AURORA, Colo. -- "So this is called HeroLab and we are going to go over the next few weeks what a hero is," Alexandria Jimenez explains to a room full of teens and children in the basement of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver.
Jimenez is the program coordinator at PlatteForum which is a non-profit arts program for under served high school teens in the Denver area.
For four weeks, PlatteForum ArtLab teen interns will team up with kids of the Colfax Community Network to work on a summer literacy project. Each team will create a comic strip expressing what it means to be a hero.
"Each of us, we're going to have our own heroes," explained ArtLab intern, Jelani Dobynes. "And then we are going to put them inside of a story. Its going to be like a chose your own adventure book. I think it will be cool."
Dobynes knows he will be working with a unique group of kids. The kids in the Colfax Community Network know a thing or two about heroism.
"Yeah, they really have to be strong to wake up the next day and be positive," says Kelley Birschbach, Communications Director at the Colfax Community Network.
Strong because the Colfax Community Network is made up of kids who live in motels along Colfax Avenue with their families.
"There's a lot of negativity along Colfax Ave. sometimes," says Birschbach. "The motels often have infestations, crime, prostitution going on all around them. And they see all these things. I mean our kids have seen things no kid should see."
Birschbach says art serves as a powerful escape for the children. "They need to know that they have the power to change things."
As heroes are born and storylines come to life, friendships form between the teens and kids.
"We've been causing a little bit of trouble together, like we've been getting along really well," says ArtLab Intern Ruben Pedroza with a chuckle.
Finally after four weeks of hard work the teams are ready to show off their comic creations. The PlatteForum Artlab is now an art exhibit and the walls are transformed to life size pages.
"My super hero is a super woman. She's like the best of all the superheroes," explains six-year-old Justice Garey with glee.
As the Colfax Community Network kids share their work, teen intern Dobynes notices one common thread each Colfax Community Network kid shares. "They like go through a lot but they don't let that effect them in any way. You don't let circumstances decide who you are, you decide who you are."
And Alexandria Jimenez seems to speak for all involved in the project when she declares, "it's been fun."
For more information on how to give back to the children and families of the Colfax Community Network organization, check out this link: http://colfaxcommunitynetwork.org/AlertMe