by Jennifer Bradford
TEENS, Inc. was one of the first nonprofit organizations in which Social Venture Partners Boulder County (SVP) invested. The relationship began in 2001 and TEENS, Inc. graduated from SVP’s Catapult program in 2005. That graduation is one of the first events that Executive Director, Stephen LeFaiver, attended as the leader of TEENS, Inc.
“At the time – the early 2000’s just after 9/11—it was tough economic times. TEENS, Inc. had just built a huge building. We didn’t know how to make it year to year. SVP gave guidance and expertise. The question of ‘how can we be sustainable and meet our mission?’ was answered,” explains Stephen.
SVP helped TEENS, Inc. develop a sustainable business model by providing consulting on fundraising, strategic planning, marketing, and generating earned income. TEENS, Inc. was able to scale down in a strategic way, and the lessons learned then are still impacting the organization 20 years later.
TEENS, Inc. began in Nederland in 1997 and opened the Teen Center building in 2000. The largest program is Team Works, which employs almost 100 youths every summer. Other programs include Chinook West, a school which meets the social and academic needs of students who desire a non-traditional education, and New Explorers Learning Center, the only year-round preschool option in Nederland. There is so much demand for the preschool that there is a waitlist for admission.
Of course, the COVID pandemic has had a major impact on their operations. However, Chinook West school remained open and provided in-person learning for its students. The New Explorers Learning Center was able to re-open after two months of lock down in Spring 2020 and has remained open. To support the Nederland community, TEENS, Inc. provided home learning kits, food, and financial assistance to those in need. According to Stephen, “We did everything we could and put forth safety measures and precautions to stay open throughout COVID. We worked as a team, everyone was on the same page and committed to offering support.”
This year is TEENS, Inc.’s 25th anniversary which will be celebrated later in the year. Other ways the community can help them celebrate is to participate or volunteer at the Ned Ned Race in September, or you can volunteer three hours a month and serve on the DEI, Sustainability, Youth Support, Staff Wellness, or Communications committees.