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ACE in Colorado

Southwestern Colorado
Dates June 15 to July 6, 2022
Program Focus

Promoting global conservation and environmental stewardship efforts by supporting community-led initiatives in rural regions of Colorado.

This program is organized by Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS).

Program Leaders
  • The program dates reflect the dates you are on-site, in-person. For ACE in Colorado, you will arrive on-site June 15 and depart July 6. Depending on your home location, please take into account that you will need to allow for travel time before and after the program. You may not arrive late or depart early from your program.

Program Overview | Service Opportunities | Program Requirements |
| Program Details

Program Overview

Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) is a leader in international youth development, creating a world where all people are lifelong leaders sharing responsibility for our global community. We provide extraordinary opportunities for youth to design and lead projects in collaboration with U.S. and Latin American peers and partner organizations across the Americas. Our strong partner network, built over 55 years, enables authentic engagements in communities across the Americas.

AMIGOS Pillars

  • Service – Strengthen young people’s commitment to community engagement and service.
  • Leadership – Develop young people’s personal leadership capacities.
  • Cultural Humility – Increase young people’s cross-cultural competence.

In Colorado, AMIGOS has built strong ties with organizations whose overall mission is to protect Colorado’s people and natural environment. By combining learning from subject-area experts, hands-on service, problem solving, thoughtful enrichment experiences, and rigorous COVID-19 safety measures, this program will continue to work towards our vision of a world where all people are lifelong leaders sharing responsibility for our global community.

Students will spend three weeks serving with local community partners and exploring the roads less traveled in Colorado in order to learn about the complex interplay of public, private, and nonprofit contribution to conservation and climate change mitigation. The program will use Colorado as a lens to better understand how these issues affect people all around the world. Students will leave the program with a broadened understanding of what it means to be a conservationist and be able to apply their knowledge to global contexts.

The group will dive deep into the ethics and practice of conservationism with all its complexities, such as organic farming, wildfire management, past and current role of indigenous tribes in conservation, and land use policies in urban and rural settings. The group will support local initiatives, learn from environmental activists, and be placed directly within these landscapes to reflect outwardly and inwardly about the critical environmental issues facing our planet.

Program Schedule

The program model is “pod-based,” meaning that the group of ACE student-athletes live, volunteer, cook and eat meals, reflect, and relax together for the entirety of the program. The program will include the following:

  • Scheduled activities such as project orientation, group meetings, supervisor check-ins, cultural enrichment activities, and facilitated project workshopping/curriculum
  • Independent and/or group service project work with local organizations
  • Additional hours allotted to enrichment activities, exercise and training, down time, and group bonding

Sample Itinerary

 **Exact details will depend on availability of lodging and partner organizations.

Days 1–3 (Briefing & Orientation): The initial days focus on building community in a fun and relaxed environment. Students will begin to learn about the curriculum topics, health and safety while on the program, and have time to get to know each other. Students will have time and space to exercise and train.

Days 4–11 (Location 1): Students will travel to the small mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado (**to be confirmed). At this first location, students would participate in the following:

  • Volunteer days learning about and participating in sustainable agriculture and regenerative practices with partner organizations dedicated to these topics. While doing hands-on work, students will learn about land preservation and revitalization and solar energy.
  • Volunteer days with the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab (RMBL) and the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL) to learn about and support monitoring efforts of climate change and its impact in the Rocky Mountains. Volunteer service will include field work and reviewing data/readings from the organization’s field instruments. Students will work alongside atmospheric scientists.
  • Workshops with experts in the field of climate change and environmental conservation.
  • Curriculum on AMIGOS core pillars, including the following topics: individual action and allyship, collective action, community development, core values, goal setting, and the spectrum of leadership.
  • Weekly 1:1 mentoring between students and AMIGOS project staff
  • Dedicated time for exercise and training.

Days 11–13: Enrichment Activity

Students will participate in an enrichment experience to explore the recreation side of the beautiful state. Potential enrichment activities include hiking, visiting a national park, or traveling to another protected land site.

Days 13–19 (Location 2): Students will travel to a second location in Colorado.

  • Volunteer days working alongside conservation specialists and the forest service on trail maintenance and building. These efforts are a cornerstone of environmental protection on public lands.
  • Volunteer days with AMIGOS partner organizations to support wildfire mitigation efforts. Students will learn about the impact of climate change on forest fires.
  • Workshops with experts in the field, including grey wolf reintroduction and how the outdoor recreation industry supports conservation efforts.
  • Workshop on local action and community organizing with an organization advocating for clean air and water that seeks to build resilient communities.
  • Visit Ute Mountain Tribal Park or Mesa Verde.
  • Curriculum on AMIGOS core pillars, including the following topics: giving and receiving feedback, privilege, race, breaking through the gender binary, identity, stereotyping, and understanding layers of culture.
  • Weekly 1:1 mentoring between students and AMIGOS project staff
  • Dedicated time for exercise and training.

Days 20–21 (Debriefing): Students travel back to the Front Range (near Denver) for closing activities and reflection.

AMIGOS prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana products on group travel programs, including on the ACE program.

Service Opportunities

AMIGOS has partnered with many organizations combating climate change and promoting conservation of natural resources in Colorado. With these partners, students will engage in different projects and initiatives that support the organizations work and local community. These projects might include citizen science projects and data collection, trail building and maintenance, and hands-on agricultural and farm work. Students will support local organizations as a group. During service activities, students may be broken into smaller groups depending on the needs of the organization. AMIGOS will gauge student interest in topics during the interview phase and will seek out opportunities that match their interests.

Potential partners that students may work with include:

  • Coldharbour Institute: Coldharbour Institute is a learning laboratory that demonstrates regenerative living practices that bring health to our bodies, land, and communities. It is their mission to educate and empower youth and community members to make an impact in sustainability and regenerative solutions for our community and beyond. Learn more.
  • Mountain Roots Food Project: The mission of Mountain Roots Food Project is to cultivate a resilient food system in the Gunnison Valley by enhancing healthy connections between food, earth, and community. They foster knowledge, teach skills, and provide opportunities that ensure access to affordable, nutritious food that is regionally based and sustainably produced. Learn more.
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Nearly 80 years ago, scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory began studying the diverse, still-wild ecosystems surrounding their high-altitude field station. Since then, more than 9,000 people have studied, worked, lived and conducted research at RMBL on important topics such as pollination, changing climate and high-altitude ecosystems. In a rapidly changing world, RMBL sustains our quality of life by accelerating discoveries about the ecosystems that replenish the world’s air, water, and food supply.  Learn more.
  • Mountain Studies Institute: The Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) is an independent, 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit center of knowledge established in 2002 in Silverton, Colorado.  A sustaining premise of MSI is that collaborations among researchers, educators, and policy makers with an interest in the San Juan Mountains and other mountain systems worldwide can provide increased knowledge and understanding of mountain environments and communities and the issues that affect them. MSI encourages the interdisciplinary study of the scientific, cultural, human, and historical aspects of the San Juan Mountain environment. Learn more.

**Additional partners may be added prior to program start date.

Program Requirements

In Person Learning Environment

Participants will be volunteering in mainly outdoor spaces. This means volunteers will need to prepared for working in hot, high-altitude environments (between 7,000-12,000 ft). In addition, some service projects may be more physically demanding, such as full days of hiking or more labor-intensive trail work.

Language & Other Prerequisites

All students must have proficiency in the English language.

Other Skills

No previous experience or qualifications in the field of conservation or environmental studies is required to join this program. An interest and understanding of issues threatening natural resources and our environment is desirable.

Personal Competencies

  • Commitment to honest and ethical behaviors – actively seeks to understand and adhere to the values, policies, procedures, and protocols of ACE and AMIGOS; lives up to commitments and promises they make to others
  • Ability to work productively on a supervised team – responds to feedback and critique from other students and supervisors with maturity and openness to improvement; listens actively and communicates courteously; responds with patience and perseverance to new or unanticipated situations and obstacles; accepts responsibility for their actions; balances their personal expectations of the ACE volunteer experience with the realities of working on short-term projects in cultural and workplace settings that are new to them
  • Self-reliance and self-confidence – understands and meets their own physical and emotional needs in new environments with an age-appropriate mixture of optimism and realism
  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity – effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, races, religions, and cultures; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment
  • Problem solving and goal orientations – possesses strong analytical skills and an interest in producing deliverable end-projects for a community partner organization, e.g., construction of buildings or physical structures, etc.

Program Details

Colorado is known for its diverse landscapes of high mountains, vibrant cities, vast plains, desert areas, and more. Although it became a state in 1876, it has a rich history dating back far before the U.S. was established. For thousands of years, humans have roamed and explored its lands, including Native American tribes, Spaniards, pioneer explorers, and many more. The state is home to four national parks, eight national monuments, and eleven national forests, all of which include some of the nation’s most picturesque landscapes. For this reason, Coloradans are passionate about preserving the state’s beautiful environment and ancient history so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Students will work and live in rural areas of central and southwestern Colorado, likely in Gunnison and Durango. These areas are known for their beautiful landscapes and, therefore, have economies heavily based in tourism, but agribusiness and the local universities are also strong economic drivers. Because of the number of visitors attracted to the incredible landscapes, there is a lot of stress put on the ecosystems and natural resources in this area. Therefore, local conservationists are working tirelessly to preserve the land, water, forests, and more to create healthy environments for the wildlife, plant life, and local communities.

Western Colorado University 

Situated in Gunnison Valley, Western (as its locally known) is small university in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Western has a long history of studying environment science, using Gunnison valley as its field station to learn how to protect our planet’s natural resources and provide for the larger global community. The university sits at a high-altitude of 7,700 feet and is close to trails and spaces for hiking, trail running, walking, etc.

At Western, ACE students will stay in residential halls, which will have Wi-Fi and cell service.

Fort Lewis College 

Fort Lewis College has a beautiful mountain campus that overlooks the city of Durango. It is situated at 6,900 feet, and like Western, has many outdoor spaces to enjoy, such as nearby trails, parks, and the Animas River. Fort Lewis’ history is intertwined with the rich history and people of the region, specifically the Native American tribes who have inhabited Durango and the surrounding areas for thousands of years. In 2008, Fort Lewis was designated as one of six Native American-serving, non-tribal colleges by the U.S. Department of Education.

ACE students will stay in residential halls, which have Wi-Fi and cell service.

Both lodging sites are close to our partner organizations and local towns.

During the program, participants will grocery shop and cook together to support with making meals while also having a chance to bond as a group. In addition, there will be opportunities to eat at the university’s dining halls.

Though it is relatively simple to stay in touch with friends and family, the program encourages minimizing the time spent on electronic devices. This helps prioritize fully take advantage of your time in Colorado, and to be able to focus on deepening the relationships with the teammates in your group.  Participants usually treasure these new bonds by the end of the program.  Additionally, participants frequently report that they find the break from being constantly connected refreshing.

Students will have reliable internet access at lodging sites and any community spaces used during the program. In addition, cell service is fairly reliable if students are in town. However, cell service and internet access outside of town (e.g. in the mountains on a hike) is unreliable as these areas are very rural.

AMIGOS uses email as our official means of communication. This includes program welcome emails, service information, and health and safety information.  Students are responsible for reading the content of our communications sent to their email account.

Students will be traveling in vans/cars driven by staff to each placement site and enrichment activity. The group will travel through diverse landscapes, such as driving over mountain passes or through flat farmland.

Student-athletes will have the opportunity to exercise in either a gym/fitness center or in outdoor spaces in the surrounding areas. Designated time to work out will typically be in the morning, unless there is a planned physically-intensive excursion during the day/afternoon.

Gyms will have weightlifting, cardio equipment, and indoor tracks for students to use.

Exercising outdoors could include trail running, hiking, walking, and more in high-altitude environments.

Both ACE students and AMIGOS staff leadership will lead reflection activities following all service activities. Reflection is a key component of deepening individual understanding of the topics of conservation as well as work within a community/location that is not your own.  ACE students will be active participants in the day-to-day plan and function of the group. Each student will have a turn to serve as the “leader of the day,” making sure the group is where it needs to be and leading reflection activities.

Colorado has a rich history and culture that all students will be immersed in throughout the program. In addition to visiting national parks and recreation activities, a strong focus of this cultural immersion is to learn about the indigenous tribes that have inhabited the area and stewarded the land for thousands of years. Potential activities include:

  • Visiting the Ute Mountain Tribal Park – The Ute Mountain Tribal Park is owned and stewarded by the Ute community in the area. Inside the park, there are petroglyphs, pottery shards and other cultural artifacts, and many incredible and well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. During an immersive full-day tour, guides interpret the sites and artifacts in the park and incorporate Native history, worldviews, and creation stories.
  • Hiking through Mesa Verde National Park – Located in Southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. Including more than 4,000 known archeological sites dating back to A.D. 550, this national treasure protects the cliff dwellings and mesa top sites of pit houses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples who lived here for more than 700 years. This national park gives us a glimpse into the places and stories of America’s diverse cultural heritage. (Source: National Park Service)

During the program students will:

  • Learn about local issues and how they relate to global issues and their communities at home
  • Gain practical knowledge experience from conservationists that can be applied to other contexts around the world
  • Learn how NGOs and organizations are structured and about the challenges they may face
  • Understand the complex landscape of stakeholders involved in climate change mitigation and conservation
  • Cultivate cultural humility through connecting with local communities and indigenous tribes

AMIGOS continues to carefully monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AMIGOS policies and procedures are updated routinely in consideration of the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), local ministries of health. All policies are reviewed by the AMIGOS Medical Director.

Protocols include pre-departure and on-program testing, masking, physical distancing, monitoring for symptoms, maximizing time outdoors, in addition to other interventions design to reduce transmissibility.

More information can be found at:

In the first few days of the program, ACE participants will go through training to set them up for success throughout the following weeks.

Activities within this training include:

Establishing group norms through discussion and team-building activities
Briefing of partner organizations and program themes
Health & safety protocols and program policies