By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Students in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood have teamed up to create a newsletter informing their peers of what’s happening in their part of the city. Not only tackling serious topics like gun violence and marijuana but also highlighting the positive stories near their home.

(credit: CBS)

“It was necessary to educate citizens on issues around their community,” said Sayuri Toribio, 18, one of the writers for Southwest Vida. “We wanted to be inclusive of all people neighborhood so if it was going to be in English, it had to be in Spanish, too.”

In their first issue, they reported on a grant in Westwood and interviewed the commander for Denver Police District 4. It also highlighted the arts and culture visible in the neighborhood. Their second issue will start a series looking at gun violence but also help teens with the job search. They plan to profile one young person from the community in each newsletter.

“We’re directly affected by these issues, not only is it heavy, it’s something that we’re all passionate about,” said Darby Flessner, 17. “I think it’s better that we have more youth perspectives as well because we live with this everyday.”

Recent shootings in the neighborhood have made headlines across Colorado, but these students know the people reading Southwest Vida live on the blocks where it happened. Their hope is to give their own community a sense of how young people perceive these crimes and hope teens will better connect with the material because it is written by someone their age.

“This coming out right now can help because of the escalating problem of gun violence,” said Jorge Morales, 15. “Not everyone is going to be able to tell their story on how this has affected them.”

(credit: CBS)

The newsletter comes from the Communities That Care initiative that leads a youth project each year. These teens wanted something more sustainable and first considered a social media account before settling on Southwest Vida in print and online.

LINK: ctcsouthwestdenver.org

“We’ve got some good interviews and a variety of really useful information that I really just want the community to know as soon as possible,” said Pablo Tore-Walter, 16.

In addition to being a resource, these students say they want to take on the struggle their demographic faces with issues like gun violence. They say the recent shootings have normalized the fear of someone being shot while going about their normal day. The hope of these writers and their newsletter is to show how much they care and help create change in their community. Their second issue will be released on Sept. 2.

“We’re filling that void with finally using our voice,”Toribio said. “There are strong youth in our community but not enough of their voices are being heard.”

Shawn Chitnis

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