Thoreau Community Center, USA
During her assignment with Teach for America as a math teacher in Thoreau, New Mexico, a town on located just outside the Navajo Nation Reservation, Juliana Ko experienced first hand the challenges the low-income community faced and the impact the loss of hope was having on the youth population. During her first year of teaching, one of her students committed suicide. During the next 12 months, 14 other youth in the community also took their own lives. After these tragic events and hearing the chilling questions from other students asking, “Why should I live,” she knew that something urgent and sustainable needed to be done. She worked with the community to listen, share ideas, and research options for ways to help prevent more youth from taking their own lives.
In 2010, Juliana established Thoreau Community Center (TCC) to provide a safe space where youth could come, be inspired and access the support and resources they desperately needed for their health/well-being, education, and recreation. TCC’s holistic approach includes a healthy balance of after-school programs, counseling and enrichment programs geared towards teen suicide prevention, reducing drug and alcohol abuse and inspiring hope, joy, and progress amongst youth and the larger community. Since the center’s founding, there have been zero youth suicides in the community. Currently, Juliana is working with the Board of Directors and community to facilitate a transition in leadership to a local Navajo community leader - though she plans to remain involved with the Thoreau Community Center for years to come.