Students part of state re-branding

Teens discovering county through summer assignment

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High school seniors Amy Yoelin and Kristen Autret are seeing Douglas County with fresh eyes, and gaining a new appreciation for their home turf.

“Before, I was just like, I live in suburbia, it’s so boring,” said Autret, who starts her final year at Legend High School later this month. “Once I started to realize what’s around me, I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Yoelin and Autret are student ambassadors for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “Making Colorado” project, a grassroots effort to re-brand the state with input from a broad cross-section of residents. They’re among dozens of Colorado students chosen for the Making Colorado Youth Ambassador Council, assigned to broadcast the highlights of Colorado’s 64 counties.

Yoelin saw the project as a high school resume builder, and also a chance to be part of “something bigger than myself,” the Highlands Ranch High School student said.

“It’s amazing. It’s definitely the best job I’ve had so far,” Yoelin said. “I’m finding out more about our county every day. It definitely makes me look at it in a different way because you have to take in the social and economic (aspects) as well.”

The students, with topic suggestions from Making Colorado, blog about their counties on Tumblr and other social media sites during an eight-week period that ends in mid-August. Hickenlooper will unveil the state’s new logo and other results of the collaborative campaign late this summer.

In July, students were asked to describe their county with a different, single word for every day of the week.

“I talked about talent in our county,” Yoelin said, “because currently I think at least in Highlands Ranch there are three local (high school) bands that have gone kind of big. Definitely ‘expansion’ is a big one; construction is a second language in Colorado. Then I used ‘family’ because Douglas County is really family-oriented.”

Autret, a budding photographer, is sharpening those skills on her explorations. She recently visited Zuma’s Rescue Ranch, which matches troubled youths with neglected, rescued horses in a unique therapy program. The project also led her to Daniels Park and Roxborough State Park.

“I didn’t know Daniels Park was there, and it’s so beautiful,” she said. “The same thing with Roxborough park. 

“I’ve been getting around and exploring everything that’s great about Douglas County,” she added. “I get to talk to people that I wouldn’t normally talk to and go places I wouldn’t normally have the urge to go to, and I get to do it while taking  pictures and writing, which are two things I really love to do,” she said.

The project has helped her find “a sense of our community,” Autret said, one she already knows she’ll someday miss.

“Once I go to college, I’m going to be pretty sad to leave this,” she said.

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