crumbling beneath me, as I heard words from other adults that made me feel delusional, alone, paranoid and very much on my own island with my parenting. But the most important reason as to why I planned this symposium in 60 days, was that I felt the need to bring us all closer together to create that village, in a valley known for community and for stepping up to help others. I needed to get a clearer perspective on the climate of the health of our teens in our valley, and begin to gain a greater understanding of how we may work better together as a whole to weather the storm and become that village to change social norms.
This past November five high school students swerved on a curve in a Tesla by the T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen, careened off a cliff, hit a tree, and landed in a hypothermic river. They all miraculously survived, but two were injured with a broken eye socket and a broken arm, amongst other injuries. The 19-year-old Aspen High School senior who was driving the vehicle, and his parents, are now being charged with giving drugs and alcohol to minors as per the Aspen Times. The three family members were charged last month with a total of 41 counts related to parties allegedly thrown at their Aspen Highlands-area home that included minors.
With three teen boys of my own, and as the Aunt of one of the teens who was a passenger in the Tesla crash, my concerns have escalated for the health of teens in the Roaring Fork Valley where I live. As a blogger and community influencer, I knew that the time was now to produce an Aspen Connect symposium revolving around helping families to better learn how to be more mindful and cohesive, and communities to bond better together to also help in a State that has one of the highest rates of suicide in the Nation.
On May 20th at the Aspen District Theatre the Roaring Fork Valley merged together to listen to stories of parents and teens, and to hear what local health professionals, prevention specialists, youth counselors, juvenile investigators and critical care physicians are seeing so that we may get a clearer perspective on the climate of the health of our teens in our valley, and begin to gain a greater understanding of how we may work better together as a whole to weather the storm and become that village to change social norms.
When one makes the decision to take a leap there is no preparation for the work that ensues – preparing for this symposium was a whirlwind of staying in my genius and meditating so as to not sabotage my efforts by thinking I can’t rather than I will – thank you Gregg & Cath Photographers for keeping me from falling off the tracks. It was so very rewarding to be able to provide a platform for those bravely sharing their voices.
I am so glad that I listened to my intuition and produced this event in so little time, and I could not have done it without the mental organization of our Roaring Fork Valley community who stood up ensuring that this would be an experience that we all could share together. It was a long 60 days with my nose to the grindstone but got ‘er done and all I can say … well, actually there is a lot I can and will say, but let’s begin with how rewarded I feel for helping others and for proving to myself that I’ve got this. The world is now my oyster – and you all, helping others, are my pearls 💕🥰
We all must listen to our inner drive – it is of the utmost importance if we want to make a change in the world.
As per many requests, I am now laying out a series of Aspen Connect conversations and workshops focusing on teens and family. Please email me if you would like to become a sponsor, subscribe to Aspen Connect events, get on my committee for more conversations for teens and families, or if you have stories that you would like to share to the blog: Jillian@aspenbusinessconnect.com
And now for my thank yous: To Cath Adams who sent me leads to many of the people on the panel, and to all of the contacts at the schools, everyone of which I followed up on. I know there are so many others helping the youth of our valley, and we’ll get to you … but let’s wait until the fall, where I can drum up more support in my efforts. To our guest speakers in the first conversation who have been so stoic and brave, sharing their stories to help others. To Chris and Elana Royer for printing out and hanging the posters and the resource guide. To Christina King for all the meetings she came to with me to get to know more intimately the speakers on her panel, and for giving me a crash course on counseling and unexpected outcomes. To Sonja Linman who has rocked my world with her knowledge and passion for our youth. And to Sheriff DiSalvo and Deputy Sheriff Cam Daniel – my admiration grows for you both every meeting (and encounter) we have, if only I could write about all the stories on my blog, you’d make me famous). And to the other invited guests, and moderator, Liz Means who jumped in to be involved, devoting their time and advice on the focus of the evening. To Jonathan Geller for donating his time in the theatre, and to my sponsors, who without this, I would not have been able to accomplish so much in so little time, with nothing but lint in my pockets. To the Aspen Times for the ads and stories in the paper, And to Michael and Ariel Burns OF CAV for providing the audio and visual so that the important information tonight goes out on a global level on our live feeds on social media. As for the other sponsors and partners, Along Their Way, Aspen Youth Center, Aspen Hope Center, Aspen Strong, Family Counseling Center for Roaring Fork Schools and Stepping Stones. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for jumping on board and providing me with such eye-opening opportunities to see who you are more clearly, and the many ways in which you are helping others, and for your patience through my technical difficulties as a one woman band trying to accomplish perhaps more than I should. (Just think how much more I could accomplish with more of you – speak to me after if you are interested in sponsoring future conversations and endeavors). And thank you Heather Cramer for standing by our youth who make mistakes, and giving your all to providing them with a second chance and a new license on life. To Firstbank for your banking for good campaign and for having your boots on the ground and integrating yourselves into OUR communities. And to Marcus Thackston at Blend Web for being my go to website guy, and for always being there for my 911 calls.
As for my partners, thank you Lindsay Lofaro of The Buddy Program for the outreach, and for your incredible mentoring program for kids. And to Mountain Family Health for providing quality medical care with special consideration for the medically underserved.
Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was the integration of Aspen Connect Ambassadors (teens 13+ in age) for greeting our guests with smiles and for attending the event. I do hope that you all gained greater insight from this event and I look forward to growing the ambassadorship in the fall in the schools so that you all will have a voice in all of this as we begin to change social norms.