Salt Lake City is determined to take charge of curbing homelessness: Who is putting in the work?

Story and photos by PAIGE NELSON

As the weather warms up, tents are beginning to line the downtown streets of Salt Lake City.

Tents lining streets, garbage in flower beds, needles scattered across public parks. This is the picture that is painted in most individuals’ minds when thinking about homeless people. 

Stripping down any perception of a human living in these conditions, all the public sees is unshaven men sleeping on sidewalks and drug addicts pushing stolen shopping carts full of personal belongings. 

While this stigma surrounds low income Utahns, there is work happening behind the scenes actively trying to help individuals get off the streets and back into the community. 

Kat Kahn, director of development at The Road Home, has had ample experience helping the homeless population of Salt Lake City. 

“Our No. one goal is to move people out of emergency shelter and into housing as quick as possible,” Kahn said in a Zoom interview. “The majority of the people we serve stay under six months.”

The Road Home is one of the oldest homeless centers in Salt Lake City, established in 1923. It has grown to having three emergency shelters across the Salt Lake area, not including overflow shelters used during the winter. 

The Road Home stresses housing first. Each emergency shelter is tailored to the individual in need, and there are three options to choose from:

The Men’s Resource Center in South Salt Lake is located at 3380 S. 1000 West and houses 300 single men. 

In Midvale, another shelter is located at 529 W. 9th Ave.,where 300 beds are provided for families. 

Finally, the Gail Miller Resource Center is located at 242 W. Paramount Ave.and is a 200-bed split shelter for both men and women.

The public perception of the homeless community is one of the most challenging factors that Kahn deals with on a daily basis. Upward of 100 children facing homelessness at a time may have to jump through extra hoops to not feel the embarrassment that comes from lack of housing. School buses in Salt Lake City pick up the children at the shelters first on their way to school, and drop them off last so that their peers don’t see their living conditions. 

The Road Home helps families and individuals pay their first months’ rent so that they can get their feet under them and start providing for themselves again. Kahn explained, however, that for about 13% of homeless people that won’t work. Those who face disabilities, have substance abuse disorders, or who are chronically homeless might not make it out of the shelters in that six-month period. 

Homeless shelters in Salt Lake City work with each other, as well as apartment companies, food banks, and mental health facilities to create a healthy environment for those who come to seek help.

Volunteers of America, Utah, is a nonprofit that works with homeless shelters in the area, including The Road Home.

Andrew Johnston, chief strategy leader at Volunteers of America, said in a Zoom interview, “We’ve been doing street outreach for a number of years … there are a lot of folks who are outside all year round who don’t have housing, and we are just offering basic needs and services to them … and trying to get them housing.”

These basic needs are things like getting homeless people IDs so that they can get medical help and subsidized housing. Volunteers of America also helps people get into detox centers and off substances they might be abusing.

While lots of work is happening out in the city, there is another, smaller, community that is making great strides in helping people experiencing homelessness as well.

The basement of the student union at the University of Utah is in the process of building a new basic needs office to help students facing financial hardship and homelessness.

The University of Utah, home to 25,000 undergraduates, works daily to help find affordable housing for its students. The Student Affairs Division acts as an umbrella to multiple departments and centers on campus, including those focused on student diversity and inclusion.

Kimberly Hall, an associate director of development for Student Development and Inclusion, explained in a Zoom interview that the U helps students facing food scarcity and financial problems, and experiencing homelessness. 

“We want to take that concept and ideally help students learn to negotiate the university system as well as community resources to address their needs,” Hall said.

Student Affairs is creating a new office in the student union basement. It will be located next to the Feed U Pantry with the goal that more students will start to utilize the resources that they are paying for.  

The renovated area will be child friendly for parenting students, and will contain a financial wellness office to help with issues ranging from rent assistance to domestic violence situations. Because of its close proximity to the Feed U Pantry, students will also have access to food if they don’t have the money to cover that extra expense.

All across Salt Lake Valley the community is getting involved and making a difference in curbing homelessness.

Kat Kahn, director of development at the Road Home, is one of those individuals who is working hard every day to help people experiencing homelessness. Kahn believes that, “Anyone that wants to be housed should be able to be housed without it being really problematic.”

Utah hospital ensures stability for employees during COVID-19

St. Mark’s Hospital knows how to take care of its employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Story and photos by MIKEN MCGILL

Health care providers at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City are being supported in ways they couldn’t imagine during COVID-19. While other hospitals in the United States were laying off health care workers, this company was ensuring that each employee would be taken care of.

St. Mark’s Hospital, located on 1200 E. 3900 South, is owned by HCA Healthcare Co. out of Nashville, Tennessee. The mission statement of the company is, “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.” This goes for not only the patients of the hospital, but also their own employees.

Visitors see this engraved wall when walking into the hospital.

There are many areas that St. Mark’s covers for their employees, including “emotional, mental, and spiritual support,” says Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources. “From our 24/7 hotline to our Employee Assistance program, St. Mark’s Hospital provides free mental health care. In addition, we also employ a full-time Spiritual Care department, who also provide constant support in all of those areas.”

He goes on to say, “Any employee can use the Employee Assistance Program if they are experiencing mental health issues, work-related exhaustion, or stress in their personal lives. The program offers a hotline and also availability to line up to a psychiatrist, social worker or other behavioral health care worker. They can also attend a virtually or in-person counseling if needed.”

Spiritual Care offers onsite support for health care providers who need a break from their job. It is provided Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in the chapel. Spiritual Care colleagues offer a calm, safe place to talk or meditate. The team also traveled to each department to give out uplifting notes to let the employees know they are appreciated.

At the national level, HCA is committed to ensure no jobs were lost during the coronavirus pandemic from the start in March and going forth to today. “In fact, we paid our colleagues 70% of their wage to stay home when there were no patients to care for. Our top executives willingly took 30% pay cuts in order to ensure no colleagues were lost and all employees were able to continue to provide for their loved ones,” Brimhall says.

The hospital offered quarantine pay for all employees. “This pay was for colleagues that tested positive for COVID-19 and included full pay for the 14-day quarantine period for the days they were scheduled prior to contracting the virus,” says Trent Pulley, manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners.

“A new opportunity came through called ‘pandemic pay,’ which employees could take when hours were slim and offered to them that pay period in place of paid time off.” He excitedly says, “Having this offered aid all health care providers in knowing they will have income.”

St. Mark’s employees brought their concerns to upper management regarding accessibility to basic groceries during these challenging times. Employees were finding it hard to get to a grocery store that would be open after their shifts. Pamela Martinez, senior center office specialist, says, “Part of the cafeteria was turned into a makeshift store where employees could purchase items such as milk, bread, cheese, vegetables, toilet paper, etc.” It was very much appreciated by the employees through the whole hospital.

The hospital also saw a lot of outside support from the community. Martinez says restaurants provided about 300 meals a day, bakeries offered desserts, florists delivered flower arrangements for the hospital and for employees to take home, and more than 100 companies donated care packages.

“The Volunteer Department at St. Mark’s has a program through Intermountain Therapy Animals, in which animals visit patients,” Martinez says. “When COVID-19 struck, the animals were not allowed to come into the hospital, so ITA and the department collaborated to bring the animals together outside on the patio a few times during the pandemic for employees, patients, and their families to enjoy the animal presence.”

Hospital sign when turning into the main entrance.

Trent Pully, the manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners, says, “As far as physical health, St. Mark’s offers access to the hospital gym as well as incentives to participate in Spring into Fitness and Fall into Fitness. This is a program that allows employees semiannually to participate in a competition individually and as a team. Points are rewarded through the hospital’s point system and can be exchanged for gift cards, electronics, and other items.”

Many employees have said that the hospital has taken great care of them during hard times. Hernan Garcia Cervantes, radiology concierge, says, “If I had to compare it to other hospitals, I know St. Mark’s did more.” Cervantes adds, “From what I have seen on the news from other hospitals with healthcare workers asking for more PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), more staff, union protesting. I believe they did a lot for us.”

Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources, says, “For me personally, it’s not as much about me versus our colleagues and their challenges. My goal as an HR professional is to ensure all obstacles are removed from the path of my colleagues to ensure they can focus their efforts on caring for our patients. It was also a great blessing to be able to provide the vaccination to our colleagues. Hope has been restored.”

The world’s greatest snow is melting, and it might not come back

Story and photos by HOUSTON FULLER

A smoke plume is emitted from a Rocky Mountain Power smokestack.

For Evan Robison, the air quality index wasn’t always something he thought about when he wanted to step outside to water his plants. With summer inversions getting worse every year, Robison’s doctors now suggest staying inside if possible. For many older adults living in Utah, this may seem all too familiar a struggle.

“I think it’s gotten worse because it’s causing health problems for elderly people. When I was first living up here there were no problems, but it’s gotten worse,” Robison says when comparing the air quality in the Salt Lake Valley to what it once was. Born in 1942, he has had a firsthand experience of these changes taking place right in front of his eyes.

Utah is placed in a geographical location that exacerbates typical climate issues that other states in the U.S. might be able to handle easier. 

Logan Klingler is a resident of California who moved to Utah to attend college. Living in California gave he a different understanding of how climate change affects our daily lives. “I’ve visited and driven through the valley here many summers when I was younger, and I always remember stepping out of the car to stretch my legs and the wind itself being hot — that was a new experience for me, coming from the coast,” Klingler says in a Zoom interview.

Even with a limited knowledge of the climate in Utah, certain events in Utah made headlines across the nation, putting Utah’s climate issues in the spotlight. Klingler recalls a particular inversion from 2019 where “a giant smog cloud” was looming over the Salt Lake Valley. He was largely unaware of some of the issues Utah’s climate faces, however. “I didn’t think it was worse than it should be,” he said. “Anywhere in a valley with no coast or something to let the smog escape is going to have air quality problems.”

Factories and industry are significant contributors to Utah’s high emissions.

One of the most pressing issues Utah’s climate faces is accelerated warming caused by a higher altitude, drier weather, and most importantly, high emissions.

Emissions are temporarily trapped by surrounding mountains in northern Utah. Storms typically carry out the bad air and smog, but these emissions are still warming Utah’s climate. According to the Utah Climate Action Network, Utah is actually warming at twice the global rate, which could have devastating impacts on not only our environment, but also our economy.

Logan Mitchell, a University of Utah research assistant professor with a doctorate in atmospheric sciences, says, “We would have really devastating heatwaves in the summertime. There is a model of springtime snowpack under a high emissions scenario, and the springtime snowpack disappears in 50 years from now.”

In a Zoom interview, Mitchell says he attended a panel discussion a few years ago where one of the panelists was a sustainability manager for Alta, a world-class ski resort located in Utah. “Another [presenter] showed … in 70 or 80 years the springtime snowpack is going to be gone.” The panelist said that in another 80 years — the same amount of time Alta had been in business — “Utah could have no springtime snowpack if we were in a high emissions scenario, and the ski area would then cease to exist.”

Mitchell adds, “We wouldn’t have the greatest snow on Earth.”

The accelerating warming would melt springtime snowpack and make summers even hotter. This warming could cause droughts that last decades. “As climate change continues to unfold, drought conditions in the Southwest will get worse,” Mitchell says. “There is a very high risk of a severe drought extending over not just years, but potentially decades. A decade-long severe drought would absolutely cripple Utah’s economy and our ability to live because we need water.”

These issues present very real threats for Utahns and the Southwest as a whole, but Mitchell suggests that the future might not be as bleak as these projections make it out to be. Many of the models and scenarios he presents are under the assumption that we do nothing to combat this climate crisis. Yes, climate change will bring about catastrophic and devastating effects, but Mitchell doesn’t want to downplay all of the strides we are taking toward a cleaner and cooler climate.

“But, I don’t think any of that’s going to happen,” Mitchell optimistically states regarding the devastating effects of climate change, “and the reason why is because there have been huge advances in research and development, and deployment of new technologies that are zero emission technologies to the point where they are cost competitive with fossil fuel energy. … Today, producing energy from solar is cheaper than coal.”

Mitchell points out that many Utah politicians are working together to find bipartisan solutions to the climate issues that are unique to Utah. He believes that the existing climate issues Utahns face provide a unique advantage for promoting systemic change at a political level. These issues pose real health risks to many Utahns, making it hard to deny that the climate is changing drastically. Despite that, Mitchell says he believes that “Utah is going to change the national conversation on addressing environmental challenges and being good stewards of the environment.”

COVID-19 boosted the earnings of a South Korean beauty company, while others faced bankruptcies

Story by YEH-RHYM CHEON

Masks have become essential to survive in this dark world.

It is now impossible to see the bright smiles of children or eat delicious food in crowded restaurants. We cannot even breathe in the fresh air of the coming warm spring at will.

After COVID-19 hit South Korea in 2020, life before the pandemic no longer exists.

Over the past year, the pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives. In particular, the high bankruptcy rate of small- and medium-sized enterprises harmed the economy in South Korea.

According to Gyeonggido Business & Science Accelerator, the business situation of companies in South Korea deteriorated in 2020. Particularly, hard-hit were small businesses, companies with less than $1billion in sales, and companies with fewer than 10 employees.    

Countless small- and medium- sized enterprises are suffering from extended social social distancing and lockdown due to the COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Francesco Ridolfi.

For small- and medium-sized enterprises that provide face-to-face service, the mandated social distancing and long-term shutdown systems make it difficult to operate and maintain the business.

Eun Kyoung Kwak, CEO of Norang EAT Academy (노랑EAT학원), has been running an education business located in Siheung, South Korea, for 14 years.

It was her pleasure to run supplementary classes such as art, mathematics, English, and Korean for elementary school students. However, her happiness will no longer exist.

“Because of the COVID-19, numbers of students have left our academy,” Kwak said in Korean over the phone.

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the South Korean government continues to extend the social distancing period, including the ban on gatherings of five or more people.

In order to retain students, Kwak has been offering online classes. Nevertheless, it was difficult to guarantee a high quality of teaching due to various limitations such as a lack of internet knowledge and difficulty controlling students online.

Kwak confronted financial difficulties as the number of students declined. There was no other option besides reducing the number of employees.

“I am now exhausted facing these situations caused by the pandemic. I should have dismissed them to maintain my business,” Kwak said. “I just feel sorry for the fired employees.”

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the unemployment rate in South Korea has surged as many small- and medium-sized enterprises have been going through hardship with the business operation.

Yuna Lee was one of the victims who lost her job due to the COVID-19.

Since 2019, Lee had worked part-time for six months at a mathematics academy located in Seohyeon, South Korea.

At the academy, she could take the first step towards her dream of becoming a teacher.

“Even though it was a part-time job, I worked hard because I love both children and teaching. Also, it was a great opportunity to build my career,” Lee said in Korean in a phone interview.

While she was working hard and doing well as the instructor, the COVID-19 hit South Korea, and the tragedy began.

Like other companies, her academy also suffered financial problems from the COVID-19, and Lee eventually got fired.

“After being fired, I had to find a new job to make a living,” Lee said. “But, the reality did not allow me to do it.”

She said that other companies are not hiring new employees but rather reducing the number of employees.

Lee could take this situation as she knew how COVID-19 affected society, but now she has to handle her financial challenges.

While many people are facing economic difficulties, there is a company that has benefited from the COVID-19.

OTK Corp. is one of the small beauty companies located in Asan, South Korea. Han-Jong Kim, CEO of OTK Corp., started his business in 2010 by selling facial sheet masks.

The facial sheet mask is a beauty product made of non-woven fabric containing essence, moisturizing the facial skin.

When COVID-19 just hit South Korea, there was a limit on the number of masks purchased due to a lack of mask supply.

While everyone lined up to buy the masks, Kim turned this situation into an opportunity.

Kim produced masks out of his company’s sheet mask material. Thanks to the COVID-19, he was able to increase sales. Photo illustration by Pauline Yeh-Hyun Cheon.

“I could manufacture tons of masks with a non-woven fabric, which is a material of our sheet mask,” Kim said in Korean in a phone interview.

As a result, his product diversification strategy, applying the mask supply shortage situation, played a crucial role in increasing sales and income by 70%.

However, Kim was also worried about the situation after the end of COVID-19. He foresees sales and income to decline as the supply of masks increases over time.

Kim said that new problems arise with new social situations all the time. He added, “It is one of my challenges to resolve as a leader in an organization.”

Although Kim could generate more sales from the pandemic, he hopes for an end to COVID-19.

As an entrepreneur, Kim knows how difficult this situation can be for other companies.

He also knows that not only many companies but employees and consumers are struggling with COVID-19.

He believes that the economy of South Korea will recover when the pandemic is over. Hence, everyone will be able to live a better life than we are now.

“Even if it is impossible to take off the mask right now,” Kim said, “we will be able to breathe in the hot summer air that is coming up.”

How teachers are handling the Coronavirus pandemic

Story by DARIENNE DEBRULE

The emotional and physical health of students has been at the forefront of the discussion surrounding the reopening of Utah schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers across the state are also struggling to adapt to the changes caused by the pandemic. 

In the summer the Utah State Board of Education did not require school districts to create protocols for responding to the virus. Each district was expected to create its own plan, which resulted in Salt Lake City School District moving to online classes completely, 16 districts moving to a split schedule and 25 other districts allowing students to attend in-person as normal, according to AP News.

Corner Canyon High School with an empty parking lot as the school transitioned to online learning for multiple weeks in the semester. Photo by Darienne DeBrule.

The coronavirus pandemic and lack of instruction by the districts made it so individual schools were expected to provide training to teachers regarding online instruction. However, the amount of instruction actually given was dependent on school administration and teacher coaches, said Amber Rogers, Corner Canyon High School government and history teacher, who teaches both online and in-person sections.

Teachers had to change the way they prepared for the upcoming school year since many districts opted for hybrid learning. So they had to get ready for in-person classes and were also expected to become well-versed in online instruction seemingly overnight. 

“A lot of teachers were on the verge of a breakdown,” Rogers said during a Zoom interview.

Many teachers, including Karen Millenbach at Indian Hills Middle School, frantically tried to convert their lessons onto Canvas in the allotted time before the school year. 

The front of Indian Hills Middle School with signs posted to differentiate between student, teacher, and parent entrances. Photo by Darienne DeBrule.

“It’s exhausting, even for the most experienced tech people,” Millenbach said in an email interview. 

Teachers have also been limited in their interactions with students. This has led to many educators feeling disappointed because they are unable to give their students the same quality of instruction and support as before.

The quality of online instruction has been questioned as many believe it is subpar to in-person instruction and that there is no substitute for in-person learning, according to “Pros and Cons of Online Education” by Dhirenda Kumar.

Middle school student Trinity Trimiar does research for her upcoming math project that she will submit online. Photo by Darienne DeBrule.

Rogers said over Zoom that in-person learning allows for teachers to teach a lesson and have students ask clarifying questions throughout the lesson. However, if online instruction does not take place through that platform, teachers are expected to just upload online lectures. This does not allow for students to ask real-time questions.

“Every day I have office hours during my class time, but it’s optional and only a few kids come online for content,” Rogers said. “Learning is on them right now.”

Rogers said she believes the lack of engagement from her high school students is the hardest part about teaching in this new normal. She became a teacher to help kids connect the pieces together that make them excited and passionate. But she wants to keep them safe so she will do whatever needs to be done. 

Rogers was the Canyons School District’s Teacher of the Year recipient in 2018 and she is doing everything she can to help her students be successful in this unprecedented time. 

Teachers are finding different ways to keep themselves safe inside the classroom, but some of their precautions can be hard for them emotionally.

“Teaching from my desk can be a very sad and frustrating thing,” said Millenbach, the teacher at Indian Hills Middle School.

Due to the size of her classroom, students can only be placed 3 feet apart. After having a student test positive for COVID-19 and other students rotating in and out of quarantine, she decided to teach from her desk to avoid circulating around the classroom to prevent the possible spread of the virus. 

Karen Millenbach in front of her home with a sign acknowledging her teaching efforts during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Lauren Millenbach.

While online teachers are not faced with the same in-person pressures of avoiding a COVID-19 classroom outbreak, they are still struggling to create relationships with their students via online platforms. 

Natalie Culine, an online elementary student teacher, said in a Zoom interview, “It is hard to be so far from my students, know they are struggling and not be able to offer as much support as I would like.” 

In addition to the hardships online teaching has created, teachers have also been subject to the mental and emotional stress caused by the pandemic. 

Student teacher Natalie Culine poses in front of Liberty Elementary School pre-COVID, smiling about her classroom experience. Photo courtesy of Natalie Culine.

A few weeks after schools first closed, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence reported that many teachers were experiencing overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, and confusion — the same feelings that many are currently having. 

“When our school days are over I feel emotionally exhausted and worn down,” Culine said in a FaceTime interview.

She misses the in-person interactions with colleagues and students, but said she would not feel safe if she was teaching in person. 

In-person teachers also have to deal with the emotional stress caused by being at a high risk for exposure to the virus. 

Rogers said she has not been able to visit her parents since the start of the pandemic because they have underlying health conditions and she is exposed in the classroom. 

Amber Rogers, far left, visiting her mom with her siblings before the start of the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Amber Rogers.

Political leaders and community members have debated whether it is the federal government’s, the state’s, the district’s, or individuals’ responsibility to keep teachers safe. 

Rogers, the social science teacher, drew on her knowledge of government to reflect on the debate and said, “It’s a constitutional gray area because there is no precedent for it.” 

Teachers across the state will continue to follow the guidelines set in place by the health department, school districts, and administration as the United States enters flu season. 

Project Homeless Connect: COVID-19 changed its plans, but not its commitment

Story and photos by JANE KREMER

Oct. 9: This would have been the day where service providers, volunteers, and the majority of those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County would meet at the Salt Palace for services to be rendered and received. But, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the plans.  

Project Homeless Connect, a nonprofit organization run by its committee and volunteers, holds a service event for those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County annually in the fall. 

According to the organization, among the most popular services provided by this event are medical, dental, vision, and haircuts. In 2019, 125 service providers and 900 volunteers aided over 1,000 people currently experiencing homelessness, with over 3,000 services provided. 

Project Homeless Connect’s fall 2019 service event at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

Mike Akerlow, executive director for Project Homeless Connect in Salt Lake City, started the organization here in 2017 after attending a panel discussing homelessness and PHC in other cities across the U.S. 

Akerlow, who worked for the mayor of Salt Lake City at the time, gained traction for PHC through resources and press coverage from the mayor and support from the community. 

The Salt Lake City Library and a Veterans Administration program, Project Stand Down, had held events similar to those previously conducted by PHC. As Akerlow assembled a team for PHC, he incorporated those programs into the event. 

After running the Salt Lake organization for three years, Akerlow said the organization has been able to improve each year by making its steering committee stronger and refining services provided to people experiencing homelessness. 

“Every year we look at how do we make this the best experience for everyone coming,” Akerlow said during a phone interview. “I think the point of it is to make sure people [experiencing homelessness] are getting connected to the right things.”

In 2020, however, Project Homeless Connect has had to change its events due to the health and safety restrictions of COVID-19. 

Originally, PHC planned to hold events every Friday in October at different homeless resource centers where service providers and volunteers would meet to aid the population. Then, with the surge in cases of COVID-19 in late September, the events fell through.

“Once cases started going up, some of our service providers also got a little bit nervous, so they decided to pull out,” Akerlow said. “And it made sense, we didn’t want to expose people who are experiencing homelessness.”

One of the biggest challenges for the committee this year was reducing the number of 900 committed volunteers down to 20 volunteers due to health and safety restrictions.

Volunteers, from left, Nate Kremer, Robyn Kremer, and Mandy Allen collect donations from community members at a donation drive in October 2020.

“People in our community want to help. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have organizations that they already go to or belong to, and they’re looking for ways that are more meaningful than the traditional service opportunities,” Akerlow said. “And Project Homeless Connect provides that for a lot of people.”

Rethinking how PHC will continue to serve in 2020 and 2021 has been challenging with new information daily surrounding COVID-19. Committee member Natalie Clawson, one of the logistics coordinators for PHC, said the centers that the team planned to visit went the whole summer without a positive COVID-19 test result. 

But as the rise in numbers of COVID-19 in Salt Lake City became more prevalent, PHC had to postpone bringing the services to the centers. 

“The executive directors at all the centers totally understood why we needed to postpone the events,” Clawson said during a phone interview. 

Clawson, who’s been a part of PHC since the first year as a volunteer, said her job description this year is far different than a normal year. 

“At first it was very scary,” Clawson said. “But then as you dig into it, you’re like, you know what this is an opportunity to create and to get everything on its head and rethink what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” 

Reinvention, as Nicole Handy, the other logistics coordinator for PHC, said, is what this year is all about. 

“As we know, nothing is easy about 2020,” Handy said in a phone interview.  

Handy said the committee knew it wanted to keep the same values and goals while delivering the services this population needs. 

“There is something really rewarding of going in and organizing this event that overall has a really positive outcome,” Handy said. “We are excited when we are able to get back into the centers to really bring some of those high priority [services] in.”

The Project Homeless Connect team held donation drives throughout October, accepting donations such as clothing, hygiene items, and pet care products. It also had a donation link on its website, and had an Amazon wish list that members of the community donated to. 

Bags of donations waiting to be distributed to homeless resource centers across Salt Lake County.

For spring of 2021, PHC plans to return to the original idea of visiting the homeless resource centers weekly to provide services, meals, and donations. Members of the community can learn more about volunteer opportunities for PHC in 2021 and sign up through the website.

The committee for Project Homeless Connect, according to its website, has committed to the idea that “COVID-19 has changed the plan but not our commitment to serving our homeless friends.” 

As Mike Akerlow, executive director for PHC in Salt Lake County, said about the first year, “We did it, somehow we did it.” Little did he know, the very same thing could be said about Project Homeless Connect in 2020 and 2021. 

Grief work: the process of loss against a backdrop of chaos

Story and gallery by ALEXIS PERNO

When you walk into the small front lobby of the Serenicare Funeral Home, the first thing you notice is the pleasant yellow walls. 

The second would be the dark wooden desks opposite each other. 

The third is a small, yet striking detail; next to the ubiquitous tissue box is a new fixture — a bottle of hand sanitizer. 

Francis Mortensen, funeral director of seven years, sports a surgical mask as he stands alone in the Serenicare Funeral Home’s small viewing room.

Francis Mortensen, Serenicare’s funeral director of seven years, is wearing a blue surgical mask as he speaks to a client on the phone, mid-interview. I pause the recording as he talks. When he finishes, I smile, thinking back to his earlier comments about the upcoming weekend.

“You weren’t kidding when you said a funeral director’s job never ends.”

Mortensen laughs in agreement, and we speak for 20 more minutes. 

The pandemic hasn’t changed Serenicare’s process all that much: when a death occurs, the home, located at 2281 S. West Temple, is notified by a hospice nurse or social worker. Then, the home contacts the family to learn their desires and arrange pickup of their loved one. A time to meet with the family is set, and plans for a service are put into motion. 

However, this face-to-face collection of information between Mortensen and a grieving family has been replaced with online forms, emails and phone calls. Precautions are taken that weren’t before. Instead of simply straightening up the meeting table for his next client, Mortensen spends time sanitizing before returning the ever-present tissue box and hand sanitizer to their respective places. 

“We do have to have different precautions,” he said. “When we are going to a facility, I used to never ask, ‘Do they have an infectious disease?’”

Early in the pandemic, Mortensen and his team would suit up in complete protection gear to even step foot into a room with a deceased person, regardless of if the person had died from COVID-19. Now, greater precautions are only taken if the deceased was positive at the time of death. 

“That comes down to not only a time thing and a stress thing but also a financial thing because of purchasing all that protective equipment,” he said. “It’s just going to be thrown away.”

Although the death rate in Utah has remained low compared to hard-hit places —  773 deaths as of Nov. 20 compared to New York City’s 19,517 — changes still have made themselves known.

With the sudden lack of in-person, open-casket viewings, embalming is not taking place. To comply with social distancing guidelines and church closures, funeral services have been replaced by graveside services at the cemetery. More families have begun to choose cremation, causing changes in the revenue stream. 

But for Serenicare, Zoom funerals have worked well. During one service with over 100 attendees, Mortensen was completely alone in Serenicare  — save for the casket. 

“All of the speakers did their talk from a different location, so [Zoom] worked very well in that aspect. It was different not having anybody here,” Mortensen said. 

Preschool teacher Shanna Beesley lost her mother, JoAnn Peirce, on June 15, 2020. While her mother’s death was unrelated to COVID-19, the family decided to limit the number of people who could attend the service to just Beesley’s siblings, their children and Peirce’s siblings.

As Beesley and her family met at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy, Utah, over 100 people attended virtually through a Zoom organized by the family.

“I think it’s been harder for sure to grieve but you know what, at least we have our family,” she said in a Zoom interview. “That’s No. 1. We had our family there, and so that was helpful.”

Despite some technical difficulties, Beesley said attendees were thankful to be present, albeit virtually. 

In Peirce’s obituary, it’s written that “family was her most priceless treasure.” When things become overwhelming for her daughter, family ensures perseverance as well. 

“I hold on to all the great things that [my mother] did for me and the impact she made here,” Beesley said. “The memories and love of family, supportive family, that’s what I hold on to.” 

These infographics were originally created Nov. 15. In the five days between creation and publication, case counts increased by 2,625.

The stark necessity of social distancing has made mourning into a greater challenge, according to Francis Mortensen. For some, it isn’t enough to be notified of a death. Seeing a loved one for the last time at a viewing can be a vital step for someone to work through their grieving process.  

“Death is the definite factor in all of our lives, and understanding that, some people try to deny it to the greatest extent,” Mortensen said. “Those tend to be those that have the greatest difficulty feeling [grief] in different aspects.”

Jessica Koth, the director of public relations for the National Funeral Directors Association, agrees that grief is a powerful force. 

“We often think that we can move on from a death and find closure, implying there is some endpoint where grief ends,” Koth said in an email interview. “However, as anyone who has lost someone they are close to, you never quite get over their death and your life is changed because they are no longer there.” 

While the Wisconsin-headquartered NFDA has worked with the federal government to plan for mass-fatality circumstances for over a decade, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge to date. Calls increased as the organization worked with federal agencies to provide personal protection equipment and information to funeral homes across the nation. 

Koth said she couldn’t imagine what the experience had been like, especially considering that the majority of funeral homes in the United States are small and family-operated. 

“Day in and day out, funeral directors everywhere continued to serve families with the same level of care and compassion they always exhibit; they never missed a step,” she said. “I have never been prouder to work at NFDA than I have these last few months.”

Funeral and memorial gatherings are often crucial parts of both the mourning and healing process. Grief becomes even more complicated now as individuals also experience non-death losses. 

Within Serenicare Funeral Home, a bottle of Germ-X hand
sanitizer sits next to a tissue box in an effort to slow the spread of
the coronavirus.

“Some may be concrete and easy to identify, such as financial or employment insecurity and lack of social interaction,” Koth said. “Other losses might be harder to recognize, like no longer having the comfort of our normal routines or freedom of movement in public spaces.”

As grief evolves with the times, one constant remains: the image of the hand sanitizer next to the tissue box. But no matter the environment, the process toward healing can — must — begin somewhere.

The University of Utah and COVID-19

Story by CHANDLER HOLT 

The University of Utah had to change many things about the 2020-21 school year to account for the COVID-19 pandemic just like thousands of other colleges around the United States. Whether it was cancelling the majority of in-person classes or changing hours for many spots on campus where students can shop or eat, the student experience had to be altered coming into the school year to make sure that all students could attend college without contracting the virus and putting others at risk. 

COVID-19 made itself prevalent at the beginning of 2020 and has turned into a worldwide pandemic with over 225,000 fatalities in the United States alone. Some colleges such as University of Colorado Boulder and the University of North Carolina did not put enough restrictions in effect and had to add additional more-intense precautions after the schools had large COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The University of Utah emailed all students in September 2020 letting them know that the college had only a 0.5% positivity rate through the first month on campus. This translates to only 16 positive cases with over 3,000 people living on campus for the year. This number was one of the lowest in the U.S. among other Division 1 colleges. Despite a spike of positive COVID-19 cases in the Salt Lake Valley in November, the U has altered procedures as necessary and kept cases on campus as low as possible. 

Craig Caldwell, a professor in the Department of Film and Media Arts, said he had never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic in his 40 years of teaching. He said in a Zoom interview that many smaller disasters had occurred but nothing to the level where “students can’t interact.” Caldwell said he felt the U had done a tremendous job handling COVID-19 and he would give them a grade of “one thousand percent.”  

Cameron Vakilian, an academic advisor in the Department of Communication, shared a similar answer to Caldwell and agreed that he had never seen a calamity on this level where drastic changes had to be made to ensure the safety of every student on campus. Vakilian added in a Zoom interview that the only disaster in recent memory that brought a similar amount of distress was the murder of Lauren McCluskey that occurred on campus. McCluskey was a student athlete who was majoring in communication, which adds to the devastation that Vakilian as well as so many others felt after her death. 

Vakilian said the U has done a tremendous job handling the COVID-19 pandemic and said the university has taken the situation very seriously. He added that it is very hard to lock down a campus and a lot goes into it, but the U did it for the safety of everyone on campus. The U also has an effect on the rest of the Salt Lake Valley based on its response to COVID-19 just due its proximity. With this being said, it can be inferred that all the surrounding cities benefitted from the U handling COVID-19 so well. 

Hayley Kievman, a graduate student who also teaches an anthropology course, compared the distress from COVID-19 to the distress a hurricane would bring to a small island. Despite it being her first year teaching a course, Kievman said in a Zoom interview that she definitely noticed a difference in how professors/teachers can interact with students. She described continuous virtual meetings and classes as “awkward.” She has experience teaching younger students so that is what she based this observation on. Kievman was also quick to point out that she has seen a large dip in student participation and student focus as well. 

All three individuals said the biggest change to their work life brought on by COVID-19 was the majority of work being moved online. They also agreed it was more convenient to talk with students, but it wasn’t as personable and maybe not as effective in terms of building, or establishing, rapport.  

Caldwell brought up that body language is a very key part of communication and it’s very hard to read body language over the internet or through a webcam. Caldwell, an all-online professor even before the COVID-19 pandemic, explained that he saw way more changes in his job than he expected despite being strictly online. 

In conclusion, the U rose above the criticism and put in a large variety of rules to combat COVID-19. These rules promote social distancing and being educated on how to avoid contracting the virus. The U should be admired and studied by other colleges in the U.S. on how to deal with the pandemic. All rules that were changed in response to COVID-19 will be re-evaluated at the end of the semester to see if any changes can be moved back or slightly altered for the students’ sake. 

The experience of the coronavirus through three immunocompromised young adults

Story by MIABELLA BRICKEY

Stickers on the grocery store floor asking us to remember to social distance, hand-sanitation stations placed directly in front of every public door, and shortened business hours are lingering reminders of the already 223,000 people who have died in the United States due to the arrival of the coronavirus that caused COVID-19 in March 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that wearing a mask in public may slow the spread of the virus.

Life looks differently during a pandemic, and most have come to be well versed in the new changes happening nationwide in response to the coronavirus. The precautionary changes and procedures put into action in response to it are affecting most Americans’ lifestyles and day-to-day routines.

But for three immunocompromised people, their new normal looks very different than the new normal of those with healthy immune systems.

Sophie Dubois smiles for the camera over Zoom. Screenshot by MIABELLA BRICKEY

Sophie Dubois, who works for an in-home cleaning company, struggles with setting and communicating boundaries for her health-safety. She said it has been “hard to navigate.” However, in a Zoom interview she said her biggest concern is, “What if I get COVID from being at work, and then I can’t work?” Ultimately, she’s left stuck between the need for income and the need to protect her health.  

Athena Schwartz holds her coffee mug and smiles over Zoom. Screenshot by MIABELLA BRICKEY

For Athena Schwartz, who uses they/them pronouns, managing their small embroidery business and working at a separate online day job are distractions from the politically charged social media posts.

Most often, the constant stream of online posts feature Schwartz’s community, and even close friends, out and about — and more often than not — without a mask on. The notifications remind Schwartz that most people aren’t in fact practicing social distancing. This leaves them with few options other than to “avoid social media because it just makes [them] angry.”

“When you post on social media, we immunocompromised people see that, and we know that we aren’t in your thoughts,” Schwartz said in a Zoom interview.

“When people with autoimmune disorders or immunocompromised people get sick, it’s a lot scarier. Not only are we more likely to get sick in general, but we’re more likely to become fatally sick from COVID,” Schwartz said. “I once had a near-death experience because I had a UTI (urinary tract infection).”

Being a young adult holds many a responsibility, but it also comes with the excitement of reaching and celebrating significant milestones.

Gaeble Jones sitting in her new studio in Salt Lake City where she creates homemade rugs. Screenshot by MIABELLA BRICKEY

Gaeble Jones said her 20s are looking differently than she planned. During a Zoom interview she sighed and said, “I was expecting to graduate with money in the bank. I was expecting to have the college experience that my dad talked about and going out with friends and partying.”

Being immunocompromised has left Jones with less than her ideal college experience. Still, she’s adamant that she continues trying to live her life to the fullest potential. “I don’t want it to take any more of a toll on my mental health than it already has,” Jones said.

Friends of all three of these individuals are throwing parties, despite the already established dangers with such an activity. “Every single weekend, every single Friday, I’m here in my apartment, and they’re out there,” Jones said.

A masked young woman gazes outside from the safety of her home.

As the world tries to return to some sense of normalcy, the pursuit of one’s career is back in action for most people.

However, for any immunocompromised young adult today, their dreams and actions towards securing future opportunities are still being put on pause. Their health-safety must take priority.

“Every future change for me will be influenced by COVID. I feel so grateful that my job is all online, but that could change at any time,” Schwartz said.

The rest of the world doesn’t seem to be keen on supporting its immunocompromised population. “It just feels like everyone’s against you,” Dubois said. “It feels like nobody understands, and nobody is willing to help or make any accommodations for you.”

Schwartz described one particularly frustrating experience. “It took three months and three doctors notes showing proof of my blood tests so I could get my in-person class moved online.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the pandemic began young adults have reported having experienced “disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.”

Research on reported mental health rates for immunocompromised individuals is limited. According to Schwartz, Jones, and Dubois, the ability to manage their mental health becomes more challenging with each passing day. This continual theme of poor mental health contributes to a growing concern for immunocompromised young adults nationwide.

“I think it’s just a lot more real, a lot scarier, and impacts my life more than others because I have more to lose and more to worry about,” Jones said.

Schwartz added, “I think my anxiety and paranoia have gotten worse because I have to be more cautious, and I have to be more aware of everything going on around me more than I already was before.”

All three of these individuals said they felt as if they’ve been assigned the role of mom in their friend group. They are always the safe ones in social situations. “I feel like it gets annoying, and it feels annoying to ask because it once again makes me feel like I’m the bad guy,” Dubois said.

The CDC counts persons with weak immune systems as “those with HIV/AIDS; cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs; and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system.”

A total number of 39,718 transplants were performed in 2019. An estimated 1.8 billion Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020, and approximately 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV/AIDS today. To put this in perspective, nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives with the daily fears and struggles that come with being an immunocompromised person.

As Schwartz bluntly put it, “Everyone knows somebody who’s immunocompromised, you may not know it, but every single time you go out, you’re probably interacting with someone who’s immunocompromised.”

They added, “Just because you don’t have to experience feeling afraid every time you go outside doesn’t mean you can’t have compassion and be consciously aware of everything that immunocompromised people are going through right now.”

A volunteer holds a swab at a local COVID-19 testing drive-through.

Bears Ears under threat of destruction after drastic reduction in size

Story and gallery by TANNER FAUST

After President Trump cut the size of Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 1 million acres, activists feared that was the beginning of the end for protected land in Utah. The monument’s size has been reduced from 1.35 million acres to 200,000 acres.

“This reduction in size poses a great threat to the native population and artifacts in the area. These are sacred lands and should not be tampered with,” said Ashley Soltysiak, the director of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a phone interview.

The monument contains many ancient artifacts that the Native American population holds sacred. Moon House is one such artifact. It is a cliff dwelling that has been with the native population for nearly 1,000 years. The reduction to the monument put Moon House and other ancient artifacts at risk.

When President Obama expanded the land of Bears Ears in 2016, he did so with the ancient artifacts in mind. An official press release from the White House stated, “The area’s cultural importance to Native American tribes continues to this day. As they have for generations, these tribes and their members come here for ceremonies and to visit sacred sites.” 

Soltysiak said, “It feels as though this was an attempt by the Trump administration to undo as much of the former president’s work as possible.” The reduction favors economic interests over the interests of ancient artifacts and sites. 

The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club also runs campaigns aimed at protecting these ancient artifacts. One, “keep public lands in public hands,” is directed toward stopping the increasing cuts to Utah’s public lands. The campaign runs on the basis of keeping our American history safe. 

The new bill, created by President Trump, signed also by Utah Congressman John Curtis, and Utah representatives Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Mia Love, would reduce the size of the monument by 85%. It would create a new monument at the same time out of the remaining land. 

The new monument, named Shash Jáa National Monument, would be created out of the remaining land in Bears Ears. The bill would open the land to three new opportunities. 

Mining, geothermic leasing, and the sale of Bears Ears would be allowed by the Utah legislature. The economic expansion of this land would allow for more industrial activities to be carried out in the national monument.

Mining sites across the world have all seen similar beginnings. Sites like Tanami mine, located in Tanami, Australia, were created on land that was once protected by the government. The Tanami mine has since led to numerous environmental problems, such as cave-ins that threaten the lives of the native population working at the mine.

Another similar event happened in the Four Corners National Park. The land was taken away from the National Park to create more power plants to supply the area with power. 

Like the Bears Ears National Monument, the Four Corners National Park was opened up to industrial activity. The Natural Resources Defense Council says this was in an attempt to solve the energy demands of the area. As the Four Corners area grew, its demands for energy became overwhelming.

This affected the native population of Navajo people. The largest effect was on local residents like Daniel Tso, a Navajo activist. Tso said, “The plants were giving off dangerous chemicals all the time. While we lived around it we were all breathing in those chemicals every day,” he said in a phone interview.

Native people all over the world have experienced a similar phenomenon. Government land grabs not only threaten the environment but the people living in the area as well. The Yanacocha mine in Lima, Peru, has an abundance of native protestors outside of its perimeter. They struggle to find the footing to overpower these industrial titans and take claim to their ancient land.

In many places around the world, industrial activities are the epicenter for conflict. Another example is the Tarkwa mine in Ghana, Africa. In 2018 the mine saw a hostile takeover as the native population violently fought to take the land back.

The controversy in Bears Ears has environmental groups worried. Like many places around the world, Bears Ears is under threat of losing important land and artifacts. The area means so much to native populations who have a rich history and priceless relics.

 

 

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LGBTQ+U: The community at the University of Utah

Story and photos by ANDREW LURAS

Salt Lake City is known as being one of the most Mormon cities in America. And to counter the common knowledge of that, it’s also known as one of the “gayest” cities, which many people find hard to believe.

With it being known as this type of city, many different students from out of state are probably wondering how the University of Utah may reflect those values.

The conversation of the LGBTQ+ has always been around, but it’s become such a widespread debate through politicians, news, and just everyday conversation. This community is constantly fighting for its well-deserved rights in this country, as well as the freedom to walk around safely without the lingering fear of running into the many hateful people who reside within America. 

LGBTQ+ students are seeking out which colleges and universities to attend based on many differing factors such as how accepting toward them will their future campus be. With the U, at new student orientation, the staff will kindly ask you to state your name, without it even having to be your birth name, and your pronouns, such as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.

The LGBT Resource Center is located on the fourth floor in room 409 inside the U’s A. Ray Olpin Union building. The center was founded in 2002 by Stayner Landward and Kay Harward, both retired and moved on. This was during a time when the Mormon church was “anti-gay” with many of its teachings and practices showing some distaste toward gay marriage, according to Whit Hollis, the director of the Student Union. It started out as just an LGBT student organization with weekly meetings garnering a range of 80 to 250 students. 

Hollis attended a few of these meetings. “There was a clear need for services for that group of students, faculty, and staff of course due to the sheer size of the student organization,” Hollis said. When creating the resource center, Landward and Harward found support from the student body and administration at the U but it wasn’t always like that. 

Proposition 8, also known as Prop 8, came about during 2008. It was a ballot proposition against same-sex marriage. During this time the LGBTQ+ found themselves being targeted for hate-speech and microaggressions. “They would tell us, ‘Why do you need more rights, you already have equal rights,’ which was bullshit,” Hollis said. 

“Things have definitely been better recently. There’s still these microaggressions going around but the U has improved since the resource center first started,” Hollis said. He commented on the many different locations the resource center has occupied as it’s grown. “There was a point where I had to convert a storage closet to be the center’s main room which was ironic for the gay director to put all the gays in the closet,” Hollis said as he laughed at the idea. 

“Right now it seems to be quite successful, but we all can strive to do better, no matter where we are,” Hollis said. “The U isn’t as safe as it needs to be and that we must always strive to make the U a safe campus for all students, faculty, and staff who attend or work here.”

As of February 2019, the resource center’s director is Clare Lemke, the former assistant director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success at Iowa State University. “I was looking for my next step and Utah wasn’t on my radar,” she said. “I’ve been looking for different opportunities in the West and this job came up.” Lemke had been moving in order to try to find something closer to her partner’s career. When this job opportunity appeared, she became surprised by the vibrancy of diversity in the U’s campus with the many queer and transgender people she has been able to meet on campus. 

Originally, she thought she was studying to become a professor but over time she found that working in a resource center felt more “collaborative” than being a traditional educator. Currently at the resource center there are three full time staff members and two student staff members. “All of our staff here bring a wealth of different backgrounds and personalities. It’s refreshing to see for the students who visit the center,” Lemke said. 

When it comes to the changes the U has gone through in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance, Lemke feels as if the U “isn’t just a place you go to and leave at 5 p.m. anymore.”

Lemke finds that the U is very different from her previous institution. “I don’t think I’ve been anywhere with so much of its influence being made by the different cultures within the U.” She added, “We’re constantly striving to make the U a safe space for queer and trans students, we just want to make sure we don’t let these negative experiences an LGBTQ+ student might have affect the rest of their life here.”

One student in particular, who asked to be identified as “G,” said she had some pretty odd experiences at the U as an LGBTQ+ member. “I’m a business major and a lot of the students in those buildings in particular are pretty discriminatory towards my sexuality.”

G also said her Mormon peers have invited her to church. “They would be overly friendly at first,” she said, but she felt like they were only inviting her to change her sexual orientation.

G doesn’t know how accepting the rest of campus is, but that experience left her with much anxiety. She found it harder to reach out to many of her peers or professors about this issue but she found solace in the many other friends outside of school who were LGBTQ+ accepting. G used to go to Westminster College and she felt the transition from there to the U was “an odd experience.” G said there is room for improvement at the U and we should be looking for ways to help students have an overall great campus life.

“I’ve been to the resource center a few times,” G said. “Clare [Lemke] and the staff at the center are very helpful, though I had trouble finding it at first. If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ you should definitely check out the resource center, they’re a really great group of people, especially if you had an experience on campus like mine.”  Even with G’s experience at the U, she has decided to stay and not let it affect her pursuit of a business degree. This is just one in the many cases of what it’s like to be a student at the U who is a part of the LGBTQ+. 

As much as Salt Lake City has this good image on being an open and welcoming city to the LGBTQ+, students, faculty, and staff at the U are always working on improving upon the areas they may be lacking in. Whit Hollis believes we need to focus more on the safety of our LGBTQ+ members. And Lemke knows we must prioritize these students because the negative experiences they might have on campus may affect their education here. As Hollis, Lemke, and G have agreed on, the U should always be striving to do better in order to figure out the best way to serve its students so they can have an educational, safe, and happy experience here on campus. 

 

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The importance of student access to sexual and reproductive health services

Story and Gallery by ASIA BOWN

Now more than ever students have ready access to sexual health resources through their campus health centers and their local Planned Parenthood center.

Young adults pursuing some form of education are in an interesting position; their school will more than likely have an office that provides sexual and reproductive health guidance and counseling. For many students living alone away from home it’s their first time exploring and attempting to maintain their sexual health, and they often do so with limited resources and guidance.

Many campuses utilize groups of students in the pursuit to provide better sexual health resources that can help students who didn’t receive proper counsel earlier in their lives. At the University of Utah, a group of students has been trained to assist other students with sexual health guidance and provide counsel through the ACES Peer Health Education program, which operates out of the Center for Student Wellness located in Suite 2100 of the Eccles Student Life Center.

Maya Jolley, a health educator at the Center for Student Wellness and creator of the ACES Peer Health Education program, says that we need to improve upon the current sex education curriculum and it should be introduced before students have the chance to develop bad habits. (Jolley said that ACES was once an acronym but is no longer used that way.)

One of the biggest misconceptions Jolley has encountered in her career as a health educator is that sexuality is a mere fraction of our lives. She explains a crucial lesson she learned from a mentor during her time in college, “Sexuality — regardless of what form it takes — is essentially a river that is constantly running through our body.” She added, “We need a strong, humane education to match the intensity of it (sexuality) in our bodies.”

Jolley’s team of student educators has organized numerous presentations on campus geared toward sex education and wellness. Linda Derhak, one of the original student leaders, describes one of her most rewarding experiences on the team wherein she partnered up with another team member to create a basic sex education presentation. According to Derhak, they included “general facts and communication pieces, or how to talk about sex with your partner.”

Elnaz Tahmassebi, another team member dedicated to providing education on sexual wellness, discussed the STI clinics her team organizes every semester, during which students have the opportunity to ask questions about their sexual wellness. “With the STI clinics,” she said, “I speak to people one-on-one and can actually see, like, a change and address their concerns and I feel like I’m making more of an individual change.”

For students who live in the school’s dorms or spend a considerable amount of time on campus, getting access to these STI clinics and other services is as easy as getting to class. But for students who don’t live on campus and don’t want to be there for anything but their classes, their city’s Planned Parenthood is another viable option, provided that there is one nearby. These centers provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, like contraception, cancer screenings, STD/STI testing, and various birth control options.

In college, students have enough bills to pay and it may seem unnecessary to visit a health professional for an education that many medical and education professionals argue students should have received in grade school. This assumption is entirely false and local Planned Parenthood centers offer inexpensive sexual healthcare.

For many students, Planned Parenthood centers are their primary resources for sexual and reproductive healthcare. It’s extremely important that they have continued access to these resources because without them, they’ll resort to neglecting their sexual health and develop bad habits, like never getting tested for STDs and STIs, foregoing a cancer screening because of the high price tag, and practicing unsafe sex.

In August, it was revealed that Planned Parenthood refused Title X funds in opposition to a Trump administration rule that would prevent centers from referring patients to doctors who provided abortions. While the organization’s actual abortion numbers are erroneously exaggerated by various groups working against it, it is one of the fundamental rights people have in our country. Planned Parenthood is doing everything in its power to defend these rights and continue to provide necessary healthcare services to people across the country.

In addition to STD/STI screenings, various forms of birth control, and cancer screenings, people also have access to counsel from doctors who specialize in sexual and reproductive health. People can make appointments to discuss procedures, safe sexual behavior, and past experiences to gain a more thorough knowledge of their sexual health.

As young adults grow and mature, so should their knowledge of healthy sexual practices. Without a proper sex education, young people are more likely to engage in unhealthy sexual relationships and develop negative attitudes toward sex, which can set the course for the rest of their lives if they continue to go uneducated.

If they’ve had a proper sex education students can learn to avoid abusive relationships, recognize their boundaries and those of their partners, and engage in safe sex practices. These are important lessons to learn as they get older and begin to enter more frequently into sexual relationships. Often times, students seek guidance from trusted friends and confidants, but the information they get isn’t always dependable or even true.

“There’s a lot of bad information that young people get when they only talk to their friends because they aren’t actually talking to a professional who knows what they’re talking about,” Derhak said. By seeking help from trained professionals at school health centers or local Planned Parenthood centers, students are more likely to get accurate information that will allow them to make better decisions regarding their sexual health.

The importance of access to sexual and reproductive health services for students is still grossly underestimated in our society, though strides are being made to improve student sexual health.

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Before coming to work at the U’s Center for Student Wellness, Maya Jolley worked at Planned Parenthood. Photo courtesy of Center for Student Wellness.

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The Center for Student Wellness is located near the end of a quiet second-floor hallway to the left of the main staircase.

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The center is located in suite 2100 of the Student Life Center.

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The center advertises such services as condom sales, victim-survivor advocacy, and STI testing in its window.

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Elnaz Tahmassebi, a sophomore at the U, has found purpose in educating her fellow students about their sexual health.

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Linda Derhak was one of the first students to be recruited for the ACES Peer Health Education program.

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Derhak (left) and Tahmassebi have worked to give sex education presentations and set up free STI clinics during the spring and fall semesters.

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Located at 654 S. 900 East in Salt Lake City, this Planned Parenthood center offers inexpensive sexual healthcare to its community.

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The center’s clinic is located at the bottom of the staircase in front of the building.

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Planned Parenthood’s Metro Health Center is located at 160 S. 1000 East in Salt Lake City.

 

Electric scooters and skateboards on campus

Story and photos by CHRISTOPHER STENGER

Electric scooters and skateboards are everywhere on the University of Utah’s campus. These personal transporters have such a large impact on campus and anyone who walks the campus will see the hazards they have created.   

Electrical powered personal transporters are still required to follow the same rule of non-motorized personal transporters, like bikes, which include a 10 mph zone all throughout campus. When class is getting out or about to start and the sidewalks are filled with students, it makes it more difficult for those on electric scooters and skateboards to keep a consistent speed and direction without either crashing into people or forcing pedestrians off the sidewalk.

Students have bought their own personal electric scooters or skateboards to avoid having ton pay the rental cost. The electrical scooter companies require a small fee before you use every time. Companies like Lime and Bird provide electric scooters to rent for $1 with a per minute cost ranging from 25-50 cents.

According to the U’s policy code 3-232, skateboards are defined as ‘a non-motorized device consisting of two or more wheels affixed to a platform or board upon which a rider stands and which does not have steering capability similar to that of a bicycle or brakes which operate on or upon the wheels of the skateboard.” Having these electric skateboards around campus is technically violating school policy.

According to Ginger Cannon, the University of Utah’s active transportation manager, ‘The current contract prohibits Lime and Bird from deploying scooters on school property, but does not ban the operation of the vehicles.” This stops these large companies from having the ability to mass drop scooters all around campus, she said in an email interview.   

Students around campus who do not ride these electric scooters or skateboards explained that they actually do not have serious issues with these personal transporters. Alex Dasla, a senior here at the U, said, “I believe that the scooters might be more safe to use on campus than the skateboards, but still would prefer that they both stay in the biking paths instead of the walking paths.” 

People are caught off guard when an electric scooter or skateboard flies past them while walking to their classes. Since they’re electric, it’s very difficult to hear the scooter or skateboard approaching.

William Slicer, a junior at the U, explained how he was actually involved in an electric skateboard crash, as a pedestrian. Slicer believes that “they should be required to ride in the bicycle paths and only those areas when on campus because of their stealthiness and quickness.” He added, “I am just lucky I was hit onto the grass and not into another person or the concrete.” 

Lt. Terry Fritz of the U’s campus police explained that he believes that “the issue isn’t the electrical part, but it is the mode of transportation in general. I think that the human powered and electric powered scooters as equally as dangerous on our campus.” Fritz also said “he sees more bicyclist abusing the speed limit of 10 mph than of the skateboarders and scooter riders.” This happens because they do not have a set max speed and can go well above 15 mph.

Fritz explained how he thinks that with all the electrical scooters being stranded outside campus buildings, that “they’re creating not the best image for campus.” He said that “hub locations would be very helpful with correcting the bad image of the scooters stranded all over campus.” 

Cannon has been working at the U for nearly two and half years and is constantly working to improve the ways of transportation around campus. Cannon uses social media, like Twitter, to spread news of her work to improve campus mobility. Her Twitter handle is @GingerCannonU.   

Walking around campus you will see scooters scattered all around building entrances, in bike racks or even just in front of doors. Cannon says she wants to create “Mobility Hubs” for the scooters and skateboards in the near future.

These scooters and skateboards are still new to the U but are on the uprise for campus. The U will have to adapt to these electric personal transporters and work to better their operation, as people are not going to stop riding them on campus. 

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Hearing loss affects more than just your grandparents

Story and gallery by WILLOW GALVAN

“No one thinks that hearing loss will happen to them, until it does,” said University of Utah student Dallin Wilkins, 20, while sitting at a local coffee shop.

Wilkins was just 13 when he started shooting guns frequently with his dad, and without using ear protection. Unfortunately that decision, and his habit of playing loud music through his headphones, catalyzed his hearing loss at a young age.

It didn’t take long for Wilkins’ hearing to quickly start to deteriorate. By the time he was 18, he depended heavily on reading the lips of those he spoke with. He also experienced an almost constant ringing in his ears. At that point, he realized it was time to see an audiologist for answers.

At first, the audiologists were surprised at the amount of hearing Wilkins had lost at such a young age. However, after learning more about his habits that led to the damage, they were surprised it wasn’t worse. It was then that Wilkins underwent the process of receiving hearing aids, which he has now worn daily for over two years.

Liz Hankins, director of audiology at House of Hearing, which has multiple locations across the Salt Lake Valley, said that noise exposure is one of the most common reasons for people to experience hearing loss. This could happen as a result of various activities including shooting guns, going to concerts, or working in loud environments.

Younger people generally assume that older individuals are the only people to experience hearing loss to this degree. “People need to just be mindful of the fact that hearing loss doesn’t just happen to old people, it can happen to younger kids. And the problem is that once those hair cells and the hearing has been affected you just can’t get it back,” Hankins said.

In fact, she said it is actually very common, with 50 million Americans experiencing hearing loss and 1 in 5 teens struggling with it as well.

Hankins also recommends those struggling with hearing loss see an ear, nose, and throat physician or an audiologist immediately. If any parents are concerned with their children’s speech or language development, Hankins said these issues are likely caused by hearing loss, and it should be ruled out immediately.

Hearing loss is so common that many companies are developing services with the intent to educate individuals on the issue at hand, including powerhouse company, Apple.

In the Apple iOS 13 update that came out in September 2019, the Health app offers a new hearing section. Here, Apple users can read about what causes hearing loss and the different levels of hearing loss. It also includes indications of when you might be experiencing it.

Some of the indications of hearing loss that are listed are: when you meet someone and it is hard to hear their name, in loud places when you miss part of conversations, and when you have ringing in your ears.

The app also has a section that provides information about why hearing health matters. It shows how hearing is measured in decibels, and how you are generally in a loud environment when decibels are over 80.

Aside from the Health app being updated with this new information, Apple Watches also have new technology to protect hearing health. If you have one of these devices, you can set up the Hearing app available on them. After it is set up, the app will monitor the level of noise exposure you are in, and alert you when it reaches a potentially dangerous level.

Josh Hankins, a hearing care specialist who also works at the House of Hearing, said the best way to preserve your hearing is by letting discomfort be your guide. By this, he recommends that when you are in an environment that feels uncomfortably loud, you change the situation by leaving or getting ear protection.

There is also a misconception when it comes to how to care for your ears. “Take care of your ears by leaving them alone,” he said. He reassures people that a little earwax is normal, and if it becomes excessive, you should seek care from a specialist. The general population uses cotton swabs to clean their ears, which is very damaging. In fact, the boxes themselves advise users not to use them in their ear canal at all.

The reason that cotton swabs are so damaging is because they actually do not clean your ears. They just push the ear wax further down your ear canal, which can lead to difficulty hearing and an uncomfortable sensation. An even more detrimental consequence of using these in your ears is the possibility of bursting your eardrum, which can cause permanent damage, according to WebMD.

While drinking his coffee, Wilkins said he wishes there were resources such as the Health app available to him when he was younger. He hopes that others use this information to protect their ears and take it more seriously than he did.

Wilkins knows firsthand how heartbreaking it was to lose his hearing, especially when it could have been prevented. He warns others to protect their ears because once they are damaged it is irreversible. “When you have hearing loss, you aren’t just missing some words in some conversations,” he said. “You are missing time with your loved ones, you are missing out on memories, you are missing out on everything.”

Art with a cause: artwork from cancer patients, caregivers, and staff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute

Story and gallery by MADISEN GATES

The Huntsman Cancer Institute stands as a gentle giant overlooking the University of Utah from the northeast corner of campus. Its massive glass structure is a symbol of excellence and elegance. The building illustrates its mission statement; “The patient first, a united effort, excellence in all we do.”

Treatment can be a stressful time for those who have cancer. The side effects for most people range from physical symptoms to emotional ones.

But what lies inside the facility is more than a treatment center for cancer patients.

For years, HCI has been a leading innovator for cutting-edge cancer research, including creative and emotional therapies.

Shelly White founded the Artist-in-Residence program in 2012 and has served as its director since then. Patients, caregivers, and HCI staff can participate in group or individual art projects every Tuesday throughout the year.  

Coming from a musical family, White said she believes that art can be both mentally and physically supportive.

She applied and was approved for a LIVESTRONG grant that offers funding for creative arts programs nationwide. She was determined to find a way to implement these benefits at HCI.

But these weekly classes are not just art workshops.

The artists leading the program each year act as mentors. Participants can learn skills in pain management and how to relieve stress. They can also spend quality time with loved ones through various art projects. These projects can include painting, mask-making, ceramics, and even designing maps. The patient is able to gain control over one aspect of their treatment – their art.

“I think a lot of the time people feel like they’re having all these things done to them that they wouldn’t choose. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, you wouldn’t choose those things,” White said. “And you get to make choices about ‘what do I want to get engaged in.’”

Each current artist will choose the artist for the next year to ensure the quality and engagement during these workshops. Every prospective artist can attend a session as a guest presenter. The current artist observes how the guest presenter interacts with the patients and attendees. This improves the success of the project to continue enriching the patients’ time in treatment.

Laura Wilson, the current mentor for the program, has been making art her whole life. Her favorite form of art is fine arts, which she studied at Carnegie Mellon to earn her BFA. Every artist is free to run the sessions in their own way. “People are just really happy to be here. The level of creativity here is really high,” Wilson said. “You have people dealing with very hard things, and they just free themselves.”

White said the greatest motivation to continue searching for artists to expand these projects is watching patients flourish creatively. “Seeing the whole person” develop, she said. “Giving people an opportunity for people to express themselves beyond words.”

The sessions are always kept open to allow participants more freedom while they create. There are no rules as to what a participant can or cannot create and participants are able to come and go from the art sessions in between regular treatments.

Vibrant clay tiles form a legacy piece displayed in White’s office.

A brown and red clay art piece is displayed in White’s office, which became a legacy project for one participant.

 

 “With some people, it’s a legacy,” White said. “There was another woman who was in her 40s who had daughters that were probably in their 20s who did this piece. It was a legacy piece because she wasn’t going to survive the cancer, but it was a really meaningful thing she could do with her daughters to make this piece.”

For most participants, the art represents much more than a fun craft project.

Caren Pinson has been attending the sessions for many years as a cancer survivor. She described her time in the Artist-in-Residence program as “life changing.”

“I have medical post-traumatic stress, from long before I moved to Utah and when I actually did first move over it was pretty bad. I didn’t ever really want to see a doctor again,” Pinson said. “But being here, this is really the safest place I’ve ever felt.”

Pinson continues to contribute many ideas to improve the program. She recalled a previous conversation with one of the HCI acupuncture specialists who said, “Huntsman hires compassion and they can teach everything else.”

Seven years later the program has flourished. In addition to the Artist-in-Residence program, a Writer-in-Residence and a music therapy program can be found on the HCI calendar throughout the year.

The programs aim to go even deeper in the upcoming years. It is the hope of the director to pair biologic researchers with participants to show the value of arts through basic science.

The emergence of these programs is a testament to the dedication of the staff at HCI. It is a giant not only in dominating the cancer treatment field, but also for the heart that lies within the walls.

 

Careful of The Birds, the electric scooters might hurt you 

Story and photos by RANDALL WHITMORE

As the days get shorter and the temperatures begin cooling off one thing remains constant at the University of Utah, electric scooters are still parked on nearly every intersection around campus. 

As the school year continues, many scooters are being used on campus by students and faculty as a means of transportation. Electric scooters have become extremely accessible as they are often left all over campus. Students can easily access these electric scooters using their designated apps, which can be downloaded onto any smartphone.

Despite innovative transportation, some students and faculty believe that the scooters are endangering users and other bystanders. Recent U graduate Elan Maj calls the scooters “extremely dangerous.” According to Elan, the scooters are not properly repaired and present potential risks to users. “About a year ago I was using a scooter to get home from class. As I was close to my house the handlebars had fallen out of the scooter while I was riding and I crashed.” 

Elan was not injured enough to go to the hospital but he did file a complaint with Bird, the electric scooter company he rented from. He explained that there is a designated area for reporting damage in the Bird app. Even though Elan provided pictures and a written statement, he could not prove that the damage was due to misuse. Bird refused to take further action or refund his ride. 

Users sign a waiver of liability before being able to access the scooters. The waiver states that users must be 18 years or older to ride and are required to wear a helmet before using the scooter. Elan explained that the waiver of liability makes users responsible for any injuries or damage while using the scooters. The app does not provide any incentives for reporting damaged scooters.

The app provides an incentive program for charging electric scooters in which anyone can participate. There are simple instructions on how to get paid by collecting and charging scooters. However, these individuals may not be qualified to determine what mechanical issues may have occurred to a scooter. Elan believes that there are a large number of scooters that are unfit to ride; however, Bird scooters continue to circulate Salt Lake City and the U. 

A May 2019 story in the Salt Lake Tribune stated each company is only allowed to have 500 scooters in the city at one time. With four separate companies renting scooters in Salt Lake, there are upwards of 2,000 scooters.

The Tribune reported the results of a comprehensive nationwide study of 2018 electric scooter injuries. The article explained, “Of the 249 patients who received treatment for scooter-related injuries, nearly 28 percent suffered contusions, sprains and lacerations. About 30 percent had fractures, and just over 40 percent were treated for head injuries.” In addition, “94.3% of observed riders in our community were not wearing a helmet.” Electric scooter accidents accounted for more injuries than bicycle accidents and pedestrian injuries during the study period. 

Just how safe are these electric scooters? Abigail Yensen, a nurse at the University Hospital, stated, “We have seen a number of patients in the ER as a result of electric scooter accidents. We have treated patients with injuries to collarbones, wrists, shoulders, ankles, and severe scrapes.” 

There have been no reported accidents related to electric scooters since their debut in 2018, according to officer Ryan Speers at the Department of Public Safety of the U. Public Safety had received calls from other large universities around the country also conducting similar surveys to accidents relating to electric scooters. Speers explained that other institutions are having issues with electric scooter accidents to both users and pedestrians on their campuses. 

The U has strategically placed bicycle paths where faster moving traffic can efficiently move around campus. Speers said, “We pride ourselves on our designated bike paths which most universities around the country do not have. We believe this is why we have yet to see any accidents involving electric scooters on campus.” Speers said he is excited that no one has been hurt by electric scooters on campus yet. He believes that the scooters are relieving the parking lots and easing traffic during the busiest hours on campus. 

Perhaps students are not reporting these incidents to Public Safety and instead taking matters into their own hands. Student Oscar Augustine who uses Bird scooters as a form of transportation admitted to being scared of other users of the electric scooters. He believes the scooters create a lot of fast moving traffic on campus with inexperienced riders who are not wearing protective gear. “I recently saw two girls riding one scooter who crashed as they exited a sidewalk near the stadium,” he said. Luckily neither woman was injured but Augustine said he fears that the scooters, which reach speeds up to 20 mph, could really inflict some damage.

Perhaps electric scooters are an efficient and green source of transportation for students around the U. As long as rules and university guidelines are followed users will continue using electric scooters at the U. The electric scooters will remain on campus throughout the winter and will remain a viable source of transportation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our campus, your safety, their services

Story and gallery by SALWA IBRAHIM

The University of Utah has many resources provided on campus through the Department of Public Safety. The department is made up of two divisions including the Hospital and Main campus. Both divisions run many functions available for the students, faculty, and anyone else in need here at the U.

Officers and dispatchers can be contacted in case of an emergency, whereas Security is primarily tasked with providing around-the-clock support and maintaining quality customer services every day. Both resources are determined to provide a safe campus for all citizens.

U Officer Jesse Buchanan said, “We have a fully functioning police department. Police officers that are state-certified police officers like any other police officer in the state and we have a dispatch center here on campus so if someone were to call 911 it [would go] to them. There also are many security officers as well that help citizens with all kinds of things and also provide general security for campus.” Resources are provided 24/7 every day of the year.

The Campus Security Division offers safety escorts to students, staff and faculty who are on campus late at night or at odd hours. An officer will accompany individuals to their car, dorm, or building.

Buchanan said, “Students are able to just call no matter what and we will be able to direct them to the resource they need.”

The security component is divided for the hospital services and one for main campus. Lt. Brian Wahlin runs both divisions. The Patrol Division for the University of Utah is known as being one of the largest divisions in the police department, which consists of 27 official full-time sworn policemen and one police reserve officer.

As a student, the privilege of being able to call someone, regardless of the time of day, on campus is ensuring you feel safe and get to where you need to be safely.

The U’s President, Ruth V. Watkins, said in a Nov. 2, 2018, statement to the campus community, “We’re committed to learning all we can from this tragic event and doing what we can to make the University of Utah as safe as possible. Our campus community deserves nothing less.”

The U developed a new mission statement titled “Violence Has No Place on Our Campus.” Since 2017, campus has researched ways to promote campus safety. According to a report by the task force, recommendations were created in hopes of investing in a safer campus with many comprehensive and reliable resources accessible to anyone.

More in-depth explanations of the resources include Wellness Advocates, rape aggression defense, active shooter presentations, mental health workshops, campus suicide prevention training,  alcohol risk reduction, and more. All links are included in a 2018 story.

Watkins asked the task force what she can include in the new budget for safety resources here at the U. Areas of improvement emphasized were in prevention campaigns needed to reinforce campus safety culture, improvements needed for campus physical infrastructure (security cameras, lightings, facilities), and required mandatory training for campus life related to safety issues. All strategies are constantly being produced and improved to the best way they can become for us.

SafeU, a new website, is a reminder to students, faculty, and staff of broader institutional effort to prioritize safety. These resources can prevent so many things and it will allow the U community to feel more protected. Safety is key.

Traumatizing aftermath of active school shooter drills

Story and gallery by EMMA WILLIAMS

The number of school shootings broke records in 2018. Today’s youth are growing up engulfed in an epidemic of violence. According to The Washington Post, more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence in school since the Columbine shooting in 1999.

Earthquake and fire drills have always been viewed by education boards as a precautionary step. Now lockdown or school shooters drills are being given the same priority.

Active shooter preparation can be extremely traumatizing for all students, especially those in younger elementary grades. School protocol and drills are leaving young students between the ages of 5 and 10 upset, ill-informed and scared to return to school.

For children in younger level schooling people carrying guns are simply “bag guys.” They don’t understand the importance of staying safe because their young minds can’t grasp the sincerity of the killer’s harm.

Madyson Skelton, second-grade teacher at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in West Valley City, says her school practices two drills each year, both “a hard and soft lockdown.” Soft lockdowns are for when there is harm in the neighborhood surrounding the school. Each classroom turns off the lights and continues teaching to keep the children calm, Skelton explains.

A hard lockdown is for when the shooter is inside the school. Skelton was taught through district training to have her students stay away from doors and windows and be quiet. Skelton is in a classroom with 28 7- to 8-year-olds.

“After the drills I can always tell what students feel anxiety,” Skelton says. The students are young and confused by the drills. They are cramped up against a wall and told to be quiet. “After the lockdown drill we talk about it with the students to let them know it was just in case of an emergency.”

Skelton says there aren’t any notes sent home to parents warning them of the day and time of the drills. “It’s always the girls who say it’s scary.” Skelton says there is always a lot of giggling and squirming during the drills.

In a hard lockdown practice drill in February, Skelton says she heard one of her students ask another student why they had to do these drills. The student answered, “This is if someone is going to shoot up the school.”

She says she hushed the student and told them the drill was to keep them and their classmates safe if someone were to come into the school. Skelton explains the concern of wondering if the children had discussed with their parents what was happening in schools all around the country or, if the chatter was a result of something they had heard from another or older student.

Barrett Brinkerhoff, a 5-year-old kindergartener at Eastwood Elementary School in Salt Lake City, says he has had two drills in his classroom this year. “We go somewhere to hide so we don’t get killed or something,” he says.

Barrett says his teachers tell the students what is happening and why it is so important to be still and quiet during the drills. Barrett says the kids in his class don’t take it seriously and tease one another during the drills. He says the teachers hush them “to keep them safe so they don’t get fired.”

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network , the best way to get prepared is to run successful drills. It describes using age-specific language, to send handouts home with students and reassure all student concerns. Determining who will need additional mental or physical support will help successfully execute these drills and minimize student and parent upset.

Barrett’s mother, Jessica Brinkerhoff, feels her child’s school could be making a better effort at informing parents who can prep their children. “Nothing was sent home or posted online — and I wish there would have been.”

Brinkerhoff says she doesn’t know what her school is advising students to do to stay safe during drills. After both drills Barret has come home anxious and curious. “I just tell him there is only so much we can control and that we have done all we can to keep you safe,” Brinkerhoff says.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network advises informing parents of all specific protocol. Identify all types of drills and what each drill is helping to prevent. Conduct informal meeting so parents can ask questions to better inform their child and ease stress.

The FBI National Webpage reports 30 total active shooter incidents in 2017 across the United States, 11 being at schools. And 250 total shooter incidents from 2000 to 2017.

The solution to solving gun violence and improving mental health isn’t as simple as performing an in-school drill. Giving students of all ages the resources, regulations and information to help prevent a possible fatality is worth all the time and effort.

Remembering delicate young minds are at stake when participating in drills will help eliminate child and parent upset. Active shooter or invader drills are terrifying to people of all ages.

Photos curtsey of Madyson Skelton and Jessica Brinkerhoff

Intermountain Healthcare announces groundbreaking policy that removes pharmaceutical representatives and medication samples from Utah practices and hospitals

Story and photos by BERKLEE HAMMOND

Effective May 1, 2019, Intermountain Healthcare has prohibited industry-based pharmaceutical representatives and medication samples from entering practices and hospitals throughout Utah. 

Intermountain believes this new change will increase patient safety, refine adherence to clinical guidelines, improve prescription patterns, decrease cost of medicines and eliminate operational complexity and burden.

According to a statement by Dr. Mark Briesacher, senior vice president of Intermountain Medical Group and Medical Staff, this change has been made to fulfill Intermountain Healthcare’s vision of being “a model health system by providing extraordinary care and superior service at an affordable cost.” 

Pharmaceutical representatives received a document titled “Removal of Pharmaceutical Representatives and Medication Samples from Intermountain Clinics” issued by Intermountain Healthcare. The document explains why samples and pharmaceutical reps are no longer permitted. It also states that patients are commonly given verbal instructions about appropriate use of medication samples and side effects.

This can lead to product labeling and written patient instructions that are often inadequate. These new regulations will decrease the chance for medication errors and improve patient safety.

Intermountain plans to improve adherence to clinical guidelines by removing pharmaceutical representative visits, samples, and marketing. According to a statement released to pharmaceutical companies, Intermountain would do away with professional and social pressures and would allow physicians to make unbiased decisions on behalf of their patients. 

This document explains how these steps will improve prescription patterns for patient care. Eighty-three percent of prescription promotion is done by physicians who have been educated on drugs from pharmaceutical representative visits. 

According to a 2014 study of 150,000 physicians over a 24-month period showed the detailing impacts selective, brand-specific demand and influenced prescribers. 

Intermountain Healthcare cited numerous studies that have shown physicians were three times more likely to prescribe a generic product when samples were removed from clinics.

The Medical Group Service Line’s statement indicates the changes at Intermountain will eliminate operational complexity and burden. Storage, distribution and security of medications is challenging to manage and increases the expense on care teams.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY?

The reason behind this decision came after leading healthcare organizations like the National Institutes of Healthand the Institute for Safe Medication Practicesrecommended against utilizing pharmaceutical representatives and samples because this has a negative impact on patient safety, care quality, and costs. 

Crystal Goodrich, a local district manager of a pharmaceutical company, explained the small steps that eventually led to the new regulations.

First, she said the changes started when Big Pharma companies agreed to discontinue distributing any type of promotional materials such as sticky notes and pens to any healthcare entity. Goodrich said, “Some rules made sense.” 

Intermountain was among the other healthcare agencies that did not want their physicians being influenced by promotional materials. 

The Big Pharma agreement, including Intermountain, later prohibited physicians from going out to dinner or to special events with representatives. Goodrich remembers, “This was when the pushback from physicians started across the industry.”

According to Goodrich, Intermountain then took restrictions to another level.  Intermountain only allowed one appointed representative from each of the pharmaceutical companies statewide to have access to any and all of Intermountain’s approximately 5,000 physicians. 

Rebecca Nixon was assigned to Intermountain Healthcare exclusively as a representative 10 years ago. Nixon only visits Intermountain’s practices and clinics.

Nixon explained the adjustment from visiting clinics from all Utah healthcare entities to going exclusively to Intermountain. She shared frustration in the lack of competition in Utah with Intermountain and lack of authority from Intermountain Healthcare physicians. 

Nixon said, “The doctors are employed by Intermountain Healthcare, they are not in charge or able to make these decisions themselves.”

She said these new policies from Intermountain Healthcare will affect her job tremendously. She is now going to be reassigned to another position due to the regulations set by Intermountain Healthcare.

As of May 1, 2019, there is a new level of restriction. If a representative enters a clinic, Intermountain Healthcare urges physicians and administrative staff to not accept any medication samples, coupons, literature, vouchers or other forms of drug marketing.

Both Nixon and Goodrich stated that physicians at Intermountain Healthcare have pushed back with these new regulations. Due to the pushback, Intermountain Healthcare has now made an exception to lifesaving medications like inhalers, blood thinners and several other medications from drug representatives.  

Intermountain Healthcare physicians will now get their education from pharmacists instead of trained pharmaceutical representatives. “This certainly concerns us,” Goodrich said. Pharmacies make more revenue from generic brands than name brands. This raises concern for patient care.

“A big concern is knowing physicians at Intermountain valued our knowledge and they can’t get it anymore,” Goodrich said. Pharmaceutical representatives spend weeks, months and years becoming trained on the medication they represent. They get trained through in-person trainings, online training and continual training by district and regional representatives that monitor the accuracy of the information distributed.

This training will now be the responsibility of each physician. They will need to take the time to educate themselves on hundreds, even thousands, of medications to provide accurate and informed education to each patient. 

According to Intermountain Healthcare’s website, this not-for-profit system has more than 5,000 physicians who are affiliated with Intermountain, including about 1,400 employed physicians in the Intermountain Medical Group who provide care to patients at more than 185 clinics and offices as well as 23 hospitals.

Better safe than sorry: What to know before setting out

Story and photos by CAROLINE J. PASTORIUS

Avoiding avalanches is much easier than trying to survive one.

Outside of Denver, CO
Feb. 24, 2019

Many climbers, skiers, snowmobilers and outdoor enthusiasts are not aware of the proper precautions for avalanche and snow safety. The dangers of this type of recreation require more preparation and knowledge than you may think.

It’s not as simple as reading a pamphlet or set of instructions to prepare you to take on the outdoors, it’s about knowing what you are headed into and being fully prepared for and aware of the risks that come with venturing into nature.

Park City, UT |March 10, 2019

Mark Staples, director of the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, labels himself as an extremely experienced outdoor enthusiast and emphasizes, “There is no way to assure safety once you’re out in the wilderness. But there are ways to go about it safely, and that’s the best you can do,” Staples says in a phone interview.

Park City, UT (backcountry) | March 3, 2019

The elementary rule comes first and foremost when preparing to take on this type of terrain; do not travel alone. “Always make sure you have the proper education and tools before going into the backcountry, and make sure your partner does as well,” says Jordan Hicks from REI Cooperative. Hicks also added a helpful tip. “Make sure you have a set plan before you head out and tell somebody that plan in case you’re late coming home so they can notify authorities.”

Hicks also says to be aware of your surroundings. The cause of 90 percent of avalanches that harm a victim or members of the victim’s group is caused by their own missteps. Any foreign activity caused in a natural environment that adds weight that wasn’t there before can easily trigger downfall. A helpful way to foresee the conditions on the mountain before enduring it is to check daily aspects like the weather forecast and condition of the mountain on the day of your travel, both of which are easily accessible online. He says some red flags include unsteady snow, heavy snowfall or rain, posted warning signs, wind loading, and persistent weak layers. Avoiding avalanches altogether is much easier than trying to survive one, so take the precautions seriously.

Snacks. Water. Fuel. You can never be too prepared. Josh Alexander from Utah Ski and Golf recommends that you should “bring two times more than you expect to consume on your trip.”

Alexander also shared a story about his personal experience of being buried in an avalanche and what he learned from it. “Luckily, I was well prepared for any possible situation. I went out with a buddy of mine in the backcountry of Canada a few years back, somewhere we have never been before.” In retrospect, this was a red flag. You should never travel on unfamiliar territory when visiting it for the very first time. Alexander recommends scoping out uncharted terrain a day before riding it. Also, he mentions researching the area online to check previous travelers’ comments.

The avalanche that affected him was caused by a collision he had with a snowboarder, which produced a rush of snow and carried him about 100 yards. Being unable to breathe for that time, he saw his life flash before him.

Park City, UT |March 10, 2019

After coming to a halt, Alexander realized his friend was nowhere in sight. In fact, nothing was. It was all white. “I was completely lost, and all of my calls for help got absorbed in the snow I was buried in. I knew I had to find help but I also didn’t want to use too much oxygen, since I wasn’t sure how long I would be stuck there for.” He settled his pulse and remembered focus on what he learned to do when caught in this sort of situation.

He took a deep breath and started “swimming” against gravity to get closer to the surface of the snow pile in attempt to get any sort of signal for his avalanche beacon (a small radio that transmits a lost or dangered travelers’ location to rescue crews). He soon started transmitting his device, which was caught by his partner on the receiving end. Finally, he was located, rescued, and lives to tell the story. If the pair was not prepared for the worst-case scenario and did not hold the necessary tools, Alexander had a slim chance of survival.

There is only a 30 percent chance of escaping when buried by an avalanche. Take the lessons taught and learned in this article next time you think about getting involved in avalanche-prone territory. Always remember that you are in control of your own safety in uncharted territory.

Mental Health Help for College Students

Story by ISABELLA BUOSCIO

Anxiety and depression are not uncommon mental disorders. However, some college students do not have the tools or are not comfortable dealing with these disorders. According to a report by the American Psychological Association <https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/numbers>, “61 percent of college students seeking counseling report anxiety, while 49 percent report depression.”

While anxiety and depression are prevalent in the student population, there is still a negative stigma around going to therapy to get help. With the rise of social media, it seems others have perfect lives and are happy always. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are only snapshots of the best moments of someone’s life. The viewer is not seeing what is going on behind the scenes.

It’s hard to admit you need help. Whether its fear of confronting the issue, fear of being judged by the therapist or society, or fear of diagnosis there always is an excuse for not going to therapy. There is nothing wrong with needing help to deal with complex emotions. Therapy can be a beneficial thing for everyone, especially college students.

In a phone interview, Annmarie Flock, a licensed Summit County therapist, says during her sessions she tries to meet the patient “where they are at without judgment.”

“I try helping them find the words to define what is wrong,” she says, “then address how they can get through the immediate crisis and help them build the tools to deal with it over time.”

She suggests ways of coping such as medication, meditation, physical activity, changing behavior patterns, breathing exercises, finding a support system, mantras, living in the present, having a plan for when things are really dark and, most important, making an agreement to not hurt self or others.

“It’s natural to roll through dark periods, sometimes things work, and you grow out of them, some things work in different situations. The goal of therapy is to give the patient the tools to be able to safely handle the situation on their own,” Flock says.

Zoe Baukman, a first-year student, came to the University of Utah while being in a harmful relationship with her previous significant other. She said, “The situation developed negatively enough that my mental health was affected.” The stress of dealing with the person while trying to adjust to starting college was too much for her to handle.

Baukman continued, “I was in a really dark place for the first couple months of school. I had a difficult time making friends because I was so busy talking to this person, the emotional stress got too much for me and I felt trapped.” It was when Baukman started missing classes and assignments that she decided to seek guidance. Her mom could tell she was struggling and scheduled an appointment with a local therapist.

She was scared to go because she didn’t feel comfortable opening up to a stranger. Baukman confessed, “I was shaking as I walked into my appointment.” When she sat down with the trained mental health professional, she realized how toxic her situation was. She remembers crying the entire first session due to finally accepting she needed help. “I knew I needed help in the back of my mind, but I didn’t know how to get it,” she confessed.

However, therapy isn’t only for people dealing with previous trauma. Addi Poddska, a second-year student, goes to therapy to have someone to talk to. “Talking to someone who doesn’t know me in my social circles is nice because I don’t have to worry about judgment from my peers.” “I am not the type to cry but I usually end up crying in my sessions, it feels good,” Poddska joked.

Poddska goes to therapy to talk about pressure with friendships, struggles with her family and anxiety about getting into medical school. She admitted, “I go once a month to let myself accept my fears and doubts. It’s like a cleanse, I feel more focused after I go.”

For those not wanting to pay for expensive therapy, the University of Utah offers a University Counseling Center. According to the center’s mission statement < https://counselingcenter.utah.edu/>, “We provide developmental, preventive, and therapeutic services and programs that promote the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social development of University of Utah students.” The center provides individual counseling, group counseling, couple’s counseling, psychiatric medication services, a mindfulness center, and crisis services.

As for price, the website states, “The first counseling session (“intake appointment”) is free as you and your intake counselor consider the fit between your goals and the Center’s services.” From there, individual counseling, medication, and management cost $12 a session, group counseling and workshops costs $5 a session, and couples counseling costs $30 a session.

All the sessions are treated confidentially. As the website says, “The fact that you are receiving counseling services, as well as the specific content of your UCC counseling, assessment, or psychiatric record(s), is confidential.” To get started, you can schedule an intake by calling 801-581-6826 or by going to the center in Room 426 of the Student Services Building.

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Campus map showing where the Student Service building is located.

This is a video featured on the University of Utah Counseling Center’s homepage. It explains what a student can expect for the first appointment with the center!
<https://counselingcenter.utah.edu/>

The “Me Too” movement and its impact on college campuses

By Laura Child

https://unewswriting.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/reflection-blog-laura-child/

SALT LAKE CITYThe Me Too movement’s purpose is to help survivors of sexual violence find healing, particularly young women of color from low-income communities. The movement began to gain traction when the MeToo hashtag went viral on social media platforms in 2016. Subsequently, the movement’s goal has evolved to include the expansion of global conversations around sexual assault, and to find advocates willing to share their own experiences and seek justice misconduct.

These shared experiences remind everyone of what it means to be sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity or contact that happens without consent.

The social media movement galvanized around the sexual assault case of Harvey Weinstein, but has resulted in many celebrities and individuals coming forward to share their own as victims of sexual misconduct. Men and women have found empowered and healing through sharing their voice and fighting for justice.

 Reports of sexual assaults in the workplace and on college campuses have increased since 2006. Universities have been criticized for a lack of enforcement and measure to protect students from misconduct. The social movement has forced universities to create new procedures, certifications, and resources for their students on campus. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 20-25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses don’t get reported. Since 2017, however, there has been an increase in the number of sexual assaults reported on college campuses. Many universities have worked to develop campaigns and rallies to help make their students feel safe and heard.

In 2017, thirty-two sexual assault cases were reported to the University of Utah. However, these cases were campus-only reports, which means they didn’t include the off-campus sexual assaults of U of U students, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Police Chief Dale Brophy doesn’t believe the school is seeing an uptick in sexual violence; he thinks more survivors are reporting. “More reporting is a good thing,” he says. Following an investigation on how the U handles their assault reporting, the U launched the SafeU website last year in hopes of better supporting their students. The website’s goal is to inform and provide students with several tools and resources. This website allows students to file reports under section IX. The U has also added additional forms of counseling, reporting, therapy, medical services, and police reporting.

 The U has a variety of resources for students who have been victim to sexual misconduct. “The Student and Wellness Centers helps those who have suffered by allowing them to chose the best way of healing from their own trauma,” says Ellie Goldberg, Assistant Director of Advocacy. The goal is to be a students support system by creating a safe, confidential atmosphere.

Survivor advocates, provide resources for students on campus to help heal, provide medical referrals, help financially, inform on legal justice options, or provide free counseling.  “No one should ever have to go through this trauma. If they do, we will do everything in our power to help them heal in a sensitive environment,” says Darrah Jones, one of the Survivor Advocates at the U.

 As members of the university community, it is important to become involved in the prevention of sexual assault campus. The police department at the U has held various bystander certification courses to help inform students, raise awareness, and provide skills to recognize, intervene, prevent and/or stop inappropriate comments, actions, and behaviors.

The U also provides seminars and guest speakers to help inform individuals on how to prevent these situations. ”We must teach our young adults about sexual misconduct from a young age in today’s society. The hard conversations about safe sex, intimate relationships, and social-emotional learning are conversations that can truly make a difference,” said Anita Hill, in a recent forum held at the University of Utah Alumni Center.  

As students and members of the University of Utah community, we can help end gender-based violence on campus by becoming better educated. We must unlearn rape myths, such as the belief that rapes are only committed by strangers or that alcohol can justify sexual assault. Myths like these protect the assaulters and create an environment where survivors aren’t supported. If we are aware of someone who is experiencing this, we can be supportive by believing, listening, and educating. By doing so, we can help guide them to the resources they may need. If this movement has taught me anything, it has made me believe that when we come together and voice our opinions, we can be heard and make a difference.

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Biking into the Future with Bike Utah

Article and Photos by Shane Bryan

SALT LAKE CITY — Biking on city streets can be intimidating for new bicycle commuters. The rush of traffic, distracted drivers and the difficulty of using a map can easily deter people from riding bikes instead of getting into a car. Bike Utah, a bicycle advocacy organization, is here to help residents all over Utah get on a bike and feel safe while doing so. They work to make cities and towns all over the state more bike friendly.

Based in Salt Lake City, Bike Utah operates as a non-profit organization. The organization started ten years ago after a road cyclist was hit and killed on the Utah

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Simon Harris demonstrating proper road riding techniques (Photo by Shane Bryan)

roads. The founders quickly became aware that there needed to be some serious advocacy for safety between drivers and cyclists. The mission of Bike Utah is to “integrate bicycling into the everyday culture of the state,” says Simon Harris, Bike Utah’s Youth Program Manager. “We envision Utah as the most bicycle friendly state in the country.”

Bike Utah carries out their plan via city planning—putting traffic plans into action, and working with local governments to make the roads a safe haven for cyclists.  

Throughout the city, there are extra wide bike lanes with more room for riders and marked lines so drivers can steer clear. There are large signs specifically identifying bike lanes, and paint on the roads to show where the lane is and where bike riders have a right-of-way. Popular destinations are also clearly marked with nearby street

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Wide bike lane Eastbound on 300s (Photo by Shane Bryan)

signs, eliminating the need to use a map or phone while you ride, all in an effort to keep bikers safe.

Bike Utah has been chosen as the non-profit sponsor for the new Thousand Mile campaign, an effort to revamp old bike paths and add new ones totaling 1,000 miles. Introduced by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the Thousand Mile campaign is intended to make Utah one of the best cycling and active transportation states in the country.

Bike Utah’s role is to “provide strategic planning, technical assistance, and financial resources so communities can begin or continue developing bicycling in their area,” according to Bike Utah, they help, “communities to advance their bicycle-related goals.” This means advancements in local bike routes to get kids to school, people to work and riders out enjoying the roads and trails. 

Multi-use pathways and mountain bike trails are also laid out in the Thousand Miles plan. Salt Lake City also has protected bike lanes, similar to ones found in Europe, in which there is a physical concrete barrier separating the bike lane and the car lane, reducing the probability of a car merging into the bike lane. Through their work, Bike 

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Concrete barrier separating the road from the bike lane Westbound on 300s (Photo by Shane Bryan)

Utah would like to inspire people to ride bikes instead of driving, to help keep our air clean and reveal the health benefits of pedaling to your destinations. Active transportation is healthy for you and the community. Riley Peterson of Salt Lake City, commutes around the city all the time whether it’s to school or to work. “I always have lights on which makes it safe and I have never had an issue with any cars,” says Peterson. “Plus, it is just more fun to ride.”

There are things you can be doing to further increase your safety on the road. For starters, follow the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs, use hand signals, and stay in your lane. Also, wear bright colors. Brighter colors will pop and grab the attention of drivers. Standing out from the line of traffic on a bike will separate you from the crowd. Having a front and rear light is also a good way to do this. Many people think that only having a front and rear light at night is important; however, Adam Olson, Manager of Trek Bike, encourages riders to use 

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LED lights can keep you safe day and night (Photo by Shane Bryan)

lights at all times. “Using lights in the day time increases your chances of being seen,” says Olson. “Drivers are more likely to see a flashing object over a cyclist with no safety warnings attached.”

Drivers are always subliminally looking for objects that they are accustomed to seeing on the road (street lights, street signs, parked cars, etc.), the flashing of a light makes it apparent to drivers that there is something else to watch out for. 

Bike Utah also hosts an amazing kids program teaching kids from an early age about bike education and safety by visiting schools statewide.  Over 250 kids have learned how to ride a bike while increasing overall bike knowledge by 67 percent. You can support Bike Utah and follow upcoming events by clicking here for more information. Next time, consider throwing a leg over a bike before you step into a car.

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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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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.