TrueStar Mile High Magazine – Facing Real Teen Issues while Healing Real Teens


Here at Excelsior, the name “TrueStar” reminds us of our own youth; youth who work tirelessly to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and blossom into healthy, productive and compassionate members of their families and communities. So it’s fitting that for the second year, Excelsior has been able to offer our youth the opportunity to participate in creating TrueStar Mile High Magazine.

Over the course of ten weeks, a group of seven Excelsior “true stars” worked diligently to learn the arts of journalism and photography in order to create and publish their very own magazine. Still, journalism is not the only thing they learn from this project – more importantly, they learn how to express themselves positively, work as a team and support one another to navigate obstacles.

“I have been able to overcome challenges in my life by allowing people to support me…
 This year I have learned how to persevere and how to keep trying and to never give up.”
–Jadea, Excelsior TrueStar participant

From conception to completion, the seven “true stars” collaborate to create a magazine that is a reflection of themselves – they select all their own topics according to their individual and team interests. While topics span across many areas, they are largely focused on real challenges they’re facing in their own lives. This not only demonstrates incredible self-awareness and a true desire to change, but also their yearning to help their peers and educate their communities about the realities that face today’s teenagers, like unplanned pregnancy and self-harm. While these are difficult and often painful issues to discuss, our youth understand the importance of open communication in battling these problems.

Take for example the article “Self-Harm Myths and Fact” – many of Excelsior’s youth, if not most, have struggled with self-harm, which is sadly not surprising when considering the statistics. According to, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury. Our youth understand all too well how relevant and devastating self-harm is for teenagers, so they hope to help combat the problem by offering education and resources to those struggling and to the community at large.

The TrueStar Mile High Magazine project also enables our youth to draw inspiration from the real world as they face their own challenges. For example, in this edition they chose to write an article about Demi Lovato, a celebrity who has dealt with eating disorders, self-harm and addiction throughout her life. Stories like these give them hope. They are inspired by the strength of their idols and learn that they too, can overcome their struggles to find great success.

Excelsior’s GOALS Program (Guys/Gals Overcoming Addiction for Lifelong Success)

The TrueStar Magazine project is a component of Excelsior’s GOALS program, a multidimensional program that provides supportive services to youth actively engaged in or at-risk for addiction. GOALS provides addiction counseling in conjunction with prosocial, educational and recreational activities that enhance recovery, prevent relapse and enrich their lives.

“The accessibility of drugs, alcohol and negative peer influence for teenagers these days is abundant and needs to be deflected with constructive community resources and consistent substance abuse counseling”, comments Matt Louzon, Excelsior’s Director of High Fidelity Wraparound Services.

TrueStar Magazine is one of many prosocial and educational projects made available to GOALS youth. It has been an incredible outlet through which they can explore and express their struggles, learn how to work with others and feel a huge sense of accomplishment and pride with the final product.

“I never wanted to complete things before – doing drugs made it easy to quit things without feeling bad. But now it feels good to be part of a special project, and I don’t want to stop!”
 –Anonymous Excelsior TrueStar participant

The partnerships and people that made it all possible

“Our children, youth and families grow best when organizations like Excelsior work effectively together with their communities, donors and mission partners to build innovative opportunities for them to test their limits and reach for their own “stars” within the context of a safe and trusting network of support”. –Susan Hebert, Excelsior Chief Executive Officer

Excelsior would like to extend a huge thanks to the organizations and individuals that make TrueStar Mile High Magazine possible:

Thank you to Anschutz Foundation and Daniels Fund for providing funding to support our substance abuse treatment programming – without your support, this project would not be possible.

Special thanks to the Excelsior family who made this project possible for our youth: Linda Johnson – GOALS and TrueStar Program Manager, Lisa Post – Behavioral Coach and TrueStar Program Assistant, Leta Calvert – Volunteer, and Sheila Bollig, Administrative Assistant.