The Roaring ’20s was an appropriate theme for the Colorado Youth at Risk 20th Anniversary celebration at the Glendale Events Center, Saturday, November 2. Some 300 guests attended the event dressed as 1920s-era flappers, Gibson girls with feather boas and Panama and boater hats and colorful postwar three-piece suits.

Emcee Denise Plante described the work of the organization and introduced several CYAR successful alumni and a video of student alumni including Kennisha Ayers, Sanai Fennel, Bradley James, Samantha Perez-Leftwich, Chris Smith, Kassandra Perez, Theron Harrison and others.

Board Chair Tarek Saad described the continuing mission of the organization and its success against critics who said it couldn’t be done. CYAR staff members Caroline Meyers and Elizabeth Same, Troy Bowman, Lori Dougherty, Sarah McGill, and various other interns and volunteers ensured a festive event.

Exuberant auctioneer Jim Berz of Wow Events managed the live auction with auction cards flying throughout the night. Meanwhile, Executive Director Mary Hanewell and Chair Tarek Saad mingled with the crowd. Erin and Dan Kobler were dressed to the nines along with board members Julie Ziemer, Tanja Smith and Erin Autrey Neren. Upbeat jazz favorites were performed by Kim Dawson and her quartet.

A lot happened in Denver in 1993: Labor leader Cesar Chavez passed away; Pope John Paul II visited for World Youth Day; the Rockies became the 27th Major League baseball team; and the October opening of the Denver International Airport was delayed after  baggage system problems. Also, that year the so-called Summer of Violence gave rise to solutions for rescuing teens stuck in a cycle of violence in poor economic and family circumstances and lack of educational opportunities and advancement.

Also in 1993 Theron Harrison was born. A lanky young man with a quick smile, Harrison is perhaps best known as one of Denver’s finest high school debaters. As teens at Manual High, he and sister Teague competed in national debating championships in New York, not once but twice–in 2011 and 2012. Theron, now 20, represents CYARs success over the past two decades and has become a symbol of what is possible with the right mentors and opportunities.

Reaching at-risk or troubled teens from struggling unhealthy or impoverished environments presents a challenge for human service organizations and stay-in-school non-profits dedicated to youth education and mentoring.  CYAR’s strategy is fourfold and includes community and one-on-one training, a mountain retreat, high ropes course and a year-long series of workshops with mentors.

After 20 years, Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR) may have found the secret of success for reaching teens and continues to advocate for educational opportunities. For more information visit: www.coyar.org or call 623-9140.