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Denver Broncos nominate Michelle Graham Rodriguez for 2023 Inspire Change Changemaker Award

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The Denver Broncos are proud to nominate Michelle Graham Rodriguez for the 2023 Inspire Change Changemaker Award.

Michelle joined The Urban Farm (TUF) as Executive Director in November 2019.

TUF provides opportunities for urban youth to engage in local food and agricultural systems by removing the barriers to entry such as land access, time, location and finances. TUF delivers experiential programs on the farm that provide practical and behavioral life skills for participants.

Michelle oversees the organizations' Cultivating Change in Youth diversion programming focused on life skills and career pathways services supporting justice-involved and at-risk youth (ages 14-18). Since Michelle joined TUF, this program has seen tremendous growth.

Approximately 20 youth are employed in each cohort of the earn-while-you-learn 10-week program. Youth are referred through Denver Juvenile Youth Services, the 2nd Judicial Juvenile Court and other partners, vetted to ensure fit, and rotate through different areas of the farm (4x per week per week).

Michelle cares deeply that youth feel empowered to elevate their future. She noted in an interview that "the two things teens need most are financial opportunity and emotional support" and "this is something hands-on, where you build something or grow something or care for an animal and achieve your goals."

Program youth also receive wraparound services, food learn to monitor and manage emotions, practice empathy towards themselves and others, and develop foundational strategies to help them navigate the world as adults. All TUF youth leave the program with a bank account to support a financially-sound future, and a resume for future employment.

In 2022, TUF served 80+ at-risk youth, who dedicated 1,900 earn-while-you-learn vocational program hours. 96% of participants are youth of color and 90% reside in neighborhoods that experience higher rates of poverty and crime and often lack access to basic services, including healthy food.

A program participant shared that "there aren't enough safe spaces for kids who are surrounded by gang violence. The farm provides a little escape and shows kids there are other things out there."

The Urban Farm provides that safe space and a compassionate leader in Michelle Graham Rodriguez.

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