Aurora Youth Options
We are proud to induct Aurora Youth Options into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.
Since 2009 Aurora Youth Options (AYO) prevention programming with Aurora Mental Health & Recovery has worked with Aurora middle- and high-school-aged youth along with their families to navigate, connect and provide positive individualized resources for success. The foundation of AYO supports the principals of Positive Youth Development which is referring to intentionally supporting efforts of youth, and those around them, to provide opportunities to enhance their unique abilities and talents. AYO’s programming supports the individual with strength-based experiential learning opportunities.
AYO is an innovative program overseen and supported by the Aurora community to use existing resources to aid youth in Aurora, CO. Our catchment area is predominantly suburban in character but includes a significant urban area. Aurora is an exceptionally diverse city as reflected by the student population of the Aurora Public School district: 52.1 % of students are Hispanic, 21.5% are Caucasian, 21.1% are Black, 4.4% are Asian, and .9% are Native American. APS serves approximately 38,000 students.
AYO Mentoring is an important arm of the program that has shown great promise for youth with or without a diagnosed disability. AYO’s individual approach allows each youth to engage in shaping the delivery of the program they receive. Walking alongside youth with the sincere purpose of understanding their uniqueness and strength allows AYO team members and mentors to help define what resources best meet their need. Mentors are guided through best practices for supporting youth with disabilities as an ongoing responsibility to gain insight, have honest conversations as they build friendships, and evolve as the individual and the matches grow. Matches between youth and mentors are based on similar interests and personalities. AYO Specialists provide ongoing support throughout the mentoring relationship with training opportunities, enrichments, and experiential engagement.
AYO Internships Program provides opportunity for youth to engage in a “real life” work experience in a career of potential interest. In collaboration with community organizations and City of Aurora, AYO has established paid and unpaid internships guiding youth as they consider their future while in a nurturing environment. Mentors are trained in the principals of Positive Youth Development and Partnering for Youth with Disabilities. AYO and mentors work together throughout the internship to identify the individual needs of each youth and areas for AYO to guide mentors with ongoing support. The hosting agencies provide youth with an engaging experience, mentors equip youth with the fundamental skills needed to get and keep a job, and youth learn important life skills including self-advocacy and financial literacy. Ultimately, youth may expand the scope of what they see as potential career options and forge relationships with valued members in the Aurora community.