AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - Over the next two weeks, teens in Aurora can visit several safe spaces where they can take part in multiple activities, as well as access different programs and resources. It's all part of a new campaign called "recharge your batteries," organized by the city of Aurora's Youth Violence Prevention Program, its youth council, and city partners. It follows a recent spike in youth violence that included two shootings at or near high schools.
"Some teens don't realize that there are so many resources out there and not every solution is violence," said Estrella Avendano, an Aurora teen and member of the violence prevention program's youth council.
For every weekday of Aurora Public Schools winter break, the city will host safe zones at Central and Moorhead Recreation Centers. Teens will be able to grab a snack or dinner and take part in a wide array of activities, including sports, dancing, swimming, improv classes, and video games.
"We've heard from our youth, and they've asked for pro-social activities," said Christina Amparan, Aurora's youth violence prevention manager. "They've asked us to offer them safe spaces, so we wanted to take the initiative."
According to Amparan, these events are meant to be a safe place where teens can be themselves. At the same time, those who are experiencing trauma related to recent shootings can connect with staff and learn about the programs and resources available to them.
Long-term, Amparan is hopeful safe spaces such as these can be one tool in how the city prevents future violence.
"We know that through prevention work we may not see the immediate results right away, but we know that taking these steps are critical," Amparan said. "The more youth we get engaged in prosocial activities; the more youth we're going to be able to remove from the street."
Aurora police officer Virgil Majors is among several city staff members working to make connections with teens throughout the campaign. He runs the department's Five-O gaming trailer, an idea he helped bring to life as a way for officers to have good encounters with youth.
"I feel like officers, and the Aurora Police Department, we're missing that part, besides handing out some stickers," Majors said. "Now, we can have them come to us."
The results may not be immediate, but organizers hope the connections made over the next two weeks will result in less youth violence in the long term.
"We can't always live in a world where there's violence everywhere, because there's always a solution to something," said Avendano. "It's just one has to work hard for it and they have to advocate for the problem that's going on."
The safe zones will be open at Central and Moorhead recreation centers from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday of the next two weeks.
There are also multiple events planned for New Year's Eve. You can find the full schedule for the "recharge your batteries" campaign here.
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