City program to recognize teens will live on, after all

January 10, 2012
photo - Coronado High sophomore Kara Zehner, left, shakes hands with Mayor Steve Bach on Sunday, Sept. 25, at an event to acknowledge the Mayor's 100 Teens at the City Auditorium. Photo by Mike Christy, The Gazette
Coronado High sophomore Kara Zehner, left, shakes hands with Mayor Steve Bach on Sunday, Sept. 25, at an event to acknowledge the Mayor's 100 Teens at the City Auditorium. Photo by Mike Christy, The Gazette 

In an about-face, the Bach administration told the City Council on Tuesday that a program that recognizes Colorado Springs teens who have overcome adversity will have staff support and funding after all.

Only a day earlier, representatives of Mayor Steve Bach’s office sat silently in council chambers as officials talked about the looming demise of the Mayor’s 100 Teens program.

By Tuesday, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff said the program was simply going through a revision.

The confusion over the program’s status was amplified because city officials gave conflicting explanations.

“We wanted to just really clarify the Mayor’s 100 Teens program and indicate that, for clarification, that this program was not cut from the budget,” Nancy Johnson, who also serves as the city’s parks director, told the council Tuesday.

“We did want to clarify to the media and to the community that there is every intention of moving forward with some type of program but that ownership of the program will now be with the City Council,” said Johnson, who was at Monday’s council meeting but didn’t speak up during the discussion about the program ending.

City Councilman Merv Bennett, who had been working with council liaison Aimee Cox since last summer to find a new home for the program, expressed surprise to hear that funding was available.

“That’s the first I’ve heard that,” Bennett said.

Council members said Tuesday they were pleased with the development and eager to continue a similar program.

“If we can move to a bigger and better program and provide leadership training, great,” said council President Scott Hente.

The Mayor’s 100 Teens program has honored more than 1,000 teens since it was started in 1996 by former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace. The program was designed to recognize teens who are considered role models but who don’t typically receive accolades.

In an interview Tuesday, Johnson said the program is simply going through a revision.

“It’s not dead per se. It’s being refined,” she said.

During Monday’s council meeting, Bennett said it was Bach who decided to discontinue the program.

“I find it very disappointing that we won’t have a program to recognize teens who’ve overcome adversity in a form that we have now where we bring them in front of City Council and the public and publicly recognize those teens,” City Councilman Bernie Herpin said Monday.

On Monday night, Cindy Aubrey, Bach’s chief communications officer, said in an email that Hente and council President Pro Tem Jan Martin suggested last summer that the program be renamed “The City’s 100 Teens” program.

“The practice has been that the teens come before City Council to be introduced – and because the mayor is no longer a part of council, it became apparent that a change was needed,” she wrote.

“The City’s 100 Teens will remain.”

Cox said the council looked at taking over the program.

But “that transition never happened. There was no funding that came over. There was no staff that came over to run that program.

It was thrown entirely into council’s court to find resources and figure out how to run a youth program,” Cox said.

Cox said she and Bennett are in preliminary discussions with Leadership Pikes Peak about creating a leadership training program that would include youth “who typically don’t participate in those programs as well as kids who do.”

On Monday, Bennett said the program had become perfunctory. He said the city was having a difficult time getting nominations, and money was being spent to do “fancy books” profiling each teen. The only thing the teens were getting out of the program was going to a council meeting and being recognized “for about 15 seconds,” Bennett said.

“It was becoming a perfunctory duty, and I don’t think a perfunctory duty to recognize teens is appropriate,” he said. “We either need to do it right … or don’t do it. But don’t do it half-way.”

In their discussions with Leadership Pikes Peak, Cox said she and Bennett also advocated allowing “some recognition” of participants in front of council.

Contact Daniel Chacón: 476-1623
Twitter @danieljchacon
Facebook Daniel Chacon

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