Strengthening Families program helps bring peace to Weld County families |

Strengthening Families program helps bring peace to Weld County families

Kelly Ragan

Vielka Lujan and her son, Emiliano, struggled to see eye to eye for years. After taking a seven week course called Strengthening Families, offered through North Range Behavioral Health, the two learned how to better understand each other.

Vielka Lujan felt as if she was at her wit's end.

She was a single mom. Her son was starting to grow up, and she believed he didn't listen to her. Other family members and friends seemed to have more influence on him. She was worried he might go down a bad path. She didn't know how to make him listen to her.

There were times when she'd get frustrated and punish him a little too much. That made her son, Emiliano, frustrated.

They were both unhappy, and Emiliano wasn't even a teenager yet.

Lujan's sister, a facilitator at North Range Behavioral Health's Strengthening Families program, suggested Lujan come to the class. Lujan was hesitant at first. When she looked into it, it seemed like the focus was on drug and alcohol prevention. Emiliano wasn't into that. But she decided to give it a try. She wanted to do something to salvage her relationship with her son.

"Once I started," said Lujan, who lives in Fort Lupton, "I learned it was about more."

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The program does have a heavy focus on preventing drug and alcohol abuse. In 2004, Weld County was designated as one of Colorado's worst areas for underage drinking. Because of that designation, the Colorado Prevention Partnership Advisory Council chose to fund Weld among others with a five-year Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive grant. In 2009 the program got more funding from the Colorado Partnership for Success grant, which has covered the cost ever since.

The program goes beyond simply telling kids drugs and alcohol are bad. It helps cultivate better relationships between parents and their children. Classes focus on helping parents to set better limits, encourage good behavior, build bridges with their children and more. It helps children learn to set goals and have dreams, deal with stress, resist peer pressure and more.

Leah Oritz, one of the leaders with Strengthening Families, said the program helps families get to know each other.

One project requires all the kids to make a visual representation of what they want their future to be. Parents then have to go around the room and try to figure out which one their kid made.

As a result, Lujan and Emiliano started to understand each other better. Lujan learned how to try to understand her son, when before she just would have been upset with him. But Emiliano learned just as much as his mother.

When they started the program two years ago, Emiliano was 11. He admits he thought it was a waste of a weekend when they started, but as they kept going to the sessions, he learned from them.

"They taught you to deal with your own stuff," Emiliano said. "It taught you to put limits on yourself."

Emiliano learned to think about how his actions could impact his future and how that might change his chance at his dream. He'd never really thought about that before, he said. Now he wants to get better at drawing and learn how to design webpages.

And the program did help Emiliano figure out what to do when drugs came up. Someone at Fort Lupton Middle School said he had marijuana. When he took it out, Emiliano left.

"I'm proud he doesn't get involved in those things," Lujan said.

Lujan decided to become a facilitator for Strengthening Families. The program hosts two-hour classes for seven weeks four times each year, with one class in Greeley, Fort Lupton, Ault and Kersey.

Each time she goes to help with a class, Lujan said, she learns something new.

For more information

For more information about the program or to sign up for the next class, go to or call (970) 313-1159.