Since its inception in 1996 Red Ribbon Project (RRP) has served Eagle County as a nonprofit with a focus of HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and education. The organization originally formed in order to address a gap in services and systems for the prevention of HIV. Since then the organization has continuously evolved to address HIV through a broad look at many of the social determinants of health. For twenty-four years the RRP has provided Youth Skills Building (YSB) classes, free HIV testing, educational resources, teenage pregnancy prevention programming and condoms to the Eagle County community. RRP has also provided connections to financial, medical, and emotional resources for those affected by HIV.
Recognizing the inter-relatedness between HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and teen pregnancy the RRP enhanced and expanded the mission in 2010. The mission statement is to "promote healthier lives by empowering the community to reduce teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other STIs".
The meaningful, collaborative relationships the RRP has built with the school district, health and medical agencies, and youth serving organizations assures the RRP's comprehensive programming for youth and adults compliments and enhances the work of RRP's partners, yet avoids duplication. Collaborative relationships provide sustainability to the organization and the work by using resources efficiently. A cornerstone of the RRP's work is it's Youth Skills Building (YSB) program. RRP realizes that education alone will not impact behavior. Our education programs have evolved to develop students' skills at decision-making, self-awareness, coping, self efficacy, and conducting healthy relationships; all of which bring spillover benefits to other youth issues such as violence and substance abuse prevention. Thus, prevention programming focuses on celebrating and strengthening existing positive behaviors as well as building resilience and skills to improve behaviors. RRP wants to help raise kids who are responsible, productive, employable members of our community.
In addition to skills building, classes teach factual sexual health information ranging from maturation classes for 5th and 6th graders to the epidemiology of HIV and STIs for an older audience. These classes fill an important gap for Eagle County youth who, due to budget cuts at Eagle County schools and parent reluctance to teach these taboo topics, would not receive this education otherwise. The safety of young people is a community concern. Interventions that help young people learn to make better choices is an effective component of a larger commitment to youth development and healthy communities.
From very modest beginnings, Red Ribbon Project has evolved into an effective and sustainable organization over the past 25 years. Until twelve years ago, Red Ribbon Project was a 100% volunteer organization. There is a misconception that Eagle County, being a resort community, does not have a large at-risk population. This is not the case. Red Ribbon Project strives to impact all youth in middle and high schools, and has expanded our programming to target a high risk group for teen pregnancy.