AVID class at Boulder High School with ENVD mentor Alpine Balsam diverseCEDaR developed in 2015 out of the Children, Youth and Environments (CYE) Center, founded in 2004. 

For 10 years, the CYE Center worked at the forefront of efforts in the design professions and allied disciplines to promote the health, safety and welfare of children and youth, with an emphasis on those in environments of disadvantage and those with special needs. In collaboration with community partners, CYE supported meaningful participation by young people in the creation of thriving communities for all people.

The CYE Center worked in six focus areas:

  • Research to evaluate policies and programs and to develop innovative solutions for problems facing children and youth today through empirical studies, critical analyses, and participatory action research.
  • Dissemination of research findings to share expertise, support the exchange of experience across communities and draw lessons that will guide future work through professional and general media.
  • Application of research findings to improve young people’s quality of life through collaborative, community-based outreach and intervention.
  • Knowledge and skill development of students and practitioners through teaching, service learning, internships, practical training, professional development other educational activities.
  • Capacity building through the formation of strategic partnerships and synergistic networks of researchers, practitioners and community stakeholders, including young people, as well as actors in the public and private sectors.
  • Advocacy and awareness raising on behalf of policies, programs and actions that benefit children and youth through white papers, recommendations to decision makers, expert witness testimony, and other forms of advice and influence.

These areas continue today as themes in CEDaR’s work agenda. CYE undertook numerous local, national and international projects (see annual reports), published a newsletter and fact sheets, and served as the editorial secretariat for the peer-reviewed CYE Journal, now published at the University of Cincinnatti.

Growing Up Boulder (GUB) came about in 2009 in the wake of Denver’s Child- and Youth-Friendly Initiative, a program initiated by CYE. That program was a partnership with several city departments in Denver’s mayor’s office and the nonprofit Assets for Colorado Youth (ACY), working with other city-wide organizations and involving active participation by youth from across the city.  This Denver initiative ran from 2004 till 2007. It produced important lessons for GUB.  

When David Driskell arrived in Boulder in December of 2008 as director of community planning and sustainability, he reacted enthusiastically to a suggestion by CYE Director Willem van Vliet— that they launch a new initiative to make Boulder the nation’s first child-friendly city, based on principles of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This new initiative directly benefitted from the Denver experience. It made CYE and CU Boulder at large the central axis of a partnership with Boulder’s planning department and Boulder Valley School District. It also embarked on concrete projects with the goal of setting precedents to demonstrate young people’s competence and show the value of their contributions to local planning. Two children hold up Boulder's first child-friendly map

Begun in 2009, the name of this new initiative, Growing Up Boulder, came from participating youth. Its overall goal was to bring about a culture change so that youth participation in local affairs would no longer be extraordinary, but mainstream and routine. The ultimate measure of GUB’s success would be its having made itself redundant. 

During GUB’s first five years, the CYE Center provided leadership and vision and gave pivotal support by allocating funding, obtaining project grants, making available administrative staff and space, involving ENVD students and faculty, coordinating and directing projects through PhD students, and engaging interns. The Boulder-focused projects that CYE had already been undertaking gradually consolidated under the GUB umbrella, as one among several other CYE programs.

Key principles that underpinned CYE projects also informed GUB: interdisciplinary collaboration across campus, vertical integration that included undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty, partnerships with city departments and community organizations, participatory action research, and engagement with low-income and minority populations. Early projects included several good examples of these principles, such as a summer long program with children at the Family Learning Center that involved students and faculty from ENVD, the Department of Theater and Dance, the Museum of Natural History, the Department of Education, and the Department of Mathematics. Another good example is “Leveling the Playing Field,” a semester-long project conceived of and carried out in 2009 by some 75 fifth-graders at Mesa ES to make their school grounds more accessible and inclusive, supported by about 20 ENVD graduate students and faculty.

Initially, GUB activities featured an annual event, youth directed action groups, and after-school projects.  Over several years, school-based activities became integrated into regular curricula and projects were derived chiefly from the agenda of the City, which had become GUB’s main funding source.

After the CYE Center transitioned into CEDaR in 2015, GUB increasingly became a stand-alone operation while still enjoying support from its affiliation with CEDaR and the university at large. In March 2021, GUB spun off as an independent nonprofit under the fiscal sponsorship of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.