Chi Omega Sorority Promotes Make-a-Wish

Story and gallery by VIRGINIA HILL 

As a college student, it can be hard to get involved with service or even think about anything other than yourself and school. But an unlikely group is encouraging students to get involved in philanthropy and making it fun. Chi Omega, or Chio, is hosting a service-oriented week to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Chi Omega is a national sorority with the local chapter being part of the University of Utah campus. Chio attracts hundred of women every year and encourages friendship and sisterhood. According to the Chio’s mission statement, it strives to promote friendship, personal integrity, service to others, academic excellence, community, campus involvement, and personal development. While sororities throughout the country may get a reputation contrary to this mission statement, the annual efforts of the local Chio chapter to host a Wish Week in service to the Make-A-Wish Foundation demonstrate its devotion to the sorority’s mission.

Savanna Dubell, president of the local chapter of Chi Omega, made it clear how important service is to her and the members. She explained Chio’s history with Make-A-Wish and the dedication to service. “For almost 30 years Chio has had a national philanthropy, it is a cause that the sorority believes in and that all chapters would work to raise money for. A while ago they made a partnership with Make-A-Wish and that is who we continue to work with today,” she said.

From Sept. 24-27, Chio hosts Wish Week, a week completely devoted to planned, paid admission events that attract peers to come and participate in philanthropic efforts. This annual event changes from year to year depending on plans made by the director of philanthropy.

Eliza Parkin, the 2018 director, gave a brief summary of the week she planned: “Monday was dessert night, where girls bake or buy treats and other students come and buy them, Tuesday we partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings to bring wings to our house where boys or girls can compete in a wing eating contest, Wednesday we partnered with Chipotle so they will give us a portion of all profits made at one of their locations, and Thursday we hosted a big soccer tournament for anyone who wants to watch or participate.”

With all these events there is some sort of purchase or buy-in, and Parkin explained that 100 percent of the money went toward Make-A-Wish to help one particular child.

This child is an important one and the focus of all of Chio’s efforts. With the philanthropic efforts each year, Chio is able to donate the money to a particular child through Make-A-Wish. Both Parkin and Dubell feel that this personal approach to donation and philanthropy “incentivizes the girls to work towards something meaningful and feel that their efforts and money are going toward something real.”

This year’s 2018 Wish Girl is Mackenzie, a 13-year-old who has been battling cancer. According to Chios interviewed for this story, Mackenzie has a bubbly personality that has not been diminished by her personal health struggles. Mackenzie has a wish to go to Disney World and with the efforts of Chio, they hope to reach this goal by the end of the year. The women have all been able to meet Mackenzie and are touched by her story.

Meggie Nelson, a sister of Chi Omega, said, “Mackenzie and Make-A-Wish are very close to my heart and our chapter wants to do everything it can to raise money for her.”

Chios are pushing to completely fulfill her wish and are on track to do so. The Chio women’s efforts to do just that are tremendous, they worked tirelessly to plan and orchestrate great events, they posted announcements and calls to action on social media to encourage friends to come and participate. These events turned out to be packed with students and peers enjoying themselves and contributing what they could to this cause.

The women’s devotion to this has been encouraging and sets an example to others about service. This devotion seems to be a national effort as well. According to the national Chi Omega website, chapters have raised “more than 20 million dollars and have volunteered over a million hours for Make-A-Wish.” But Wish Week is just the beginning of Chio’s philanthropic efforts this 2018 school year. According to Parkin, the chapter will continue to host events and find ways to raise money for Mackenzie through the end of the school year. There is even talk of hosting a masquerade ball to further their efforts. The work of Chio and its leaders has made for a successful Wish Week.

 

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Sorority members flashing the Chi Omega sign at Dessert Night.

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Sorority members and their peers showing support for the week’s events.

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Gearing up for the wing contest.

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Sorority girls posing with Wish Girl Mackenzie.

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Rows of college students prepare for the wing competition.

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Mackenzie is introduced to the group of students.

 

 

Reaching out to China’s past

Story and gallery by PORTER L. ANDERSON

The Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City has for many years been a free and open facility where visitors can come and conduct research about their ancestors. The library is the largest genealogical library in the world and attracts people from all walks of life to travel to Utah just to take part in the work that takes place there.

Recently the library has implemented a new interactive activity for those visitors who come from China. “The Genealogical Society of Utah and the Family History Library have always been working to build an open and informative experience for visitors of our great state,” said Yvonne Sorenson, the library’s administrative representative.

The Family History Library is located on Temple Square, which is the most visited tourist site in all of Utah. Temple Square is a large plot of land with many different facilities that are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian church that has a strong following in Utah.

The interactive experience that can be found on the main floor of the Family History Library is meant to be the first look into genealogical work for those who haven’t had much experience before. Visitors are guided by the volunteers that work in the library to several different stations where they are able to learn about famous relatives, facts about their birth, interesting stories about ancestors, and so much more.

The newly remodeled main floor has been open for almost two years but just recently the administration decided to create an experience specifically for Chinese guests who couldn’t take part in the regular activities due to lack of Chinese records in the library.

“We realized that so many international visitors would come to visit Temple Square but, we would often have to turn them away from our interactive activities. We wanted to help reach out to these people in any simple way we could to help the guests get excited about family history work while making them feel welcome to our facilities,” Sorenson said.

The Chinese experience has been in place for almost three months and the results have been nothing short of amazing. One of the translators for the library, Charles Garrett, said, “It is so amazing to see these wonderful people come to the library and be so excited to see that they can learn simple things like the origin of their last name. They just seem to light up and get excited to learn more about their families.”

While the program is still in the testing phases it remains very simple but, with the results that have been observed over the past few months, the administration of the library is really excited to continue building on the experience. “I would love to see the experiment we have created grow to a more substantial point,” Garrett said when asked how he felt about the future of the program.

While the future of the program seems bright, no concrete plans have been made to improve the activities or even keep them up and running after the test period is over at the end of the year. The patrons of the library are very inspired by the activity and seem genuinely excited to revisit the library if they were to visit Utah again.

“This was very interesting for me because it taught me a lot of information about myself that I didn’t know. I only wish the building had the materials for me to do more searching into my past,” said Li-Wei Chen, a visitor who is traveling from Shanghai.

This is the exact result that the library administration was hoping to see from these visitors. “We were hoping that we could build the excitement that we see the locals get when visiting but, we’re a little short on resources to do it. I think the team in charge of the program has done a wonderful job creating this experience and I hope that we decided to put more effort and keep the program for the long-term,” Sorenson said.

The library has access to thousands of genealogical resources but few of those are Chinese, which makes the program that much more impressive. The program being added for the long-term would be a great addition to the library but would also help the state of Utah as well. Creating global attractions like the Family History Library builds the state’s reputation as a place that welcomes all visitors.

With the inclusion of the Chinese experience in the Family History Library, it shows that the LDS church is aware of the importance it holds in building tourism and attending to the growing international attention that Utah is getting.

Sorenson added, “We want to continue to create a global experience here that can be enjoyed by all. The journey may be difficult and we may struggle to find a way but, we are determined to help all find the joys that genealogical work can bring to an individual.”

How part-time job affects GPA and tips to success

Story and gallery by SEOK LEE

People work in companies and students go to college to study to get better jobs after they graduate. To study in a university, students pay lots of tuition fees to university administration. The reason why people go to college is that some jobs require a university diploma.

In other words, people want to have better jobs by investing money in college tuition like a stock market. Parents bankroll money for their child’s future and child spends time for their future. Even some students supply money by themselves without parents’ financial support.

Students have a part- or full-time job to earn money for tuition fees. Also, some students work to gain industry experience and to be a more competitive applicant in the job market. Moreover, some people work part-time to earn pocket money for themselves. These show that college students work a part- or full-time job for various reasons.

As a result of a survey with 10 college students at Marriott Library, eight out of 10 students currently have a part- or full-time job, and two students have worked a part-time job in the past, but they mention that they are now concentrating more on their studies.

More college students who are currently working answer that they work 11 to 20 hours a week. Nine out of 10 respondents to the questionnaire say that working less would lead to higher academic achievement.

They say that if they worked fewer hours, they would have more time to spend studying. Also, they respond to the questionnaire that working while attending college had somewhat negatively affected their GPA.

One respondent said that working less would not lead to higher academic achievement. He said in the questionnaire that it is only an excuse for not having time to study because of a part- or full-time job.

He points out one survey question and says if people want to get higher GPA or college success, it is essential to study a lot. The survey question that he answered was: how many hours a week do you study for classes?

According to survey results, most respondents respond that they study 11 to 20 hours per week. He said that he studies more than 30 hours per week. He said working a part -or full-time job to earn money for tuition is not a good idea.

Instead, studying hard and trying to get a scholarship is more beneficial for the future. He says that he applies for scholarships and he also accepts subsidizing financial aid in the university.

Good scholarships are needed to study hard. ASUU offers a tutoring system to all university students. It is located in the Student Services Building, third floor. ASUU provides tutoring service in its office and library. Kassidy L. Giggey, a learning specialist in ASUU’s Learning Success Center, says, “Large numbers of students use tutoring and one or two students per week come to ASUU and ask for tutoring.”

In order to get good grades while working, she suggests making a schedule and posting it where a student can see at easily. She recommends doing this for a month as a habit. When a student plans to make a schedule, she says, “It is recommended to study six or seven hours per class.”

She emphasizes, “It is regrettable that many students are not yet familiar with this program, and our office is ready to help students at any time.”

The Learning Success Center, which is located in the Student Services Building, third floor, also provides online resources to support study tips such as better note taking, study guides, time management, study skills and more. These online resources help students to study easier and better.

The Academic Advising Center, located in the Student Services Building, fourth floor, and major advisors also help students succeed in college. One academic advisor named Steve Hadley says, “Lots of students work part-time but they take over 15 credits. This is one of the reasons students get tired before graduation.”

He says, “If students have a part-time job, I advise them not to take more than 15 credit hours and if students have a full-time job, I advise them not to take more than six to seven credit hours. For a better school life, balance in work and study is needed.”

He also says, “In fact, many students want to get good grades and ask me for advice that they do not have enough time to study because of work. It is always welcome to help students so please make an appointment on the website anytime.”

The Student Success Advocate Office is in Sill Center near the Union. This program was made five years ago and it also supports students’ college success. Because it is not the old program, it has not been known to many students yet.

April Ollivier, who works in the Student Success Advocate Office, says, “Learning Success Center and Student Success Advocate Office is quite different. The ASUU tutoring system in the Learning Success Center is providing more academic skills to students but the Student Success Advocate Office gives advice to students with ordinary issues too.”

She also mentions, “Student Success Advocate Office provides texting system so they text students whether they are fine in college or not.”

According to survey results, a part- or full-time job affects GPA somewhat negatively but there are some tips to succeed in college life. Both studying hard gives success in university and engaging in clubs and activities help students succeed in college too.

University provides lots of programs for students to succeed in college life such as Learning Success Center’s ASUU tutoring system or Student Advocate Office provides. Hopefully, all students have a good university life before doing social activities after graduate.

Bags to Beds program makes a lasting impact upon the homeless community in Salt Lake City

Story, photos, and video by SPENCER K. GREGORY

A local student has created a service project that has impacted the homeless community in Salt Lake City.

Kaitlin Mclean, creator and director of the Bags to Beds program.

Kaitlin McLean, a fifth-year student at the University of Utah, has created a system in which the participant recycles plastic bags, creates plastic yarn, and produces mats that she said can then be used to “help our homeless neighbors.” This service project has been referred to as Bags to Beds.

“Bags to Beds is a community service project that’s looking to reduce waste for our community by breaking down plastic bags that can’t be recycled,” McLean said.

She organized this student-directed service project through the Bennion Center. The Bennion Center is a nonprofit organization on the U’s campus that serves the local community.

Since then, McLean is now the director of the program and has made a tremendous impact upon sustainability within the Salt Lake Valley.

She said that it averages about 40-50 hours of service per mat.

Students can get involved with however much time they want to spend.

One U student, Megan Peterson, said, “The project itself was really easy, and not hard to understand.”

Peterson is currently a third-year student who is studying communication with an emphasis in strategic communication. She specifically loves to help out the Bennion Center Scholars program.

Peterson mentions how she was first introduced to Bags to Beds at a Scholars social where they just ate pizza. In the meeting they casually discussed goal setting with students pursuing their work for their personal engagement within the community.

Afterward, the Scholars were unified in their efforts to cut plastic bags into objects that would later be used into “plarn.”

U students hard at work with “plarn.”

“Plarn” is the term that Bags to Beds has adopted to describe the unique process of creating the service phenomenon.

Bryan Luu offers insight as to the process and functionality of plarn making. He said, “Plarn is a form of plastic yarn. It’s what wove together these giant mats. All of it’s made from plastic bags that have just been cut into strips and tied together to resemble the yarn.”

Once the mats are made from the plarn, they are immediately distributed to a local resource center or to Project Homeless Connect.

Homeless Connect is a one-day event that helps provide services and outlets for those who are homeless. People can learn how to get involved in this project by visiting the website.

The program has a tremendous connection to the Project Homeless Connect happening in downtown Salt Lake City. “We’ll have all the mats we’ve finished throughout the year for those that are anticipating they’ll be outside this year,” McLean said.

McLean said they expect to help more than 600 individuals during 2018.
“It also gives us an opportunity to work with other people who work with this population, and also get to know the people we are serving,” she said.

This program has made a great impact upon a tremendous social issue.
Peterson said, “Even though homelessness itself is such a huge issue, they’re just trying to help a little bit by taking waste that can’t even be recycled, and then re-using them for something useful.”

Peterson added, “It also helped me focus in on an issue that I’m not thinking about all the time.”

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Bryan Luu shares his experience with Bags to Beds.

Luu, a fifth-year student at the U studying civil engineering and urban ecology, said, “My time with Bags to Beds really has shaped a lot of my community involvement because I feel as if I can continue making a difference. Just having that knowledge, is just really important. Then I can be able to still give back to my community.”

Students or other patrons can visit Bags to Beds to get actively involved. Visitors can then fill out a volunteer interest form.

Bags to Beds has trained organizations and individuals to work independently on the service project at the Bennion Center or even at home.

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Bags to Beds was founded by University of Utah student Kaitlin McLean.

So if you’re a community member, student, or local citizen in the community there are many ways for you to get engaged in this great organization. According to McLean, Bags to Beds can even personally deliver plarn right at your door.

Peterson said it’s an “easy way to get involved.”

Paige Remington, another student at the U, said, “Although I am not directly helping people who are experiencing homelessness, I am using my hands and my time to create something that will hopefully alleviate a small amount of suffering.”

Debbie Hair, the administrative assistant for the Bennion Center.

Debbie Hair is the administrative assistant for the Bennion Center. She has helped the founder of Bags to Beds from the beginning. She said, “This project went off miraculously with a lot of attention.”

Hair added, “There’s a couple of different reaches this program has, one is environment. We’re not just reaching out to the homeless to give them comfort, but we’re also repurposing those bags.”

According to Bags to Beds, the program has collected over 12,000 plastic bags for active sustainable use in the community.

Bags to Beds has a plan to prepare a model that is sustainable moving forward. McLean said, “The project will continue to flourish no matter how many students there are.”

Students through the Bennion Center and community members in the Salt Lake Valley have been the main community engagement resource, providing service hours for the program. However, the organization plans to spread to other cities.

Since the early years of the program, it has now officially become an incorporated business outside of the Bennion Center.

McLean said, “Bags to Beds is now in the process of becoming a tax-deductible nonprofit organization.” Bags to Beds has made a tremendous impact upon the homeless society in the Salt Lake Valley and will continue to change countless future lives.

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To act, or not to act … There is no question at the Utah Shakespeare Competition

Story and photos by KIM DAVISON

Shakespeare Festival Shakespeare Statue Cedar City small

Next year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival season is full of classics like “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “Twelfth Night.”

Every year, when the leaves begin to crunch, the air starts to feel crisp and the sounds of students reciting Shakespeare fill the hall of every junior and senior high school, it means that it is time for the annual Utah Shakespeare Competition. Young thespians from far and wide make their way south through Utah’s red rock to Cedar City, ready to take the stage. These kids love what they do and cannot wait to share it with the world.

The main element that makes the Shakespeare Competition so special is that it is part of the large and well-known Utah Shakespeare Festival. The competition, held at Southern Utah University, celebrated its 42nd year in 2018. Fox 13 Salt Lake City stated, “The competition is the largest scholastic Shakespeare competition in the country, and this was a record-breaking year with nearly 3,600 students from 123 schools in seven states and the U. S. Virgin Islands.”

The different sections of the competition include large ensemble scenes, duo/trio scenes, minstrels, dance and technical elements, all separated by divisions based on the school size.

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Troupes are able to bring props, set pieces, masks and more to make their scenes stand out from the other schools’.

Each school puts together an ensemble scene to perform at the competition. This is by far the element that takes the students and their director the most time and preparation. Penelope Caywood, the artistic director of Youth Theatre at the University of Utah, said she thinks that “competition is great motivation” for her students.

Some schools rehearse for a few weeks, others for months. The ensemble scene needs to be perfect and show the theater program and students in the best possible light. Scenes can be chosen and performed from any Shakespeare play, but some have a higher degree of difficulty than others. This can be a large factor in deciding which scenes to take to competition because they need to be challenging and have a competitive edge. This is similar to a gymnast selecting certain elements based on their degree of difficulty.

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Some schools choose to perform Shakespeare works that are not his traditional plays, like epic poems and sonnets.

The Shakespeare performed at the competition is unlike any other Shakespeare you will see. Because the ensemble groups are restricted to 10-minute scenes, they have the ability to take creative liberties with the themes they highlight. There are scenes that use a “Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter” theme or some that choose to tackle political issues of today using Shakespeare’s words to drive their points home.

The students have a chance to let their individual and small group talents shine in the monologue/duo and trio scene competition. For this event, the students do most of the work on their own time. They rehearse outside of school to hone their craft and give the best performance they can. These competitions have lots of rules and are strictly timed at two or five minutes depending on the event, but are worth it if they want to show off their Shakespeare chops!

All of the musically talented students from schools all over the country come to compete in the Utah Shakespeare Competition’s madrigal and minstrel contest. There are no separate divisions, which makes the events far more competitive. Participants prepare songs from Shakespeare’s time and perform with either vocals, a mix of vocals and instruments, or just instruments.

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Penelope Caywood, the artistic director of Youth Theatre at the University of Utah, giving her dance ensemble some last-minute tips before the performance.

There is also a dance competition, which is a great place for seasoned dancers to show their technique and for new dancers to learn and improve their dancing abilities. Peyton Lozano, a senior from Skyline High School in Granite School District, has competed for three years. “It’s a big bonding experience,” she said. “We do really cool shows every year. It’s also the one time in the year that we get to dance. It’s not just about performing Shakespeare as it’s traditionally done.”

For students who are interested in theatrical elements other than performing Shakespeare, side competitions are options. Each school brings an improvisational team to Southern Utah University. Improv is difficult but fun when done well. It is the art of making up scenes and dialogue on the spot. It’s usually funny and the kids who compete are talented and quick on their feet.

Another option is the Technical Olympics. Students interested in stage management, costume design, lighting, sound, and hair/makeup get to put their skills to the test. Because each element is timed and the students compete as a team, the Technical Olympics gets extremely competitive and is exhilarating to watch.

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Trophies and certificates are given to the winners of the competitions. Some students even receive scholarships to Southern Utah University.

This is a competition, after all, so the students get the chance to win awards in any of the categories. A sweepstakes award is given to the group that has the most wins overall. The competition is split up into different divisions based on school size and age. Max Brown, a junior from Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City, talked about his first experience at the Utah Shakespeare Competition. “It was all very fun,” he said. “It was nice to be recognized for all of our hard work! It’s cool to put a lot of effort into something and then have other people who weren’t involved in the process also think that it is good.”

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An ensemble working on its scene where each member of the cast portrays a different personality trait of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Shakespeare’s writing has the ability to impact people of all ages and backgrounds. His work helps students find ways to talk about and deal with issues that can be otherwise difficult or uncomfortable. Caywood, with the U’s Youth Theatre, said, “We’ve talked about so many current issues through Shakespeare, whether it’s the #MeToo movement, immigration, whether it’s racism, rape and other kinds of abuse. There have been so many things that we have been able to talk about with these high schools students as we are processing and getting ready for the show. I don’t know of another time in the year that we get to address some of those issues and talk about Shakespeare at the same time. He’s so timely.”

 

 

An nonprofit’s initiative to educate Utah about child abuse

Story and images by ALLISON PFERDNER

The statistic — one in five Utah kids will be sexually abused before they turn 18 — is one of the first things you’ll see when you visit Prevent Child Abuse Utah’s website. Prevent Child Abuse Utah, or PCAU, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate children and parents throughout the state in hopes of lowering Utah’s child abuse rate, which is three times the national average.

Child abuse statistics are framed and hung in the organization’s offices in Salt Lake City.

PCAU has developed an age-appropriate curriculum and staff go into K-12 schools to teach children how to recognize abuse and empower them to report it.

As the community outreach program administrator for PCAU, Gwen Knight trains adults to recognize abuse, understand the reporting laws in Utah, and support the students once they report. Knight said that according to research, once adults are taught to recognize abuse and report it, they are more likely to want their children to learn about it as well.

This is Gwen Knight in her office at PCAU’s headquarters in Salt Lake City.

This brings up the topic of how PCAU brings awareness to its organization and how it gets into schools to teach its curriculum. Through community outreach programs, booths at the PTA Convention, and the many presentations PCAU does throughout the state, schools will reach out to PCAU to learn more about having the nonprofit come teach its curriculum in specific schools.

While many schools want the organization to teach its curriculum, other schools are difficult to get into. Knight provides a few counterpoints for some of the common reasons why schools say no. First, schools use the excuse of not having time for the classes. Knight said, “It only takes 30 minutes and if a child is dealing with abuse, they aren’t focusing anyway.” Second, schools don’t want their communities to perceive that their schools have children being abused in them. However, research shows that abuse happens in every demographic.

This is Safetysaurus, the puppet mascot, which is used to teach children in schools.

Parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum before it is taught and if they don’t approve, they are able to indicate that they don’t want their child to participate. The age-appropriate curriculum covers every kind of abuse including sexual, emotional, neglect, and physical abuse. It teaches children that their bodies belong to them.

PCAU is a statewide organization with community partners in Box Elder, Cedar City, the Uintah Basin, Tooele, Park City, and the Wasatch area. It trains people in each of these areas on its curriculum. This helps the nonprofit reach more people.

This organization also provides a program called Parents as Teachers in Davis County. Staff go directly to the homes of pregnant women and families with kids up to the age of 5. They provide instruction on how to raise healthy children by teaching about nutrition, sleep, safety, and discipline.

PCAU’s Certificate of Charter is displayed on the front desk in the Salt Lake office.

Rebecca Virgo, the Parents As Teachers Program administrator, says that other than reaching out to households, the program gets referrals from hospitals as well as families contacting them. The program has a list of stressors that staff pay attention to in order to know who they should reach out to. Some of these stressors are: military families, incarcerated parents, teen parents, and any type of illness present in the home.

Virgo said the biggest challenge of going into homes and working with the families is the observation that “helping is not always helpful.” When some parents receive help, they often don’t feel like they are seen as capable or trustworthy. It is more important for the visiting staff to connect the family with resources that will assist them rather than doing all the work for the parents.

A pinwheel is the symbol for preventing child abuse in America.

The staff’s main goals when they work with families are to facilitate connection, help them achieve goals, and to supply them with a wide range of parenting skills. “Your story that you grew up with doesn’t have to be your story for your children,” Virgo said.

The program is helping 120 families right now and is looking to expand to help 45 more in the near future. Due to the labor-intensive nature of this program, it can’t expand too far but Virgo suggests an alternative to families who want the extra help.

If you text utfamily to 27448, you can subscribe to Bright by Text, which sends out messages to parents of children prenatal to 5 years old. The messages contain helpful information based on the age of the child on things like child development, health and safety, and tips.

In both of these programs, Community Outreach and Parents as Teachers, Prevent Child Abuse Utah is spreading awareness and making a difference in children’s lives around the state.

As the assistant to the executive director, Ashley Workman urges everyone “not to underestimate the importance of what we do.”

“You can never teach this information too much,” Workman said.

So much growth has already happened in PCAU and the communities it works with and so much more can happen, Workman said. She wants parents to “not be surprised by the fact that the majority of abusers are people the child trusts because it’s unfortunately common.”

Workman’s plea to parents is: “If they run into a child that’s been abused, beg them to support the child.”

Prevent Child Abuse Utah’s logo on the main wall in the office.

Beyond the water cycle: Life and environmental lessons from a former BLM director

Story and Photos By: JAKE PHILLIPS 

Patrick Shea’s beard was wet.

It was an oddly fitting picture of the former director of the Bureau of Land Management, who despite being out of government for 20 years, has water on his mind a lot these days. It was a rainy Thursday morning, and Shea, 70, was strolling to class.

Not on the University of Utah campus, where he’s been a research professor of biology and taught a class on urban streams for years, but at a local elementary school.

Every Thursday morning Shea teaches a class on water to fourth graders at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City. He arrived to a roomful of damp students who had just returned from recess.

As their teacher, Hannah Dolata, instructed her students to find their seats, Shea dried off his bushy white beard. He asked them what they had learned the previous week. The students couldn’t wait to tell him about the written equation they’d learned that showed how much water they used when showering or teeth brushing.

One student proudly exclaimed that if he brushed his teeth with the water running for three minutes and showered for 10 minutes he would have had used 52 gallons of water in the process.

“I try to conserve water every day because my grandma complains about the water bill,” said Valentine, 9.

Shea then asked the students what they should do after wetting their toothbrushes.

“Turn off the water!” the students yelled in unison.

While most elementary school students learn about the water cycle, Dolata’s fourth-grade class at Rose Park Elementary School is getting a much more in-depth education about water and how it affects them. With Utah’s less-than-abundant water supplies and growing population, water conservation has become more important than ever.

Salt Lake is winning water conservation fight

Around 33 percent of Utah is considered to be true desert, meaning the state receives 5 to 8 inches of precipitation annually, according to Utah’s Comprehensive Weather Almanac. The heavily populated Wasatch Front receives around 15 inches of precipitation annually.

Along the Wasatch Front, Salt Lake City appears to be winning in its fight to conserve water. According to the 2014 Salt Lake City Water Conservation Master Plan, conservation has exceeded expectations and the overall trend is a reduction in water use in the area. Classroom programs like Shea’s are crucial in these efforts, the city’s Department of Public Utilities said.

Yet, with climate change and other environmental concerns an increasing reality to students both in childhood and their future adulthood, it’s especially important to teach children today about ways to address these issues, Dolata said.

While Salt Lake City has responded to calls to conserve water, planners expect the city will need to do more in the future. According to a University of Utah study conducted in 2017, the state population is expected to grow from 3.2 million to 3.9 million by the year 2030, an increase of about 22 percent.

If Salt Lake residents continue to use water at the same rate they did in 2000 Salt Lake City’s water usage is expected to increase by 23 percent by 2030, according to the Salt lake City Department of Public Utilities.

Shea asked the students about where the water they use every day comes from. He explained the majority of water in Utah comes from snow in the canyons. Then the children attempted to name some of the canyons near Salt Lake.

The class’ homework assignment was to look at the weather and to document whether it was an accurate report.

“The biggest problem for you growing up is figuring out what is true and is not true,” Shea said.

A different kind of ‘water bucket’ challenge

Shea wasn’t totally out of his element. It had been five years since he had last taught elementary students about proper water usage.

The daughter of a colleague, who Shea worked with on state water laws, was teaching fourth graders and challenged the research professor to speak to her class.

Hesitant at first, Shea said he’s come to enjoy the experience.

“The students are like sponges and want to learn more,” he wrote in an email.  

A few weeks later, the professor was back, this time leading a field trip to a water treatment plant up Big Cottonwood Canyon. With Shea was Jacob Maughan, treatment plant operator, who led a tour of the plant and explained how the facility purifies water to make it potable. From there, the energetic children then returned to their bus and traveled to City Creek Canyon.

At City Creek Canyon, a popular biking and hiking destination for Salt Lake residents, the students were met by John Wells, who manages the city’s watershed operations. With students trailing behind, Wells led the class on a walk up a winding, paved canyon road while explaining why it’s important to protect the watershed.

He told students that dogs are not allowed in the canyon to protect the water quality in the streams that the city depends on. As the students fidgeted and chatted, Dolata, their teacher, stressed the importance of showing students the real-life connection to the water cycle.

“In fourth-grade science they’re learning about Utah science and start to connect what they’re learning to the world,” she said. They “see themselves as scientists.”

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Hannah Dolata and her class overlook a water storage unit and the Salt Lake Valley.

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Dolata’s class walk across a concrete platform that serves as water storage at the Big Cottonwood Water Treatment Plant.

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Patrick Shea looks on as Jacob Maughan explains how snowmelt is cleaned and transformed to drinking water.

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Maughan telling the students what chemicals are added to unclean water to make it potable.

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Maughan advises students to be cautious in his lab, because there are dangerous chemicals present.

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Dolata and her class watch water spill over a weir used to control water flow and filter out solid matter.

University of Utah students discuss their passion for medicine and science

What university students are enduring now to be successful later on.

Story and slideshow by Ryan Matthew Thurston

It’s late on a Saturday night, and while most students are sleeping, partying or hanging out with friends, Ben Battistone, a freshman from Salt Lake City, is busy studying.

“I spend 15 to 20 hours a week on homework, conservatively. If it’s a test week I spend probably about 30,” he said.

He has a good reason to study. Although Battistone is only 19, he has big plans for the future: He wants to be a doctor.

“My dad is a doctor, so I grew up around it,” he said. “I’ve always been a quantitative person, so the sciences come naturally.”

Battistone has been studying at the University of Utah for almost a year. He’s not entirely sure what kind of doctor he wants to be, but whatever his specialty, his primary focus is helping people.

“I want to make a positive difference,” he said. “I really hope people don’t do it for money or job security. You’re sacrificing quality of care. If someone’s in it for the money, they won’t be as passionate and motivated as if they’re in it for the people.”

Helping patients is an essential part of any medical profession. As one doctor told Battistone, “They don’t treat patients, they treat people.” But he says the extra workload is worth it.

“Students in general are under a lot of pressure,” Battistone said. “You have to balance a lot of things in class while being asked to somehow take extracurricular activities. It’s crazy sometimes.”

The tremendous workload is a common theme among science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. Ben Adams, a biomedical engineering major from Salt Lake City, has experienced similar trials in his pursuit of going to medical school.

“I don’t know that the major is the most important part of it,” Adams explained. “I’ve been considering changing my major to biochemistry or kinesiology.”

Between taking classes and studying, Adams also plays defense for the No. 1 ranked lacrosse team in the nation. Participating in sports has also influenced his career path.

“This summer I had a hip surgery done,” he said. “That doctor was incredible. He did such a great job that it made me think this is maybe something I want to look into.”

Like Battistone, Adams only takes four classes a semester, but considers his workload to be significantly more. Each class requires more work outside of it and contains harder concepts within.

“I’m in 12 credit hours, and it’s supposed to be a lighter load,” he explained. “But I probably spend upwards of four hours a day on calculus and bioengineering.”

Such a workload might seem unfamiliar to students with different majors. But for STEM majors and pre-med students, it’s a common thread that binds them together.

“I think about how the workload differs between majors a lot,” Adams said. “Some kids have 16 credit hours and have more free time whereas I’m swamped the whole day.”

Adams isn’t complaining though. He understands the work he has to put in might be more than someone else, comparatively.

“The end goal is very desirable,” he said. “Helping other people is something I want to do. It’s challenging but worth it.”

Helping people is a consistent theme across STEM majors, even for those who don’t want to go to medical school. Stella Ray is a chemistry major from Park City, Utah, but says she eventually wants to teach the subject in high school.

“I took chemistry all three years in high school,” she said. “I was a teaching assistant and tutor for it as well, and that’s how I decided I wanted to teach it at the high school level.”

Although Ray is only 19, education has always been something she’s wanted to work in. She explained that while chemistry can be challenging, having to work hard to understand the material has given her a greater appreciation for it.

“I like the challenge that chemistry poses,” she said. “Physics makes like no sense to me, but chemistry poses enough of a challenge that I had to work at it, and because of that I ended up liking it more.”

Ray also puts a lot into her studies, but often does so with friends to make things easier.

“The classes that require the most effort are my calculus and chemistry classes for sure,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a ton of work though, since I have such a good support group of friends.”

Interaction with others is something Ray anticipates as she pursues her career.

“I think maybe more so than the subject of chemistry I love teaching,” she said. “That is my No. 1 priority, to become a teacher.”

Ray explained that in high school, she was amazed how different teachers led to different experiences for students.

“A lot of my peers have had different teachers,” she said. “Usually if they didn’t like chemistry it was because of the teacher they had. If you have a good teacher, even if the subject doesn’t come naturally, you’re still going to enjoy it more. I want to be the teacher that makes this subject accessible to everyone.”

Whether they are studying anatomy, chemistry or biology, the students at the University of Utah all seem to be tied together by more than just their workloads. Those who really work at it all seem to have one goal in common: helping others.

 

 

The University of Utah brings benefits to local students through Piano Outreach Program

Story and gallery by KATYA WAGSTAFF

When school ends, many kids race out as fast as they can. But others stay to play music written hundreds of years ago. While they wait, some are doing cartwheels or chatting with other students about book fair and recess. Some eat a snack or run around the room. All are waiting for piano lessons.

Faculty, graduate and undergraduate students studying piano at the University of Utah School of Music extend group piano lessons to five local elementary schools through the Piano Outreach Program. Three of the schools are Title I, which means that a large percentage of students come from low-income families. Students at these schools participate in the Piano Outreach Program for free.

According to the program’s website, “The program not only helps them learn a life-long skill, but also seeks to improve their performance in core academic subjects, like math and reading, and to prevent behavior and truancy problems.”

The program’s website further states that the program benefits School of Music piano majors by providing teaching opportunities and the chance to “learn valuable life lessons through service, preparing them for future careers.”

Mio Cowden, coordinator of the Piano Outreach Program, has a short break between private piano lesson instruction. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in piano performance and music history. She teaches at Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah Preparatory Division, and the Piano Outreach Program.

Her piano studio is a small, insulated room holding two sleek, black baby grand pianos side by side. In the corner is a small desk covered with music files. She relaxes on a piano bench with her back leaning against the wall.

Cowden’s role as coordinator entails training graduate student assistants, organizing fundraising and donations, scheduling assignments, observing each school once a month to check students’ progress, contacting principals and answering parents’ questions. “Basically I do a lot of stuff,” she said, laughing.

The program currently teaches approximately 200 students in five schools. These piano lessons expose elementary-aged students to the “joy of music,” Cowden said.

“There are so many kids, not just at Title I schools, who have never had the opportunity to learn piano,” she said.

“When a child walks into my classroom, the circumstances under which they live don’t really matter. That’s what I love about music, it is universal to anyone, no matter their situation. If anything, these children in tough circumstances are more grateful for an opportunity to do something new.”

– Claire Thueson, graduate instructor at Washington Elementary

 

When students begin piano lessons “they find another talent that they didn’t know they had and they get so excited,” she said.

Cowden explained that not only kids, but their parents also get excited. For example, a father told Cowden about his daughter, a third-grader from Afghanistan who attended one of the Piano Outreach Program elementary schools. Her older brother participated in the piano classes. She wanted to participate, too. However, in her family’s culture and religion, girls don’t learn to play instruments.

This girl still wanted to learn and asked her dad, “Why did you come to America?”

He responded, “To give you more opportunities.”

“Then give me the opportunity to learn the piano!” she cried.

“Let me think about it,” her dad replied.

The next day he decided his daughter was right and gave her permission to attend piano classes after school.

She was very dedicated, Cowden said, and learned Mozart’s “Turkish March” in just one year.

Cowden turns to the piano and plays the first few seconds of the fast-paced piece. This piece is generally for intermediate, not beginner students.

The young girl played this piece at the final concert, held at the School of Music’s Thompson Chamber Hall. Her parents and siblings attended the performance and were thrilled. Her dad realized that girls should also learn what they want to.

Shortly after, her dad called Cowden and relayed their story. He added that after the concert, he bought his daughter a keyboard as a present.

“I’m glad I got her a keyboard,” he says, “but I almost regret it because she’s unstoppable. She practices from morning to night!”

Her brother dropped out of the program, but she never misses a class.

“I’m not trying to change anyone’s culture,” Cowden adds, “because it’s really up to them. But it’s very exciting to see a girl take this opportunity and find a new talent.”

Claire Thueson is a doctoral student who also is currently a graduate instructor at Washington Elementary, a local Title I school.

She spends about 12 hours every week preparing for and teaching 24 students at the elementary school.

“I have students of all ages and backgrounds that come to piano class, anywhere from first-graders to sixth-graders,” Thueson said via email.

The kids are split into groups: one plays musical games or worksheets with an undergraduate assistant, while the other group practices on the keyboards for their recital. Thueson rotates the groups, “giving assistance and offering encouragement and correction when needed.”

Similar to Cowden, Thueson believes some of the strengths of the program are that it is  “able to offer exposure to music to a large number of children that otherwise may not get the opportunity.”

Some of the challenges she faces include making sure each child is getting “personalized education and attention,” despite their various ages and abilities.

Although she teaches at a Title I school with a high percentage of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, Thueson said, “I honestly don’t notice a huge amount of difference. When a child walks into my classroom, the circumstances under which they live don’t really matter. That’s what I love about music, it is universal to anyone, no matter their situation. If anything, these children in tough circumstances are more grateful for an opportunity to do something new.”

Another graduate instructor, Cheney Doane, teaches at Uintah Elementary. This school does not have Title I status, so the class is fee-based, though group class tuition is cheaper than private piano lessons.

His classes also include a range of students from first to fourth grade. Although it’s a challenge to keep them engaged despite different levels, Doane also considers the age range a benefit.

“It’s an asset to have this group of students together because they can learn from each other.”

Not all of these kids will continue studying music, but that’s OK, Doane said. If they want to continue, the Piano Outreach Program provides a “stable foundation” in music. If they don’t, it’s still a “positive, brain-healthy way to spend time after school.”

Doane wants his students to have fun and look forward to this class.

“I want their association with music to be positive, not filled with dread,” he said.

Doane’s most rewarding moments are at the end of lessons when parents come to pick up their children. A student will run up and say, “Mom or Dad, come listen to this piece that I can play!”

The Piano Outreach Program takes a lot of commitment and time. “There are days when you walk in thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this today,’” Doane said, “and you walk out thinking, ‘Man, I’m really glad I had Outreach today.’”

 

 

University of Utah fraternity partners with Rape Recovery Center

Story and slideshow by MADDY HOWARD

Don’t walk to your car alone. Don’t go on a run without pepper spray. Don’t make eye contact too long. Don’t dress like you’re asking for it.

All of these are “rules” young people have been told in hope of avoiding sexual assault.

Sexual assault is an epidemic that has affected campuses nationwide. Universities such as Stanford, Brown and Baylor all have an extensive history of sexual assault on campus. Many people do not believe universities are doing enough to keep students safe.

Well, what if someone told you a fraternity was speaking out against sexual assault?

At the University of Utah, Beta Theta Pi is dedicated to making a change. Beta is a fraternity which brands itself as men of principle.

These men excel in academics with an overall average GPA of 3.4. Additionally, they have the highest GPA out of any organization, club, or team at the University of Utah, according to the office of the Dean of Students. “These men hold themselves to the highest standard possible which makes them one of the most respected fraternities on campus,” said Josie Karren, a U student and Delta Gamma member.

Beta is partnered with the Rape Recovery Center in hopes of changing sexual assault not only at the U, but across the nation.

The Rape Recovery Center is a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City. Services include support, testing and providing hope for victims from every walk of life. RRC helps people understand they are not alone, and understand that their attack does not define them.

Beta has been working with RRC for almost five years. Stereotypes tell the world fraternity men are part of the problem and are nothing but partiers. In 2014, the U’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi was featured on the Dr. Phil show. Phil McGraw’s wife, Robin McGraw, was in awe of what these men are trying to accomplish.

Philanthropy Week is full of fundraising for the RRC and happens every fall and spring. For Beta members, it’s a time to raise money for victims. Taking place from Feb. 26-March 3, spring 2018 Philanthropy Week was a huge success, according to Noah Carr. He is the current vice president of internal programming. His duties include planning events throughout the week. Many of these events take place at the recently renovated $2.3 million chapter house.

Beta planned fun events that brought all of Greek row, and even some non-Greeks out to support. From designing hoodies to creating pop sockets as a unique way to raise money, Carr was dedicated to finding ways to raise money.

“Handling the Philanthropy Week for Beta was an unbelievable and humbling experience. Working so close with the RRC and proactively doing things for the community is what makes all the work worth it. We raised $14,000 for this great organization in less than six days and it’s an awesome feeling to know you’re making a difference,” Carr said.

In addition to raising funds for RRC, many of the fraternity members spend time volunteering. Many of these men help however they can at the RRC in their free time.

Volunteering requires 40 hours of extensive training. Many Betas are hotline counselors. This means they act as an over-the-phone counselor to victims. These volunteers have saved lives by talking to victims.

“I started picking up shifts every week. I like the idea that I am there if someone needs me,” Ravi Sharma said in a recent recruitment video. Sharma has been a member of Beta for two years and is passionate about the partnership with the RRC.

On campus, Beta started organizing sexual assault forums once every semester. These are open discussions about sexual assault that are open to anybody. The forums are designed to be a relaxed environment to talk about intense subjects.

Members of Beta Theta Pi believe men need to do more to stand up against sexual violence. During an interview, there was a clear theme. They want victims to know they are not alone. These men want to speak out on an issue that has been swept under the rug for far too long.

Anthony Panuzio, 20, the current president of Beta, said the partnership with RRC is a main reason why he even chose Beta in the first place.

“I am honored to represent a group of men that are dedicated to change. Sexual violence is something many people just don’t want to talk about. Talking about it is the only way we are going to make a difference. It makes me proud that Beta’s aren’t afraid to be the ones who speak out,” Panuzio said.

In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. One in three women and one in five men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, according to RAINN.

It is time for serious change.

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by sexual assault. In a recent video Beta Theta Pi released, John Moffitt, vice president of recruitment for Beta at the U, says, “The slogan we came up with is: to the brave survivors of sexual assault we believe you.”

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What type of note taker are you?

Story and slideshow by BAILEY CALDWELL

There are two types of college students. One group has a notebook and a pen or pencil at the ready. Another group totes laptops, tablets or phones to their courses. Students know that in order to pass their classes, they need to take notes.

Go into any classroom, lecture room/hall or anywhere students gather to learn and you will see both of these types of students.

Students don’t always use laptops the same way. Some students use their computer for note taking only, while other students use them for note taking and for surfing the web, online shopping, playing games and other activities.

In a number of experiments done by Princeton University and the University of California, students were given either a pen and paper or a laptop to take notes during a lecture.

After the lecture, the students were given a test on the lecture. Those who used laptops did worse than those who hand wrote notes.

While interviewing students about their personal note taking habits, two students were found to have vastly different styles from one another.

Kourtney England, 22, a senior at Utah State University majoring in communications, has tried taking notes with a laptop but ultimately decided on handwritten notes. She was unable to retain the amount of information she normally did when handwriting notes.

“I tried to type notes in a general education class and it did not work out for me. Once I switched back to handwritten notes, I started scoring higher on quizzes and tests,” England said.

England had only switched from handwritten notes to typing notes for a couple of weeks and her scores decreased in her classes.

Laptops can be used for several different things, not just note taking. This can be a distraction for students who use them for note taking.

Ryan Bailey, 25, a senior at Southern Utah University majoring in communications, uses a laptop to take notes. “I have used both handwritten notes and computer notes. I memorize better with computer notes, but pay more attention and learn more with handwritten notes,” Bailey said.

For him the hardest part of taking notes is paying attention. “I struggle at staying in lectures and being engaged,” Bailey said. He keeps a piece of paper to doodle on in class to help him from playing on his laptop.

A study done in Norway at the University of Stavanger in 2011 shows “writing by hand strengthens the learning process. When typing on a keyboard, this process may be impaired.”

According to researchers, when a person takes handwritten notes, their brain receives feedback from the motor actions from the hand and a feeling from the pencil/pen. Those are far different than those from touching a keyboard.

“When writing by hand, the movements involved leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps us recognize letters,” researchers discovered.

Handwritten notes are far better for studying than typing them on a computer and based on an informal poll posted on Facebook and Instagram, most college students would agree with this.

The informal poll of 173 college students showed that 77 percent of students write their notes by hand. Does this mean that students are listening to what the research is showing?

Perhaps, but it also might be because their professor doesn’t give them the option.

Dr. Natasha Seegert teaches in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. She has taught Principles of Visual Communication for three and a half years. She does not allow any electronic devices during her lectures.

Seegert made this decision after reading an article by Clay Shirky, a professor of media studies and the internet. Shirky took a long time to make the decision to ban the internet and electronic devices in his classes.

In the article, Shirky said he noticed over the years that it was as if “someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a relief from many of the students.”

Shirky decided to ban electronic devices because multitasking decreases a person’s performance and can have lasting effects on the memory.

Seegert put a lot of thought into banning electronic devices in her own classes after hearing stories from her husband, who also teaches at the U, about how he banned devices and reading articles by scholars such as Clay Shirky.

She said her husband tells his students that when they walk into his class they are walking into what he calls the “magic circle.” Seegert said her husband explains that when playing a board game with others each person understands that there are rules, and if you don’t follow those rules you are out of the game.

When entering the classroom, you are agreeing to be in that space together. “You agree to certain rules that apply there and are focused on the same topic or same concept,” Seegert said.

Seegert’s classroom is her “magic circle” and she does not allow any sort of electronic device during her teaching time. This includes laptops, phones, watches and anything that requires charging.

She advises students “to make sure you are taking notes with not just your head processing things but your whole body doing it as well. So there is not as much as a disconnect between your body and your brain,” she said.

Note taking takes a lot of concentration and by using a laptop, you are cheating your brain out of cognitive learning.

“Your body will process and memorize things that you did not realize just by writing those words,” Seegert said.

 

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Branding The Leonardo

Story and gallery by CHARLES BUCK

The front desk of the Leonardo Museum was bustling as employees were answering phones and signing for deliveries on Monday, March 12. A new exhibit was opening in three days and the activities formed the perfect backdrop as the museum’s Chief Development Officer, Deb Peterson, described the challenges of creating a brand.

According to The Leonardo’s website, the museum opened in 2011 with the personality behind Leonardo da Vinci as a brand strategy that would define a museum dedicated to inspiring “creativity and innovation in people of all ages and background.”

Sitting just inside the main exhibition space, Peterson explained that da Vinci’s curiosity perfectly defined an interactive museum dedicated to learning about art, science and technology. The goal was to align the museum with the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It allowed The Leonardo, located at 209 E. 500 South, to be a place where visitors could explore exhibits with the same sense of curiosity and wonder as da Vinci himself. However, creating such a unique space also created unique branding challenges.

“Phase one was to get the doors open,” Peterson explained. Phase two was to spark interest in the community by hosting famous exhibits like “Bodyworlds” and the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” While successful, these exhibits didn’t clinch The Leonardo’s brand identity in Utah.

“We had to reeducate the public,” Peterson said. The museum had developed a reputation for being a venue for traveling exhibits, and the public forgot that The Leonardo had the unique distinction of being a place of discovery and wonder in the world around us.

This reeducation process involved all the traditional media: print, radio, television and billboards. Social media was starting to play a role, but “wasn’t what it is today,” Peterson explained. The board of directors assumed the challenge was merely to explain why the museum became da Vinci’s namesake. However, they quickly discovered that not everyone was familiar with the painter, architect and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. “We just assumed everyone knew,” Peterson said.

This branding challenge continues today, with social media playing an ever-changing role. “@theLeo,” “#theLeonardo,” and “#attheLeonardo” have all been attempts at increasing public engagement through various social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. While describing a successful social media strategy Peterson explained that the challenge in going viral is having content critically relevant to the current social climate. To go viral the right message has to be shared with the right audience at the right time.

The focus on relevance has led The Leonardo to partner with Pictureline to create a drone exhibit, and with the LEGO brand to create an interactive exhibit focused on da Vinci’s fascination with architecture and city planning.

Mariann Asanuma is a LEGO master builder commissioned by The Leonardo to build a replica of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, a Salt Lake City landmark completed in 1909. She started working for LEGO in 2003, and eventually realized her dream of turning her passion for the building blocks into a career.

LEGO fans describe the years between when they stop playing with LEGOs in their teens and start playing with them again in their 20s as “dark years.” Asanuma explained, “I never had dark years.” Her Instagram page describes Asanuma as the “World’s First Female LEGO Artist specializing in #marketing #custommodels #teambuildingevents #customkits.”

Her latest posts highlight the progress that Asanuma is making on her model, which she is building on-site at The Leonardo. Asanuma described the constant popularity of Lego as the result of children invigorating their parents’ passion for the blocks, and not always the parents introducing their children to their own childhood toys.

“The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” helped the brand resonate with a new generation. Social media and the internet have also helped lifelong fans of the brand, like Asanuma, create online communities where people remain engaged and passionate about LEGO.

This relevance in popular culture is what makes the LEGO brand such a good match for The Leonardo. Leonardo da Vinci’s exploits with architecture and city planning allow the museum to host a LEGO exhibit without diluting its brand identity, and the popularity of the building blocks brings in a new generation of museumgoers who engage with the exhibit in creative ways.

The exhibit opened March 15, 2018, and between the displays were areas where children could act out the inspiration they found while watching Asanuma in action.

The Leonardo also hosts programs like the “FIRST LEGO League.” The league launched in September 2017 and workshops are scheduled until May 2018. These programs draw in the younger generation, while exhibits like “FLIGHT,” “FANTASTIC FORGERIES,” and “WOMAN/WOMEN” help adults identify with the museum’s brand of discovery and curiosity.

Many of the exhibits adhere to the “Hands on @ The Leo” strategy, and encourage patrons to engage with The Leonardo in person, just as they can in social media. The museum’s website invites visitors to come and discover the “forces behind engineering by tinkering, designing, and problem solving.”

Partnering with companies that brand themselves around the processes of technology or discovery will keep the museum relevant. Peterson described the essence of The Leonardo’s brand strategy: “If guests leave our museum with more questions than answers, I’ve done my job.”

Their brothers’ keeper — Utah charity targets refugee men

Story and slideshow by PETER JOHNSTON

Leul Mengistu hits the gas pedal of his company van. The light has turned green and he is late for an appointment with Julia, a female refugee from South Sudan. A banner with a blue, yellow and red logo that reads, “Catholic Community Services,” has been slapped onto the van’s side.  

Though Mengistu helps female refugees like Julia at Catholic Community Services (CCS) he has a new focus demographic: refugee men.

“I don’t want them to fall between the cracks,” he says, one hand on the steering wheel. There are programs for women and children and youth, but men are often forgotten in refugee assistance efforts.

The International Rescue Committee reports that “refugee men, a category not prioritized by the humanitarian system for support, are often not able to access support that they need and, even more often, feel themselves to be excluded from it.”

According to CARE International, a relief organization that primarily targets women, “among humanitarian actors, donors and government agencies, there is a common perception that men are best able to look after themselves and negotiate the complexities of displacement unaided.”

The report says this perception leads to less attention for the problems of male refugees.

Mengistu acknowledges that women and children are often the most disadvantaged groups fleeing conflict in their home countries. However, he also says he deals with many refugee men who have not received needed support from other organizations because of the common belief that men are “best able to look after themselves.”

Mengistu has responded to widespread ignorance toward male refugees with the Men’s Wellness Support Group — a program that will bring together 10 to 15 refugee men for weekly classes. Each “cohort” of men will learn about topics ranging from building a budget to coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Weekly instruction will be led by men: Mengistu, a couple of class facilitators, and guest speakers specially tapped because of their area of expertise. David Harris is one such guest speaker. He is slated to teach the class on physical health and comes from a background of pediatrics and insurance management.

Harris says he sees cultural adjustment as the greatest priority of the Men’s Wellness Support Group. “They [the refugee men] need to protect their own culture,” he says, but they also “need to understand how stuff works [in the U.S.] so that they can get along.”

Mengistu once directed a support group for women that focused primarily on health. However, he too says the new support group’s objectives go beyond just physical wellness. “I want them [the refugee men] to be very competitive,” he says. “Everybody’s smart, but now it’s camouflaged!”

That intellectual camouflage refers to the invalidation of refugees’ prior work experience and professional talent in the United States.

Mengistu’s boss, Aden Batar, is the director of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement at CCS. He explains the “camouflage” problem from his own perspective.

Batar left Somalia with his family in the mid 1990s with a law degree from his home country. He says that degree and legal experience went unrecognized in the U.S.

“Can you imagine how frustrating that would be?” Batar asks. Today, he says, refugees can more easily get college degrees that match the ones they earned previously because NGOs and governmental agencies provide financial help. However, “back then [he] was lost in the middle because [he] didn’t have those systems.”

Even with revamped nonprofit and governmental aid, Batar says the Men’s Wellness Support Group “fills a gap.”

Eighty percent of CCS cases are women and children, Batar says. Men aren’t seen later unless they have a demonstrated problem.

Despite widespread apathy on the issue, Utah’s history with refugees makes it an appropriate birthplace for the program. In 2015, when 30 governors called for the cessation of Syrian refugee resettlement, Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced Utah’s continued commitment to assist refugees.

Batar also highlights the strong public-private relationship among CCS and local religious organizations as a positive sign of Utah’s tolerance of refugees. “The most welcoming state in the U.S. is Utah,” he says.

While the Men’s Wellness Support Group has public backing, it faces significant challenges.

For one, cultural conflicts between refugees’ old way of life and their new one in America could foster misunderstanding and resentment. David Harris, the guest speaker who will handle the physical health section, underlines that the program’s facilitators and guest speakers may not understand all cultural nuances of refugees’ backgrounds. “We may say something that we feel strongly about or think is obvious when they disagree or don’t think it’s obvious,” Harris says.

The key, he says, will be for facilitators to “listen really closely to what [the refugees] have to say and what their concerns are rather than being very dogmatic.”

Participating refugees will come from more than three countries. Mengistu has recruited men from Burma, Somalia and Democratic Republic of the Congo for the support group so far. His proposed solution to bridge cultural divides is to recruit participants who speak one of only two languages — Karen (a language spoken in Burma) and Swahili.

Logistics also pose a problem. Mengistu will need to resolve the scheduling conflicts of refugee men who work night and day shifts and CCS interpreters who work business hours. The program director says he and the guest speakers will adapt to the schedules of the refugees.

Regardless of the program’s potential problems, Mengistu envisions far-reaching implications for the Salt Lake City community. He says refugee men will integrate with the larger community, enjoy more family unity and become more self-sufficient fathers.

The first of the weekly classes launched April 5 with a cohort of seven participants — two from Burma, five from East Africa. If all goes well, these seven men will walk away from the CCS classroom on May 24 with the skills to start a career and find daily joy. A tall order — but like Mengistu says, “I don’t want them to fall through the cracks.”

 

 

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Can a Mormon be a feminist?

Story and photos by MEGAN CHRISTINE

When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are excommunicated, they are stripped of their membership, much of their personal identity, and the chance to see their loved ones in heaven after death.

This is what happened to Margaret Toscano, 69, when she wrote and spoke about issues regarding women’s place in the Mormon church and related topics such as the priesthood.

Many people like Toscano have been raising their voices against the inequities they feel women experience in the Mormon church, whether that be through research and writing or making small changes in their home churches.

Toscano conducted research as an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University on church history and found that “the women that received their temple endowments through Joseph Smith all knew that they had priesthood.” Toscano believes that in the 1800s, Smith ordained women with the priesthood through religious ordinances called temple endowments.

According to the Mormon church, the temple endowments are considered “a gift from God whereby He bestows sacred blessings upon you.” Today, these gifts do not include priesthood.

The priesthood is a power given to males in the Mormon church. It is believed to be “the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father.” Through the priesthood, various ordinances can be administered, such as baby blessing, baptisms, temple marriages, and more. For many leadership positions in the Mormon church, it is a requirement to hold the priesthood. This excludes women from these positions.

“If there’s going to be any equality for women, then you have to question the notion of priesthood,” Toscano said.

To Toscano, women need to be granted the priesthood again in order to be equal to men in the church. She has found that church leaders disagree with this.

Toscano spoke out about her beliefs and church leaders claimed she was in opposition to the teachings of the church. She was summoned to a religious court, conducted by local church leaders. She was told that she could either denounce everything she had written, apologize for the testimonies she had destroyed, and never speak out on these issues again, or be excommunicated. She chose the latter.

Marjorie Smith, 35, and Joseph Peterson, 35, are a married couple located in Salt Lake City who have similar views to Toscano. Smith is a member of the Aspiring Mormon Women group on Facebook.

Smith views the priesthood as an “entry between you and God.” To her, it seems unfair that women have to go through another person just to achieve that connection.

Peterson agreed. He has the ability to give his son and wife blessings when they are sick, but realized that when he is sick he cannot receive this same blessing from his wife.

“As rooted in selfishness as that was, it was a light switch that opened my eyes to a lot of other things. Women are not visible in this church,” Peterson said.

Smith and Peterson made the decision together to give their son a baby blessing after he was born. Smith felt excluded from this important moment, because according to church doctrine “only worthy men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may participate in naming and blessing children.”

Peterson included Smith by naming her as a blessing giver by stating that the act was “our blessing to you.” This small but meaningful act received positive feedback from fellow churchgoers.

Smith also taught lessons to young women in the church. She had to teach lessons on the law of chastity, which “prohibits all sexual relations outside marriage.” While teaching, Smith reconstructed these values to be moral instead of religious. She also taught the importance of education whenever possible. Smith avoided the subject of marriage, which is often the focus of many of these lessons.

Small steps can be taken to further the feminist movement in the Mormon church. Smith and Peterson believe visibility for women is crucial. Smith also values hands-on fathers and hopes the church will honor women’s need for education and women’s skills by utilizing them.

“If we mean what we say about women, they need to be visible,” Peterson said. “It’s that sort of over-syrupy, benevolent praise that is used as a tool to keep the structure the same and to defend the status quo.”

Peterson is referring to a 2018 article by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack. While interviewing the new all-male leadership about women’s roles in the church, Russell M. Nelson began by saying “We love ’em.” Leadership continued to praise women as mothers and daughters, but did not mention steps the church is making toward gender equality or “even hint at the word ‘feminist.’”

Similarly, Toscano said that feminism in the Mormon church comes in waves, and at the end of each wave a woman is excommunicated to subdue the movement. In the 1970s, it was Sonia Johnson, Equal Rights Amendment advocate. In the 1990s, it was Toscano herself. In 2014, it was Kate Kelly, co-founder of Ordain Women.

Toscano firmly believes that the movement will resurface again soon. “You can’t keep women down.”

 

Arts Pass benefits University of Utah students, staff, faculty

Story and photos by MADELEINE M. PORTER

The University of Utah Arts Pass provides funding to programs, enables students to be in touch with their creativity, and gives the U community the ability to explore beyond their comfort zones.

The Arts Pass is “open to all students and faculty members at the U and includes screenings, performances, concerts, and exhibitions.” It is programmed into a person’s campus identification card, and permits them to attend some fine-arts events at a discounted rate and others free of charge.

When Bryan West Kilpatrick was in his second year of college, 2012, the Arts Pass was released. “It gives students access to discounts and anything in the performing arts, including the Pioneer Theatre which is the only professional theater on a Pac-12 campus,” Kilpatrick said in a phone interview. He is a logistics manager for the West Coast and was a theater major for four years.

Discounts are  particularly beneficial to U students. Many are on a college budget and don’t want to spend money on entertainment.

Some students still refrain from going to a wide array of the fine-arts events available, for the fear of having to attend alone. After speaking with multiple students, this fear is a driving factor as to why they do not attend.

Ali Lorenz is a dance major in the School of Dance, which is part of the College of Fine Arts. “It can be really intimidating to attend events, especially in the arts. That is a very unfamiliar field for a lot of people,” Lorenz said.

Pioneer Theatre Company advertises that “current University of Utah students may take advantage of student discounts through the Student Arts Pass to attend performances at discounted rates. With a valid University of Utah UCard, students may receive up to two tickets.”

Students with a valid UCard receive two discounted tickets per performance. Two tickets is intended to inspire students to involve their peers in the arts. Immersing themselves in a field that may be unfamiliar is a challenge that can be overcome.

Kilpatrick added, “There are some shows and exhibits that I wouldn’t end up going to because I didn’t want to attend alone.”

The fear of attending alone affects the number of attendees at the many different productions available. Lorenz noticed this very early on in her experience within her modern dance productions.

“The Arts Pass in our (modern dance) community is so blatantly obvious because we use it to attend productions required for class,” Lorenz said. “However, there is a gap between us, students in the College of Fine Arts, and the rest of the University as a whole.”

The University of Utah has an array of different fields that students are involved in. Students can enjoy the fine arts at a discounted rate while the Arts Pass is still available to them.

Saige Miller, a double major in communication and sociology, believes that fine arts are crucial in any form of education.

“The fine arts are a prerequisite to many different branches of education. You need creative writing or fine arts in engineering or in STEM education. I think it is so central to learning and people should want to learn more about it,” Miller said.

Kilpatrick also commented on the importance of fine arts. “If you are in a major that doesn’t do anything artistic or creative, it is still nice to go explore something out of your comfort zone. We have some pretty amazing student-run shows that are going on and some are even produced by students.”

Not only does the Arts Pass give students the opportunity to explore different types of fine arts but it also aids in the funding that is given to the College of Fine Arts.

The Arts Pass helps the College of Fine Arts keep track of how many students tickets have been used each year, which helps the budget manager determine the budget amount for the semester.

Lorenz said that when the modern dance program merged with the ballet program in summer 2017, it also merged the two separate budgets. Cole Adams, her production class professor, explained that the Arts Pass affects the amount of funding each program receives.

“We get funding through the Arts Pass based on how many students are using the Arts Pass. The budget manager for that year looks at the amount of students who have used the pass. The greater the number of attendees the more funding our program receives because that means people are interested and want to keep attending,” Lorenz said.

The funds that are available to the College of Fine Arts are used for the resources it takes to produce the event.

University of Utah students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in many different forms of fine arts. Attending events helps the College of Fine Arts’ budget grow so more intricate shows can be produced.

 

Kindergarten: the new first grade

Story and slideshow by JACKSON CALDWELL

The start of anything can seem overwhelming. No matter the age or experience, new environments can be hard to grasp. Kindergarten is the first step in the ladder of education. In kindergarten students are expected to sit, listen and learn from a teacher, which is a new experience for them. Not only are students learning the essential skills of math and literacy, they are learning how to be a student for the first time.

However, not all students participate in kindergarten. In the state of Utah, students are not required by law to attend the grade of kindergarten. By having students in first grade without any skills or knowledge learned in kindergarten, it creates an uneven starting point for students.

Unless Utah legislation makes changes to the state’s education system, this imbalance of students skills will remain. Although the change is the decision of the legislature, the teachers in Utah are the ones facing the problem firsthand.

Laralynn Caldwell, a kindergarten teacher currently at Farnsworth Elementary in Granite School District, has been teaching for four years in both charter and public education schools. When speaking of her time in education she made it clear that kindergarten is necessary.

“Kindergarteners are now learning the foundational concepts of math and literacy that were taught years ago in first grade,” Caldwell said. “When a first-grade teacher gets a student that did not attend kindergarten, it is detrimental to their whole class. The teacher takes time away from other students to train and teach a student with no educational background.”

Caldwell said the problem is not having a clear starting point for students. “For all other grades expectations are clear for where a student needs to be at the beginning of the year. But there is no real reference point for kindergarten.” Kindergarten teachers are overwhelmed teaching students who have little to no skills at the beginning of the year, and preparing them to be ready for first grade by the end of the year. This sets children behind before they have started grade school.

Utah does have some requirements for kindergarten. Every district in Utah is required to offer at least a half-day option and assess every kindergartener at the beginning and end of the year. However, this started in 2017 as a statewide assessment and is still being developed to understand what students should know before they start kindergarten.

By using a standardized statewide test, educators and lawmakers will start to see real data that will validate this change for mandatory kindergarten. By making kindergarten regulated and required, the Utah Board of Education will have more data to understand how kindergarten impacts a student’s future education.

The success rate for students who complete kindergarten goes far beyond education. Heather Taylor is a parent with a daughter currently in first grade. Taylor sees kindergarten as more than naptime and coloring.

“Kindergarteners are expected to learn at least 50 words, all their letters and sounds and count to 100 by the end of the year,” she said. Taylor was impressed with her child’s ability to work and communicate with other students. “Although some things can be taught at home, her ability to see other points of view and work as a team are both something she excels at because she attended kindergarten.”

Taylor is not the only parent who feels this way. Another parent interviewed spoke of the difference between her two children. She wished to remain anonymous because her son started first grade without attending kindergarten, whereas her daughter did.

“My first child I kept home during his kindergarten year,” she said. “The next year it was a struggle every morning to get him to go to first grade.” But the experience was much different transitioning to first grade with her daughter. “When my second child started first grade after kindergarten, she was ready for the longer hours, schedule and being away from mom.”

When students start school, there is a transition period where separation is difficult. However, the skills learned in kindergarten help students have a positive outlook on their education. The growth of the student can be seen by both parents and teachers. Emotional needs are also addressed in this important grade.

Erica Hibbard is the social worker at Farnsworth Elementary. She expressed the positive outcomes she has seen. A social worker’s job in a school is to oversee the child’s well-being in the classroom and at home. Hibbard works with students from kindergarten to the sixth grade.

“Students who attend kindergarten are more equipped for the first grade because they have learned how to emotionally self-regulate,” Hibbard said. She has seen the effects that starting school earlier has had on students she works with. “Kindergarten provides the first building blocks for students to engage in problem-solving, cooperation and other social-emotional skills.”

Concealed carry on college campuses

Story by Alyssa Gum

SALT LAKE CITY— There have been laws banning carrying concealed handguns since before the Civil War. From 1920-1930, many states adopted the Uniform Firearms Act, which said that citizens could not carry a concealed firearm without a permit. After World War II, states began to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who applied for one and who didn’t have attributes that disqualified them.  In 2004, Utah became the first state where all public universities were required to allow students with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus. With recent news of shootings and gun violence, the debate over guns has been, once again, at the forefront of political debate. Moreover, the increasing number of schools that allow campus carry has added to the list of issues being debated between gun control and gun rights advocates.

According to a recent John Hopkins University study, data cited from the National Crime Victimization Survey shows that there are approximately 102,000 self-reported instances of self-defensive gun use per year, making this a rare occurrence. In this report the authors argue that to effectively stop an active shooter, there are a lot of skills and experience required. “Shooting accurately and making appropriate judgments about when and how to shoot in chaotic, high-stress situations requires a high level of familiarity with tactics and the ability to manage stress under intense pressure,” the study asserts. The authors support this claim by citing statistics of shooting inaccuracy by police officers who are thoroughly trained. “There is no reason to believe that college students, faculty and civilian staff will shoot accurately in active shooter situations when they have only passed minimal training requirements for a permit to carry.”

Julie Gazran, a representative from Students for Gun Free Schools, agrees that students don’t need guns on campus to defend themselves. College campuses are some of the safest places in the United States and with armed law enforcement officers trained to protect students and prevent potential violent incidents, says Gazran. Indeed, most students at the University of Utah appear to agree with Gazran. In a poll taken of 62 University of Utah undergraduate students, only 32 percent of students said that they felt campus was safer because of its concealed carry policy.

“Utah law prohibits weapons on school property, including college campuses, except for firearms that are in the possession of a concealed weapons permit holder. Other narrow exceptions apply, such as guns carried by law enforcement officials,” wrote Michael Young, former president of The University of Utah, in an e-mail to students and staff. In Utah, to obtain a concealed carry permit you must be 21 years of age (you can also get a provisional permit at age 18), fill out an application, send in a valid fingerprint card, send in a passport quality photo, complete a firearms course, and pass a background check. There are many different offenses and conditions that can disqualify someone from being able to obtain a concealed carry permit.

Still, the issue may not be so simple.

Todd Hicken, the Rocky Mountain Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry, is a strong proponent for allowing students with legal permits to carry concealed firearms on campus. “The only people who legally can bring them onto campus are police officers and concealed carry permit holders,” says Hicken.

Many who disagree with campus carry argue that campus police officers have the ability to protect students because they are trained to do so and have the ability to use their firearms correctly. Because of this, students do not need to have weapons on campus. In contrast to this narrative, police officers only receive an average of 12-14 weeks of training, and the majority of that is not for firearms. Most people who obtain a concealed carry permit (6.5% of the adult population) take the time to practice shooting and keep up with their techniques, says Hicken.

Spencer Eiting, a sophomore student at the University of Utah and provisional concealed carry permit holder, regularly practices shooting at the gun range. He has been shooting since he was young and he visits the range every few weeks. “I feel comfortable with my aim, especially at the range where I’d have to use my weapon if I needed to,” says Eiting. He feels safer with a gun on campus. Campuses are typically regarded as safe areas, but this may not be the case. A study by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, which compared the school years from 2001-2006 with those from 2011-2016, found that shootings on college campuses in this time period had increased by 153%.

In 2016 at the University of Utah, there were 8 cases of rape, 9 cases of aggravated assault, and 11 instances of domestic violence. Whether the solution to these problems is decreasing the amount of people wielding guns or allowing more people to defend themselves is unclear, but this will surely continue to be a dividing issue for years to come.

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Reflection Blog on this story

Day of the Dead, celebrating and remembering our dead

IMG_9221Story By: CHRISTIAN GONZALEZ

West Valley City, Utah -The Utah Multicultural Center hosted its 4th annual Día de Los Muertos celebration on Saturday, October 28, 2017. The festivities included traditional Mexican dances and a large variety of family-friendly activities such as skull-face painting and a dress-up contest. There was also a specific area where visitors could observe altars created in remembrance of loved ones who had passed away. “We want to make sure we don’t forget all of the good things our loved ones did while they were alive, day of the dead is way to let their stories live on through our generations,” said Francisco Perez, an attendee of the event. The event highlighted various aspects of Mexican culture and served to represent loved ones who have passed away by remembering the lives they lived.

Although this celebration was held on Oct. 28, 2017, the actual dates for the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico are November 1-2. Beatriz Aguilera, now a 71-year-old woman, has been visiting the cemetery for el Día de Muertos, going as far back as she can remember. For Aguilera, it has become less a celebration and more a day of remembrance.IMG_9226 She still retains the vivid memories of her past when she would visit her great grandfather’s grave at age ten. “I remember helping my grandma prepare a table filled with things that were my grandpa Chema’s. At the center of the table we would always place portrait of them from their wedding,” said Aguilera. She recalls waking up early to help her grandmother prepare her dead grandfathers favorite food, along with pan de muerto (a spanish bread). “After preparing food all morning, we would use my grandmother’s finest silverware and carefully place the food on the altar along with belongings that represented the wonderful life he lived. It seemed as if for that night we were expecting him to join us for dinner,” Aguilera explained. As the years pass, the traditions of this holiday allow her to remember both of her grandparents, her older brother who passed away at a young age, and her mother who died a few years ago. Every November 2, she travels to the cemetery with her children and grandchildren to spend time with all of those who have passed on. Aguilera and her family use this day to celebrate the life of their loved ones and remember the legacy they left behind.

IMG_9461

 

Many of the altars at the Utah Multicultural celebration were similarly decorated. They use flowers, candles, food, and short paragraphs describing the lives of each individual on display for all to see. Also showcased on the altars were statues of the Virgin Mary, who it is said watched over the graves and protect the spirits of the deceased as they travel through the after life.IMG_9222 Many of the items displayed on the altars may only seem relevant to the individual but one thing we can learn about this celebration is that nearly every object holds a symbolic meaning.

The flower “cempasúchil”IMG_9462 or in English, the marigold, is known for its powerful scent and vivid bright yellow color. There is much speculation regarding the purpose of this flower. However, the common belief derives from the ancient Aztecs, who believed the bright yellow represented the sun, and that the flower could guide the deceased in the dark using its petals. Today the flower is used to decorate graves, with its bright color, as well as to guide the spirits of the deceased toward their families during the night.

The previously mentioned pan de muerto or in English, “bread of the dead” represents the human skull. It contains four intersecting protrusions that are shaped liked bones. They are said to represent the four corners of the universe. The circular shape of the bread represents the never-ending cycle between life and death. Finally, one thing you will notice at almost every cemetery when celebrating the Day of the

Dead is a very strong odor.IMG_9463 Copal, a resin made from tropical trees, fill the air with its strong aroma when it burns. “The smell is said to guide the spirits of the dead to their altars and purify them of any evil,” said Javier Peña, a local dancer familiar with Aztec traditions.IMG_9464

Peña explained that although many who attend the Day of the Dead celebration are not familiar with the symbolic meanings, he said, the most important thing to remember and celebrate our dead. “We want our children to remember the importance of our Mexican heritage and, although we no longer live in Mexico, remembering our ancestors is as equally important to us as the relationships we have with the living.” said Francisco’s wife, Fatima Perez. IMG_9223Both have been celebrating this holiday since they were children. The knowledge they have of their ancestors has helped them live better lives, said the Perezes.  Overall, Dia de Los Muertos is a day is to remember loved ones and the lives they lived, and the festival was designed as a celebration of life more so than one of death.

https://unewswriting.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/christian-gonzalez

https://unewswriting.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/reflection

 

 

Zane Law

zane

Originally from Newport Beach, CA, I decided to leave home and pursue a college degree. I am a third year student at the University of Utah, majoring in Strategic Communications. I currently maintain a GPA above 3.5 and plan to graduate in the Spring of 2019, heading into the field of marketing/advertising. This field has always held my interest because analyzing and appealing to the minds of consumers has felt like a game to me. I have enjoyed finding different ways to sell clothes online, pawn off my crappy lemonade as a kid, and make/sell stickers, so pursuing this on a more professional scale seemed like the right fit. Work should be something I enjoy, and I plan on doing just that!

While I do not mean to write for a career, I am still proud of the content I have produced thus far. Besides the Greek life piece, my portfolio contains a marketing campaign pitch that was accepted and used by All Seasons Resort Lodging, an article that analyses the top-grossing Korean film and its relationship to Japanese-South Korean tensions, and a story about college athletes’ battle for compensation.

In my free time I enjoy all things sports. I do not know whether I am proud of or disappointed in the fact that I have only missed the viewing of one NFL game this 2017 season. I was the running back at University High School in Irvine, CA, so football is a passion of mine. I also ran two years of track and was named MVP both years. I was extremely disappointed when I discovered that the U does not have a collegiate team. These two high school teams have shown me what teamwork and perseverance are, so using those in the workplace is something I look forward to.

Fraternities are a valuable resource for many college men

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Zane Law- Enterprise Story

Fraternities are a valuable resource for many college men
Story by ZANE LAW

SALT LAKE CITY— College campuses across North America are hosts to hundreds of men’s fraternities. These fraternities are seen by many as misogynistic and cruel, while others view them as places to build character, a resume, and a social network. With over 6,000 chapter houses and millions of Greek members across North America, the benefits outweigh the negative image for the many joining the Greek system.

For generations, fraternities have been linked to the cultivation and development of successful men. Forty three of the United States’ 50 largest companies are run by fraternity men, with 85 percent of all Fortune 500 companies having a fraternity member CEO. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Greek men also account for all but two United States presidents born since the formation of the first fraternity in 1825, 76 percent of all U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Senators, and all of the Apollo 11 astronauts.

University of Utah’s Interfraternity Council President, James Morrell, explained why he thinks this is far from coincidence. Morrell says Greek life has helped him in three core areas: networking, leadership, and academics. The people he has met through his fraternity, “have served as an invaluable resource in my life, helping me further my career options and improve my academics,” he says. A current member of Beta Theta Pi at the U, Morell says several alumni remain actively involved. Through alumni he has received several job opportunities and plenty of guidance.

Dillon Clark, recruitment chair of Phi Delta Theta and president of the Young Americans for Freedom organization at the U, also praised his relationships with alumni. While Clark has received internship opportunities from active alumni, he credited one event in particular to the help of his older “Phis”. “I would not have been able to bring Ben Shapiro to the U without the help of alumni,” he says. The Ben Shapiro event that Clark hosted in Salt Lake City received significant media attention and hundreds of attendees. With donations from alumni that believed in his efforts, Clark was able to pool together the tens of thousands of dollars needed for the event.

Both Clark’s and Morrell’s achievements are significant in terms of resume-building, but are only a few of the things that they believe their organizations can help people achieve. Both are happy that they have support from their fellow Greeks and feel as though these people and opportunities give them an edge.

Fraternities help to hone interpersonal skills, time management, and team-building techniques, but are expensive and are not financially accessible to many. According to USA Today, the average cost per semester in a fraternity is $605, not including additional costs such as fines for absences, tardies, and other penalties. A national survey taken in 2014 by the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics indicated that fraternity members are more likely to graduate on time, however, potentially saving thousands of dollars on tuition. Staff members at the U’s Fraternity and Sorority Life office even reported that that in 2016, 80 percent of all Greek life students had gone on to graduate, whereas 57 percent of non-Greek students had been able to do the same. Graduating at a faster rate translates to less tuition money spent, therefore negating much, if not all, of the per semester costs.

The North-American Interfraternity Conference also reports slightly higher Greek GPA’s than their non-Greek counterparts. Many fraternities and sororities require a minimum GPA to join and remain an active member, with chapters on the U’s campus requiring anywhere from 2.5 to 3.0. Fraternities even gather alumni donations to fund tutoring and “Chegg” accounts. Chegg is an online resource to help students with homework, rent textbooks, offers tutoring, and helps to identify scholarship and internship opportunities.

While such resources and encouragement are important, others benefit purely from having an organization that keeps them in check. “Our scholarship chairman is really on us about getting our big assignments in on time, constantly reminding us in meeting,” says Elliot Ansari, a third-year member of the Greek system. He and his fraternity brothers feel obligated to perform academically because one of their fraternity’s founding principles is “Sound Learning.”

Although personal development and social network expansion compose a large part of the good arising from Greek organizations, Greek members also participate in community service and philanthropic events. In the academic year of 2013-2014 alone, the North-American Interfraternity Conference reported four million hours of community service contributed by fraternity men. Making blankets for the homeless, writing letters to military personnel, and sorting goods at the local food bank are some of the events that the U’s fraternities and sororities do together, knocking out good deeds and creating fun memories with each other.

In terms of philanthropy, most fraternities “have two events per year and the money raised goes to a charity organization of our choice,” says Elliot Ansari. The University of Utah’s Sigma Chi chapter frequently makes the news, with the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s website praising them for raising $66,806.65 during the 2015/2016 school year.

 

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The Mormon mission experience

Story and slideshow by ZACH DAVIS

The tradition of serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon church) is rooted in the very beginning of the religion in 1830.

The first Mormon missionary to be called was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s younger brother Samuel Smith.

Following Samuel Smith’s call other leaders of the Mormon church were called, including Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr. and Ziba Peterson, who were tasked with teaching the American Indians.

Mormon missionaries were the leaders of the church who preached about their religion across North America.

Later the ones serving missions would shift to the younger members who would be called by the leaders of the Mormon church.

The first mission overseas in the British Isles was fulfilled by Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde in 1837. This led to many converts to the religion immigrating to the United States during the 1840s.

During the 1850s Mormon missionaries expanded beyond the British Isles to countries such as Chile, France, Germany, India, Italy, South Africa and Switzerland.

During this time men had served as Mormon missionaries.

Then in 1898, the first female missionaries, Inez Knight and Lucy Jane Brimhall, were called to serve.

Now the missionary force is comprised of single men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 serving in 422 missions around the world. Mormon missions are two years for men and one and a half years for women.

Preparing for a Mission

The process of being called as a missionary begins with the individual’s desire to serve a mission. If they so desire, they will meet with their bishop (leader of the congregation) to further assess if they are ready to serve.

Individuals must be physically capable of serving, mentally stable, spiritually prepared (believe in what they are preaching), and be morally clean.

Preparing to Serve in 1965

“As I was growing up, I attended all of the church meetings, and in high school they had a program called release time (seminary) in which a person could leave campus and for one hour study the teachings of their now particular religious beliefs, and get credit towards it being one of the student’s elective studies. I took advantage of this for gaining more knowledge of the LDS Church,” Ron Davis said.

When Ron graduated high school, he was unable to leave directly for his mission. Instead he worked for three years to save up enough money to finance his two-year mission.

After working with his bishop, Ron submitted his application to serve as a missionary. This led to him being assigned to the North Scottish Mission in Scotland.

He left for the Missionary Training Center (MTC) located in Provo, Utah, in February 1965, just a month before his 21st birthday.

Serving in 1997

Throughout her life Ron Davis’s daughter-in-law, Jemela Davis, knew that she wanted to serve a mission for the Mormon church. To prepare to serve she participated in the four-year seminary program and took missionary preparation courses offered by the Mormon church through the institutes of religion program.

Jemela was able to finance her mission by working and saving as much as she could. Her parents and close friends financed the rest.

After successfully completing her application for missionary service in 1997 she was assigned to the Chile Antofagasta Mission.

Serving in 2014

To prepare for her mission, Sam Brady said she attended a mission preparation class each Sunday. She also went to temple preparation classes to prepare her to receive her endowments.

When it came to financing her mission, Sam worked full-time to raise the funds with her parents supplementing where needed. While on her mission Sam also received donations from people from time to time.

Once Sam completed all the necessary paperwork to serve her mission she received her call to the Hungary Budapest Mission, in Hungary.

She left for the MTC in September 2014.

Missionary Training Center (MTC)

Scotland Bound

While at the MTC Ron found that it was a very structured place. His daily schedule began at 6 a.m. He said his personal prayers, dressed, ate breakfast, attended instructional periods, then practiced with other missionaries to lessen the feelings of uncertainty about telling people how he felt about the Mormon church.

One of the things he said he found most interesting while at the MTC was that it “seemed a little like role playing, because at times the teachers would all of sudden take a negative approach and then you had to change their outlook with your knowledge of the truths that you were going to present to the people once in the mission that you would be called to.”

When Ron left the MTC after two weeks he was “excited to be going on [his] first plane ride, and to be going to another country.” The plane stopped in London and then went to Edinburgh, where the mission home was headquartered.

Chile

Jemela’s daily schedule at the MTC was filled from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. From 6:30 to 9 a.m. she would do personal preparation, individual scripture study and eat breakfast. Then from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. she would participate in morning classes. After lunch, she would do further classes from 1 to 5 p.m. Dinner at 6 p.m. was followed by more evening classes from 7-9 p.m. At 9 p.m. she would return to her dorm for further personal duty until bedtime at 10 p.m.

The classes that Jemela attended focused on learning Spanish, the missionary discussions and cultural lessons regarding Chile.

She spent nine weeks in the MTC. Because she was assigned to a foreign language mission, she needed adequate time to learn the language in order to better teach the people of Chile.

“Hungary” for knowledge

Life at the MTC for Sam wasn’t all fun and games. In fact, it was very strict and rough, but she also found it very spiritually uplifting.

A regular day for her at the MTC consisted of waking at 6:30 a.m. to get ready and eat breakfast in the cafeteria. At 8 a.m. she did personal study in the classroom. This was followed by discussing what she had learned with her companions. At 10 a.m. she engaged in language study with the rest of the day being broken up by Hungarian lessons, devotionals and practice lessons.

Brady also spent nine weeks in the MTC in order to learn Hungarian.

When it came time to leave for Budapest, Brady said she “was extremely nervous and excited all at once.”

Mission Field

Life in Scotland

It was a very cold February when Ron arrived in Edinburgh. For the first time in 50 years the main rivers had frozen.

Ron said it rained often – sometimes daily for weeks at a time. He needed two overcoats: one to wear while the other dripped over the tub so it would be dry to wear the next day.

His normal attire was limited to dark-colored (dark blue, dark brown, or black) suits and pants to match. He wore white shirts, very conservative ties, hats and shoes.

Ron woke early each morning and said a prayer. Then he read and studied the Scriptures before eating breakfast. Then he and his companion left to go tracting (look for people interested in talking about the church). After doing that for a few hours the Mormon companions ate lunch.

When proselytizing Ron and his companion (fellow missionary) were often rejected with doors being slammed in their faces. This was done in the hope of finding someone who was willing to hear what they had to say about the Mormon church.

Occasionally during their tracting they’d set up appointments to talk with people in their home.

At supper time, the missionaries would return to where they were lodging to eat. After eating they would go out once more to meet their appointments and teach them about the Mormon church. When the day finally had finished the missionaries would return to their lodging, study and read the Scriptures some more, get ready for bed, say their prayers and retire for the night to be ready to repeat the cycle the next day.

The reason missionaries travel in pairs is because Scripture discusses going “two by Two” (Mark 6:7). It was safer to have more than one missionary together as it allowed them to keep each other out of trouble.

The biggest thing Ron didn’t like during his mission was knocking on doors to meet people as the process of street meetings and discussions weren’t used when he was serving. And during this time the Mormons weren’t very popular.

On Wednesdays Ron took his shirts to the laundry and washed the rest of his clothes at the cleaners or coin laundry.

When it came time to leave the country, Ron said he was “kind of sad” because he had devoted “two years of [his] life in an effort to bring the joy and happiness of the restored gospel here upon the earth and now it was coming to an end.”

Trials in Chile

Jemela arrived in Chile unaware of the trials and poverty she would be facing.

During her mission, she said she lost over 60 pounds and became frail. She and her companions had to boil their drinking water to avoid getting sick.

Soon after these hardships, Jemela said she was able to “set aside the life [she] knew to develop [her] spiritual self.” Instead of focusing on the hardships she focused on faith, prayer and fasting. When meeting people she and her companions would do anything to help make Chileans’ lives better.

The normal attire for sister missionaries in Chile was skirts and blouses. They “could not wear nylons because the fleas get caught in between the nylon netting and [their] legs, resulting in the fleas biting you repeatedly,” Jemela said.

When Jemela found out that she would be serving in such a poverty-stricken country instead of buying brand new clothes she bought clothes from a second-hand store to use on her mission. The reason for this she said was “[she] did not want to appear wealthy or to send a message that she was better than [the Chilean people].”

At one point, she only had two pairs of socks causing her to have to wash them at noon each day and hang them to dry so they would be ready for the following day.

“With the exception of the clothes on my back, I gave away all of my clothes to the Chilean people,” Jemela said.

The daily routine during Jemela’s mission was to get up at 7 a.m. to get ready, eat breakfast, do personal study and companion study. At 10 a.m. they would leave their apartment to either teach people, search for people to teach, or help reactivate members who were no longer attending. At 1 p.m. the companions would return home for “La Siesta” which is a Chilean practice where everything shuts down for three hours. Everyone goes home to eat a big meal and take a nap. At 4 p.m. everything would reopen and the missionaries would return to teaching until 10 or 11 p.m.

When it came time to return home Jemela said that “she was not disappointed, but saddened to leave the people [she] had grown to love.” While at the airport waiting for her flight home she was surprised by four of the youth she had taught who had hitchhiked a thousand miles to see her off at the airport.

To Budapest

Full of nervous excitement and a fear of the unexpected Brady arrived in Budapest.

Brady’s days consisted of rising at 6:30 a.m. to pray, exercise for 30 minutes and prepare for the day. Then she would eat breakfast from 7:30 to 8 a.m. After breakfast, she would study the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, the missionary library and Preach My Gospel until 9 a.m.

Brady and her companion then studied together and shared what they had learned during personal study.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. they proselytized with an hour taken for lunch and additional study and an hour taken for dinner, which was to be finished no later than 6 p.m. They continued proselytizing until 9 p.m., when they would return home, plan the next day’s activities, write in their journals, prepare for bed, pray, and retire at 10:30 p.m.

The standard attire that Brady wore on her mission wabutton-upn up blouse or a nice shirt tucked into long flowy skirts as well as flat shoes. She would sometimes accessorize with a belt or scarf.

One thing Brady disliked about her mission was tracting but she said that she would “absolutely, without a doubt” serve another mission if she could.

A couple mishaps that occurred on her mission was one of her companions got sick and Brady developed foot problems due to all the walking that was required on her mission.

When it came time to return home after 18 months of being away from home, Brady said she was “sad to go, but excited to return home and become human again.”

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Caputo’s on the University of Utah campus

Story and slideshow by PARKER SCHLAF

When walking into the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building located near the center of the University of Utah campus, you are met with quiet tones and students hard at work. Rounding the corner of the lobby you start to get a whiff of Italian seasonings and warm rich coffee. Tucked right around that corner is the modern Italian deli counter of Caputo’s. A man at the counter looks up and shoots a smile to the next student in line.

Approaching the counter, the student next in line was met by an employee. After pondering the chalk-written menu, the customer approached the counter again and told him he would take a half of a Roasted Reds sandwich and a half portion of pasta salad. Simply nodding his head, the Caputo’s employee completed the order and hollered, “Half  a red and half pasta!” The student then stepped back and met with the other students waiting for their food to be prepared.

“Half of a red and half pasta salad!” gets shouted out over the counter by the man who took the order. Students were quickly being shuffled through the line, grabbing their food, selecting their drinks and heading off to find a table.

The Roasted Red sandwich, stuffed with roasted peppers, came in a deli basket lined with a classic red-and-white checkered paper. It was dressed with olive oil, Italian seasonings and other vegetable toppings. The pasta salad was accompanied by carrots, green peas, cauliflower, zucchini and then tossed in an olive oil and Italian seasoning. All of the ingredients used in this and other dishes at Caputo’s are either local or imported.

Sean Rorke, 27,  talked about working for the Caputo’s company and said it has been a great gig and that he loves it. He said, “Before working here, I worked for three years at the downtown location (located at 300 South and 300 West). Totally different ball game [here] than the downtown store.” He then talked about how he enjoyed working on a university campus versus another Caputo’s location. He said he preferred the faster workplace environment that the university location demanded and also the slight differences in the breakfast/lunch menu. Rorke did note that a nice additional benefit the university location offers is the break he gets for the weekends, as most of the campus is shut down from Friday evening until Monday morning.

“Better ingredients. I don’t even have to say anything else. We do a lot of local foods and whatever we don’t get locally, we import. We don’t skimp on any of our ingredients,” Rorke said, as he continued to talk about some of the benefits of eating at the Caputo’s on campus and why he thinks it would be beneficial for students to eat here compared to some of the other options. Rorke said Caputo’s is a perfect place to dine on campus, if you don’t already have a meal plan through the U and can afford to spend the extra dollar or two.

Tony Caputo has been running a successful locally-owned business for over 20 years. Having opened his first fresh market and deli in downtown Salt Lake City in 1997, his business has now grown into three other markets and delis spread over the Salt Lake Valley. The largest market he still owns and cares for is near his original deli and market located on 300 South and 300 West. Caputo added his most recent location to the U’s campus in 2008. Caputo recently cut back to working part time, he wrote on his blog, but he is still deeply involved in his company and local community.

Being a firm believer in providing only high quality ingredients to the local community, Tony Caputo has changed the fresh Italian market and deli scene of Salt Lake for the better. Joelle Bleiman, a 20-year-old student at the U, agreea. “It’s one of my favorite places to eat on campus when I want some real food!” Being the avid Caputo’s customer that she is, Bleiman also said the pasta with red sauce is the best thing to order.

Samantha Fox, a third-year student at the U, said, “I’m only 20. I love easy access to local foods with a decent price.” She then added how efficient the employees are. Compared to other quick stop options on campus, Caputo’s provides local and nutritious options for students. Having a Caputo’s location on the U’s campus is fortunate. Both Bleiman and Fox have been to other Caputo’s locations, but would agree the accessibility and all around “vibe” of the university location makes it the best one.

Stop the silence, end the violence: a spotlight on the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition

Story and gallery by RACHEL BEUS

Domestic violence is an extensive problem in the U.S., but most people may not know that the problem is even more prevalent here in Utah. In the U.S., 1 in 4 women will become a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime, while 1 in 3 women in Utah will become a victim of domestic violence. This statistic helps expose how serious of a problem this is in Utah.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition is an organization that raises money and allocates those funds to various shelters and organizations all across Utah to provide goods and resources to victims of domestic violence. The UDVC has a motto that summarizes what it does: advocate, collaborate and educate.

Christopher Davies, the current associate director of UDVC, has been involved with the organization for approximately two and a half years. Davies decided to join UDVC because he has a 15 -year-old daughter and he worried about the culture that surrounds women and how dangerous domestic violence is. “I wanted to help women, however I could,” Davies said.

With his background in business, most of his duties and responsibilities as the associate director pertain to logistics that keep UDVC running properly. Davies said, “I do things like grant management, administration support, work with the board of directors, make sure we are stable and have permits.” He likes to refer to the UDVC team as the “watchdogs” when it comes to domestic violence.

Samantha Candland is the volunteer coordinator at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. She has been involved with UDVC for almost two years. Her primary responsibility is to manage the LINKLine, which is a 24/7 anonymous and confidential crisis hotline where volunteers answer calls to help anyone experiencing domestic violence. All volunteers participate in an extensive 32-hour training before they take any calls because they are dealing with dangerous and highly sensitive situations. Volunteers help callers with everything from information, safety planning, advocacy and referrals to services.

Candland said UDVC is an “umbrella organization” that works to provide information to the community and provide referrals to services that any victims may need. Candland said there are three levels that organizations and services fall into the micro level, mezzo, level and macro level. The UDVC falls under the macro category because it works at the state level.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition doesn’t make all of these important strides all by itself. One of its biggest tactics toward fighting domestic violence is collaboration. The UDVC works with a variety of different organizations to help support and aid survivors of domestic violence and abuse. UDVC collaborates with a variety of other organizations including Soroptimist Women’s Organization, Allstate Insurance and Alpha Chi Omega women’s fraternity. Davies said Alpha Chi Omega Beta Nu chapter is one of the UDVC’s biggest private supporters and collaborators.

Mackenzie Turner is the current vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega. She works very closely with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition and acts as a liaison between AXO and UDVC. With her position, Turner is in charge of organizing and running Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy events that raise money to help fund UDVC. “We put on events like our walk-a-mile in their shoes and doughnut let love hurt campaign events,” Turner said. She mentioned the Purple Ribbon Benefit AXO put on in the spring of 2017 that raised over $13,000 for the UDVC.

Turner said she and Alpha Chi Omega love working with UDVC and Candland, Davies and the whole UDVC team because they are hardworking and kind. She said that all of the women of Alpha Chi Omega are very passionate about the awareness and prevention of domestic violence and are glad that UDVC is just as enthusiastic as they are about what they believe to be a very important and crucial cause.

Davies said the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s mission is “to make domestic violence in Utah intolerable.” If we do not make it clear that domestic violence is not only illegal but also unacceptable and educate our community and really the whole world, then it becomes an obstacle that we cannot conquer. The UDVC knows that this problem with domestic violence will not go away overnight and that as far as it has come, there is still farther to go. But, by continuing education on this topic and spreading awareness, it will continue its goal of preventing future cases of domestic violence and abuse.

If you would like to volunteer to help UDVC, you may complete an online volunteer application.

 

 

Sugarhouse slam poets: breaking stereotypes and dropping mics

Story and gallery by SAMANTHA SHAW

Watchtower Cafe sits tucked between a tattoo shop and an art supply store on State Street in Salt Lake City. On the second Thursday of every month, slam poets from all over the city gather to share their art at Sugar Slam.

Slam poetry in its official form has been around since the 1980s and individuals craft poems for the purpose of being performed. Dorothy McGinnis, 19, defined slam poetry as “poetry, but for the masses.” She also described the art as removing poetry from the academic space.

McGinnis was first introduced to the idea of slam poetry by a junior high school English teacher in Salt Lake City who showed her YouTube videos of performances. At age 13, she began going to open mic nights.

In high school, her theater teacher was a nationally acclaimed poet and encouraged her to go to slams and expand her horizons. It was then that she performed her first slam poem and she’s been slamming ever since. McGinnis now serves her community as president of the Wasatch Wordsmiths, the nonprofit organization that holds the monthly Sugar Slam.

In October, McGinnis returned from representing the Sugarhouse neighborhood at the 2017 Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS) in Washington, where she performed her favorite poem, “Pompeii (In Which I am Mt. Vesuvius).”

In comparing the national slam poetry scene to the one in Salt Lake City, McGinnis said, “We’re very very white.” Although the diversity of the community is something poets love about slam poetry, the demographics of Utah are not in their favor. However, McGinnis went to the IWPS Nationals on an all-woman team, which is rare on a national scale and a first-time occurrence in Utah.

While much of the Utah slam poetry scene is white, one will still see plenty of diversity at the monthly slams. Every gender, sexual orientation, age and socioeconomic class can be found ordering a classic latte or a Watchtower Café special like the Butterbeer. Competing poets and onlookers alike all squeeze around heavy wooden tables, surrounded by blackboards with doodles of video game and anime characters such as Princess Peach, the Avatar and Kirby.

Another prominent local poet is Bryce Wilson, 21, a student at Salt Lake Community College. He came in second place in the Sugar Slam that was held Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. He started slamming after a breakup when a friend advised him to write down all the things he hated about the relationship. Wilson performed that list at his first poetry slam in Salt Lake City and took first place.

A typical slam starts with an open mic, where anyone can get up and perform anything. “There’s always one open mic that’s really good and you wonder why they aren’t competing,” Wilson said. Every slam has a host, who introduces the poets and keeps the audience engaged.

After the open mic, the host selects five people from the audience to judge the slam. The host attempts to choose judges have never attended a slam before, and they cannot know any of the competing poets.

Before the official slam begins, the audience calls for the “sacrificial poet.” Wilson’s favorite part of a slam, the sacrifice performs a poem for the newly appointed judges so that the competitors can, in Wilson’s words, “gauge the five random weirdos who are going to be giving these ambiguous points.”

After the sacrifice, the first round of the slam begins. Wilson said most poets will kick off the competition with a funny poem in round one and move on to a darker, more introspective piece in round two. In round three, anything goes! Some poets are eliminated after each round, based on the subjective scores. After the scores are announced, the host reminds everyone to “applaud the performer, not the score.” The final round’s scores determine first, second and third place. The only prizes are “bragging rights and experience,” Wilson said.

Both McGinnis and Wilson credit slam poetry with giving them more confidence, a better sense of self and connections within the community that will last a lifetime. They encourage anyone who is interested to get involved, whether that be as an audience member or as a poet.

Two regular events are held in the Salt Lake City area. The Sugar Slam takes place on the second Thursday of every month at Watchtower Café at 1588 State St. while the Salt City Slam is held at Even Stevens on 400 East and 200 South every last Monday. The Wasatch Wordsmiths keep the community updated on events and featured poets via their Facebook page.

The New Colossus: a glimpse on the values of Lady Liberty

Story and slideshow by REEM IKRAM

Photos courtesy of Somali Community Self-Management Agency

Integral, passionate and admirable: these can be the three words used to describe Abdirizak Ibrahim. Ibrahim is the founder of the Somali Community Self-Management Agency. The agency is a refugee help center located on 1361 S. State St. Established in 2005, the small organization continues making constant efforts in helping with refugees and those who are in need of assistance and support.

The focus of the service organization is to provide a smooth transition to refugees who are creating a life within the Salt Lake Valley. It offers monthly food drives, labor opportunities and classes on how to be self-sufficient.

“It was very important to me, to have an environment where you could feel safe in,” Ibrahim said. He pointed to his wall of certificates displaying his involvement within his community. “I was a refugee too, when I came into the United States, and after I was able to get on my own two feet, I wanted to help others who used to be in my position as well,” he said, while giving a tour of his department.

SCSMA helps over 100 refugees each month. And as it starts to grow, Ibrahim has begun to reach out to other nonprofits, churches, and organizations to discuss whether they are willing to share their resources with the Somali refugees.

According to PBS, there are 60,000 refugees living in Utah, all of whom are learning how to manage a lifestyle here within the state. But following Trump’s executive order 13769, most have begun to fear their prospects.

Refugees are under major stress due to the current political climate. With no routes to follow, most are wary of what will happen after resettling within the U.S.

“With this new political climate, everything is extremely polarized but that’s been happening for a long time. And specifically, in my expertise, in respect to immigration, there is a lot more fear and a lot more uncertainty within the refugee communities,” said Daniel Black, who has immigration law experience doing consular processing, asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, U Visas, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status and other immigration cases. Black said he is very passionate about helping people and ensuring they receive the best representation possible, which is why he works at a firm that offers multiple resources for those in need, such as legal assistance and English classes.

“It’s very important to give people who are a part of your community a helping hand, that’s how you can ensure you have a functioning society,” Black said.

The United States is one of the few countries that is allowing refugees to come in for safety. But with more rules and rather strict regulations, it has become a hassle for refugees to feel secure and feel comfortable enough to live properly within the States. But with the increase of centers and agencies that help refugees, this hassle is slowly diminishing.

“It’s important to help and be involved because all refugees contribute to our society, whether it be by culture or perspective,” Christina Andino said. Andino is an intern for the Somali Community Self-Management Agency through the University of Utah Neighborhood Partners. “Refugees are just like us, they live life day by day. They’re a part of our communities. That’s why I enjoy spending my time with them,” she said.

Ibrahim, Black and Andino aren’t the only ones out there helping refugees cope with living within the state. There are approximately 21 other programming partners that also try to help out. Each partner offers various resources for the refugees. They successfully have managed to help an average number of 1,901 participants per month, all according to the Utah Refugee Services Office.

“Refugees are people who, rather than give up or give in, have chosen to take the higher and harder road and are grateful for the generosity of strangers who reached out with a willing and helping hand,” said Pamela Atkinson in a report to Gov. Gary J. Herbert..

Atkinson has been an advisor to the last three governors in Utah and has been a tireless advocate for the homeless and the refugees. She actively volunteers and personally engages within the community and is always trying to make a positive difference for those surrounding her.

Making a positive difference in the world is how we can rest assure that good things are still happening in this life.

To quote Emma Lazarus and the promise of the United States (as engraved on the Statue of Liberty);

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

For more than twenty decades, this has been the largely prolonged promise to those who come from near and far into the United States. And to have communities, agencies and organizations gather together to help those in need is a great tribute to that promise.

To be a part of keeping the United States’ promise alive while also helping with refugees, try to reach out to your local workforce department and resettlement agencies. They are always seeking out opportunities for aid either through volunteer work or generous donations.

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