Published: March 28, 2019

CYE AwardTwo CU Boulder doctoral students, Wayne Freeman (Ethnic Studies) and Vanessa Roberts (Sociology), received the 2018 Children, Youth and Environments (CYE) Award to collaborate with two distinct youth leadership programs last summer. 

The primary CYE Award recipient, Wayne Freeman, received $4500 to support his summer research project, which emerged from the existing CU Boulder Aquetza program. A program of CU Engage, Aquetza is a summer residential program for Latinx high school age youth from around Colorado. Freeman's project helped develop a year-round component to this popular and successful summer youth program. In particular, Freeman's project recruited 5 Longmont High School students, 3 of whom were former participants in the Aquetza program, to serve as "Aquetza fellows."

"These students received stipends to lead workshops and discussions around important issues for their fellow high school classmates," Freeman explains. "The five fellows chose to lead workshops and discussions at Longmont High School around race, gender, and immigration, and tied it back to local concerns at their high school such as the lack of Latinx students in Advanced Placement classes. After presenting to the Longmont High School student body during the 2018-19 school year, they will present to the upcoming CU Boulder Aquetza cohort at our annual symposium this summer," Freeman states.

With the helpful support of the CYE Award, Freeman's project has helped to establish a foundation for an Aquetza presence in the community, in this case a local high school with a high proportion of Latinx students. It also provides a way for Aquetza to remain connected to students during the school year (rather than just for a week each summer), and, finally, begins a much needed conversation at Longmont High school that can expand towards student-led structural change.

"We are extremely grateful to the award committee for providing us with an opportunity to expand a vital and important youth program with a year round component, and to aid our campus in fulfilling its responsibilities to the communities that surround it. It would not have been possible without this award! Thank you," says Freeman.

The 2018 CYE Award secondary recipient, Sociology graduate student Vanessa Roberts, supported efforts to cultivate youth leadership skills through action civics projects.

"The goal of the project I was fortunate enough to receive the CYE award for was to empower youth with research methodology and presentation skills to become youth trainers in the Denver-metro area," Roberts explains.

"Winning this award allowed me to work in collaboration with Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Changing Education) by further developing the VOYCE Academy, a 5 week summer leadership program that utilizes a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) model," she states. 

Project VOYCE (PV) serves youth living in poverty who are also primarily persons of color representing a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. The VOYCE Academy began with leadership skills exploration and development, during which youth are prompted to consider the issues in their community that are most pertinent to their experiences as young people in Denver. Following the principles of a YPAR design, youth selected their own topics, formed research groups, received training in qualitative and ethnographic methods of data collection and analysis and prepared a “Woke-shop” which they presented for over 200 community members. 

"I am profoundly grateful to have received the 2nd place Children, Youth and Environments Award as the 2018 VOYCE Academy was the best to date," says Roberts. "Being able to engage in this work without the added pressure of financial stress during summer months as a graduate student was a relief. I also truly enjoyed being able to treat the youth participants on occasion with a portion of the funds, so extra thanks for that opportunity, too!"

Roberts continues, "As a result of winning, I was able to immerse myself in this work without needing to seek additional part-time employment. Being a graduate student is an immense privilege, and as a first generation scholar of color, I am thankful to know that the work I do matters not just to the communities I have the honor of working with, but also to funders who wish to invest in equity and the lives of marginalized youth. I encourage my graduate colleagues to apply if you are looking for support in linking your passion with your research."


The call for 2019 applications to the Children, Youth and Environments Award opened April 15. Applications were due April 29 and are now closed.