Last week, we joined Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and community members from the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Northeast Denver neighborhoods to celebrate all of the young leaders who participated in The Youth Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective, a partnership of eight nonprofit organizations funded by our first ever GSK IMPACT Grant.
This initiative focused on neighborhood recreation centers as places to teach kids about healthy eating, physical activity, and to develop young leaders. Of course, to do this young people need to spend time in their recreation centers. So, to improve attendance rates, the collective worked with young leaders who surveyed their peers and identified improvements that would get their friends and family in the doors. And what a tremendous success:
- St. Charles Recreation Center’s youth participation increased by 256%
- Stapleton’s increased by 387%
- Swansea’s youth participation increased 975%
In addition to physical improvements to the centers – such as the construction of a designated “teen room” at the Stapleton center – the students also identified the need for new programs to attract kids who weren’t regularly attending.
At the St. Charles center, they heard from teen girls who weren’t interested in playing basketball, so they formed a new dance team and outfitted the center with an audio system and portable dance mirrors so that they could practice throughout the facility. Practice makes perfect – their final performance to “Uptown Funk” brought the house down!
Not only was this GSK IMPACT Grant a success because of the focus on developing teens as leaders, it was also a success because the nonprofit partners worked together using a model called “collective impact” to drive effective and sustainable changes in the community. When I attended my first meeting of the collective members back in February, I was amazed at the level of engagement, openness and teamwork displayed not only by the eight nonprofit organizations we were funding, but also with the recreation center staff and leaders from the MyDenver program and Denver Parks & Recreation Department. These important stakeholders were at the table and working together to make changes the kids wanted to see and to figure out how to sustain the work once our 18-month GSK IMPACT Grant concluded.
The work of the collective was so inspirational that the Parks & Recreation Department will continue teen-focused programming at these and other recreation centers in Denver through the MyDenver program. Along with the families in the audience, the Mayor reminded us that “Being healthy is a journey, not a sprint” – the success of our GSK IMPACT Grant partners is only the beginning of a journey towards healthier outcomes for these Denver families.
We are so excited to see evidence that by working together and sharing goals to improve healthy behaviors that the GSK IMPACT Grant program can make sustainable change towards a healthier community.