FrontRange Earth Force is a Colorado nonprofit group that supports programs that encourage youth to work cooperatively with parents, educators, community leaders and businesses. They address environmental problems through civic action in their communities. FrontRange Earth Force brings to Denver the mission of the national Earth Force, which engages youth to create long-term solutions to local environmental issues. While the national and local offices work closely together, Front Range Earth Force is a self-sustaining, independently incorporated nonprofit.
FrontRange is one of the eight sites around the country supporting the Earth Force Community Action and Problem Solving (CAPS) program. CAPS trains educators and provides them with resources and support to guide youth to create long-term solutions to local environmental issues. The CAPS framework emphasized the importance of conducting balanced research, basing decisions on facts, and developing a strategy that ensures a long-term solution to an identified problem.
In its third year of operation, Front Range works with more than 20 sites, 45 educators, and over 1,000 youth in the Denver-metro area. Those involved represent a broad economic and social spectrum – from inner city, low-income neighborhoods, to more privileged communities, and youth of all abilities. FrontRange has programs in traditional public school, charter and magnet schools, alternative educational settings, and community organizations. They have had the CAPS materials translated to Spanish to serve Denver’s Hispanic community as well.
Through FrontRange’s CAPS program, young people develop the skills and attitudes necessary to become and remain active, engaged citizens. Students themselves are responsible for the whole range of project activities including environmental and community research, environmental problem identification, strategy decisions, design and implementation of an action plan and evaluation. They work collaboratively with other students, realizing that they can make an important difference in their communities.
For example, Sheridan, a small struggling community just south of Denver, is really benefiting from the work of Earth Force youth. An Earth Force after-school program at Alice Terry Elementary School grew into a summer program for 40 students, and continues to expand. Some of the students decided to continue meeting throughout the school year to attain their goals of improving recreational opportunities and facilities for kids. District officials worked with the youth to implement their recommendations and established an ongoing youth advisory force due to the work of the Earth Force.
FrontRange Earth Force has also been responsible for having a newspaper recycling station established at schools for the entire community, free of charge. They have also tacked potholes, drinking fountain water quality and a neglected interior courtyard at Sheridan Middle School. Their dedication was such an inspiration that six other teachers in the building decided to use CAPS in their classrooms this school year.