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.”

Maintaining the connection and sustaining the spirit on University of Utah Greek row in the midst of a global pandemic 

Story by EMMA SELLERS

Dealing with COVID-19 has been no easy feat for institutions and organizations across the globe this past year, and each has experienced hectic changes, including college Greek life. University of Utah’s Greek life is doing its best to smoothly transition to the world of virtual living and social distancing. Though this “new normal” is not ideal, keeping the community alive and strong is a priority for all sororities and fraternities across campus. 

This year has been unlike any that the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has encountered before, and many challenges have arisen. The greatest being that all events are required to be virtual, and a large aspect of Greek life is having a connected community. It is hard to create a close-knit community when people never get an opportunity to see one another face to face. 

This challenge has been especially hard on freshmen. Any previous year attending the University of Utah and going through the recruitment process guarantees meeting new people and making new friends. Whereas this year, when the opportunity to hang out with the people in your fraternity or sorority is limited, it is much more difficult to bond. 

Alpha Phi President Katya Benedict enjoys a socially distanced 
and masked bid day event in September 2020. Photo courtesy of Katya Benedict.

Alpha Phi President Katya Benedict said in a Zoom interview that the Panhellenic Council was “worried about the number of women who would attend recruitment this year.” They believed that it would be a very scarce group of women. Yet, this year went better than they could have expected, and more women signed up for recruitment than in any past year at 550 compared to the usual 400.  

Yet, many questioned if joining Greek life and paying the dues was worth it this year, when in-person events were very limited. Matt Economos, the freshman vice president of programming for Sigma Phi Epsilon, said his decision to rush this year was worth it because he now has “a solid group of mentors and a support system to rely on.” 

Recruitment was fully virtual for both fraternities and sororities, according to the University of Utah Greek life homepage. Only very small and limited groups of people can meet together, and events need to be approved by the Panhellenic & Interfraternity Council offices. Although the houses of each chapter are not owned by the university, the members are still required to follow the rules of all students as if they were living in university-owned housing.

Though most events are required to be virtual, certain smaller events are allowed to be in person with many safety guidelines being established. Economos conducts small and safe events, such as pairing together older members with new members in masks and socially distanced. He wants each event to present an environment all parties feel safe in. Also, outdoor activities such as snowboarding and hikes can allow for active members to still engage with one another and remain healthy. 

Matt Economos stands with other members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon executive board as they participate in a philanthropy event. Photo courtesy of Matt Economos.

A big part of Greek life is the concept of traditions. Traditions that have been passed down for decades through each chapter. Benedict, the Alpha Phi president, expressed the difficulty this year because “many of the events are ritual based, so when members cannot be personally involved it feels less special.” 

Despite this difficulty, the executive boards of each chapter are putting in their best effort to keep all members engaged and excited. Benedict believes that “individually the community has stayed strong within each chapter,” but as a greater Greek community she feels they have lost strength. This year everyone was more focused on themselves and figuring out their own plans, rather than supporting all chapters’ endeavors. She believes next year the community as a whole will regain the strength they once possessed. 

Tracey Mai, Panhellenic vice president of membership, says her main responsibility is to “foster and build relationships between chapters and a good environment all around.” She said it is easier to hold certain events virtually, such as the alumni panel, because more people can attend. Yet, the greater challenge is encouraging active members to attend events virtually. 

A main reason that virtual events this year had a low attendance was due to communication and marketing. Mai said in a Zoom interview that she is “learning how important marketing is and taking that into account next year.” Oftentimes members don’t know what is going on until it is too late. 

Benedict said if she could go back and change anything about the past few months, she would “open a greater stream of communication between active members and executive members.” She believes every participant of Greek life deserves to know all the information regarding COVID-19 and be a part of the process of safety measures at every step of the way. 

One of the many images that is posted to encourage Greek life members to practice healthy COVID-19 precautions and safety measures. Photo courtesy of UofUsororities Instagram.

The Instagram pages of the different sororities and fraternities are one of the main forms of marketing that each chapter uses. Not only do they post about upcoming virtual events, they also are very informative about COVID-19 procedures. They each encourage wearing masks and social distancing, and even have “challenges” different weeks where members show on their Instagram page how they are being proactive in staying healthy with COVID-19 precautions. This might entail wearing masks along with wearing chapter letters and taking a photograph. 

Just as this virus has been extremely unpredictable these past months, so has planning for next year. Greek life executive boards have no idea what next fall will hold yet, but they are hoping for the chance to have more in-person events. Regardless, they plan to follow all city and state guidelines. If in-person activities are not possible though, they feel more prepared to better function next semester after having experienced this previous year. 

Greek life has experienced a year like no other, but has pushed through better than anyone had expected. Mai said the main goal continues to be “keeping up morale and safety within the community.”

Youth sports and a global pandemic

Story by JACK DALTON

Sportsmanship, Perseverance, Optimism, Respect and Teamwork (S.P.O.R.T.) are the core values of the local Park City, Utah, nonprofit, Youth Sports Alliance (YSA).

Founded shortly after the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, YSA aims to get more kids in the Park City area involved in winter sports. YSA does this two ways, first by providing after-school programs to students in first through ninth grade in the Park City area. And secondly by providing direct scholarship funding through the YSA Stein Eriksen “Dare to Dream” Scholarship Fund to higher-level dedicated athletes (generally high school students), who simply cannot cover their own cost of tuition, training, or travel. 

Today, after-school programs remain at the core of what it does. Beginning in first grade, students can explore nearly 30 summer and winter sports on early release school days.

That program is YSA’s Get Out and Play program. According to the website, Get Out and Play introduces kids to as many sports and skills as possible. They can try everything from alpine skiing and snowboarding to speed skating or mountain biking and everything in between. They can also learn things such as basic camping skills. This program is offered up through fifth grade and is open to all elementary school students. 

Gracie Barre Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been added to the lineup of programs for April’s Get Out & Play and ACTiV8 Fridays. This six-week class is held at the studio. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

Once students hit middle school they can continue their Get Out and Play experience through ACTiV8. ACTiV8 was developed in direct collaboration with middle school students. According to the website, it provides unique experiences to develop eight of what YSA calls “lifestyle qualities”: Accountability, Confidence, Equality, Inspiration, Kindness, Leadership, Respect, and Versatility. ACTiV8 is available to students in sixth through ninth grade.  

The Stein Erikson “Dare to Dream” scholarship is the last big piece of YSA’s community involvement. According to the website, the fund is a need-based scholarship, provided to deserving athletes in any of YSA’s seven partner programs such as Park City Ski & Snowboard or Wasatch Freestyle. 

On an annual basis, YSA gives out thousands of scholarship dollars to hardworking young athletes in the community who would be unable to compete without funding support. Since 2014 this scholarship fund has brought in right around $2 million for athletes, according to YSA.

Just like every individual, every business, every corporation, COVID-19 hit nonprofits hard. YSA was no exception. The initial lockdown began in Utah on March 13, 2020. At that point, YSA was quickly forced to cancel and refund all of its after-school spring programs and it immediately started its COVID response planning, which YSA Executive Director Emily Fisher said “was just totally reactionary.” 

It also pretty quickly became apparent that most of the key annual events were not going to happen. Jans Winter Welcome, for example, YSA’s biggest annual fundraising event scheduled for fall 2020 was quickly canceled months in advance.

Of course, YSA was eventually able to get the Get Out and Play, and ACTiV8 programs going again sometime in mid-summer, with time and with new COVID safe protocols. And since then, Fisher said in a Zoom interview, those programs have been a massive success at getting kids back outside and active. Seeing their friends, getting in a healthy activity, and building a healthy lifestyle.

Raising scholarship dollars and hosting fundraising events proved to be a slightly bigger challenge, according to many within the organization.

This pandemic year has also resulted in more permanent changes for the organization. And while they were able to host their annual golf tournament over the summer, Jans Winter Welcome became a campaign of direct asks over nearly six months rather than a one-night gala. This campaign turned out to be highly successful for YSA as it raised more than $250,000 according to chief fundraising officer Jana Dalton.

So, what led to this successful campaign in an unpredictable, everchanging pandemic year? 

Unlike many other nonprofits or charities, YSA did not seemingly serve an immediate purpose in a pandemic year. It was seemingly, somewhat non-essential. There are plenty of nonprofits that helped with immediate relief, but YSA and organizations like it are the more unsung heroes of this past year. 

Thor Kallerud, a longtime donor/board member and new board president, said, “Most critically obviously is helping make sure people have food on the table and are healthy.” And in that sense, he said in a Zoom interview, “YSA is kind of the second tier behind essential nonprofits, serving a value to students in the community, by getting them outside, keeping them active, and helping them forget and hopefully improving mental health.” 

YSA has survived this pandemic year thanks in large part to the community around it. Thanks to loyal donors and generous sponsors YSA has a great reputation within Park City. And when it comes to the success of the organization, the proof is in the pudding. Over the last two decades, YSA has contributed heavily to the success of local winter sport/Olympic legends in the community such as Ted Ligety, Sage Kotsenburg, Billy Demong, and Steve Holcomb.

Local legend Ted Ligety with current PCSS athletes at Park City Mountain. And feel free to follow YSA on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

As YSA continues to grow and continues to support the youth of Park City after fighting through the past pandemic year and as it continues to instill each of its core values in amateur skiers and future Olympians alike, longtime donor and new board member Tom Litle said, “With YSA, there is an opportunity to just do more of the good stuff.” 

 

Community during COVID: How University of Utah student groups are staying connected

Story by MIRANDA LAMB

Students at the University of Utah, much like the rest of the world, were sent home in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes and extracurriculars online. In the fall of 2020, students were partially brought back to campus with classes offered in a hybrid-style. This largely consisted of online teaching, and classes that were able to meet in person had spaced-out seating and mandated masks.

A return to in-person academics was made a priority, but the lack of in-person community was a persisting challenge. Campus organizations, which rely on student engagement, have worked hard to stay connected to undergraduates during the past year.

The Panhellenic community, made up of seven sororities, has found success in not only staying connected, but also in growing its community. The Panhellenic President Erin Doyle said in a Zoom interview that rather than decreasing their sisterhood events or weekly chapter meetings, sororities have worked hard to adapt these events to be online.

In August 2020, Panhellenic hosted its yearly recruitment completely virtually (although they were able to have a partially in-person bid day). Despite this unprecedented challenge, it had more women register than in 2019, and several houses saw the largest member classes that they had seen in years.

Part of Delta Gamma’s fall 2020 new member class at their bid day, wrapping up a fully-virtual recruitment. Photo courtesy of Anna Henderson.

In February 2021, several sororities participated in a successful spring recruitment. Notably, Doyle said Delta Gamma was able to welcome a spring member class of 15 women, the first spring member class that it’s had since 2015.

Members of the community miss being in person. However, Doyle said that through social media the “supportive aura of the community has been making everyone feeling more connected.” Doyle also praised the houses for their creativity. Rather than just meeting up in the park for a picnic, women have hosted virtual Jeopardy games and Zoom “speed dating” events for new members of the house to meet everyone.

The LGBT Resource Center is another resource that is “making sure there are still opportunities to be in community,” said Shelby Hearn, the coordinator of education and outreach, in a Zoom interview. Its members had to think more creatively. Similar to the Panhellenic community, one of its biggest challenges has been the loss of its in-person offices and its student lounge.

Hearn said that pre-pandemic, “my door was open and students could come through. I definitely saw a lot more casual conversations — they see a picture of a cat on my desk, and talk about that, then eventually are talking about a coming-out strategy.”

The center has responded to this challenge by offering drop-in hours, Zoom appointments, and a virtual student lounge hosted via Discord. Discord will likely continue as a resource post-pandemic, Hearn said. “It remains really relevant to our students. They can dip their toe into the community while still remaining anonymous.”

Discord also allows students to find a more a relevant community. “Students can sign up for more specific channels, i.e., queer students of color, or a channel just for grad students,” Hearn said.

Although the center has seen a decrease in participation in its one-time events like its movie screenings and panel events, it has still seen consistent participation in some of its other events like its “fab Friday” hangouts (now over Zoom). It has also seen an increase in its one-on-one scheduled meetings along with the successes from the Discord channel.

Another community that has seen successful connection despite the pandemic is the Bennion Center.  BobbiJo Kanter, the associate director of student programs, said in a Zoom interview that several of its programs have had more student involvement than they did pre-pandemic.

A wall in the student union building (where the Bennion Center is located) dedicated to the Public Service Professor Award given by the center. Photo by Miranda Lamb.

The service corner located in the new freshman residence hall, Kahlert Village, has been heavily used by students. She said in an email interview that “students (and anyone from the campus community) have the opportunity to participate in projects that do not require any previous training or a significant time commitment.”

Bryce Williams, the student programs manager at the Bennion Center, said in an email interview that students have taken advantage of “ʻgrab and go’ opportunities” while still being safe. He said that they will “participate in some of our projects while watching a movie in their residence hall rooms or while they’re in a virtual class to keep their hands busy.”

Kanter said in a Zoom interview the center has also involved more students with its Alternative Breaks programs. These used to be offered at various locations across the world. However, due to travel restrictions, it has shifted to “hyper-local breaks” taking place in Salt Lake City. These are offered at no cost, which has allowed them to be accessible to more students. Kanter said this option may remain post-pandemic.

Despite its current success, getting up and moving after the initial shutdown was a challenge for the Bennion Center. Kanter said at first, “everything stopped, there were groups of students who were ready to help, but didn’t know how to.”

The Bennion Center emphasizes serving its community partners, focusing on listening to and serving their needs. Kanter said for those partners, “their priority has to be their community and their staff, so those people take priority then volunteers come after that.” It took some adjustments on both the part of the Bennion Center and its partners to navigate how to allow volunteers to help in the way they want to, but also in a way that is safe for and serves those in need.

The center has had to shift the way that it hosts its larger service projects as well. For example, the Legacy of Lowell service project typically brings in 800 to 1,000 people. However, this year participation was capped closer to 200 people, with volunteers broken into groups of 10 at each site.

Kanter said because of the smaller sizes, “we don’t get that same sense of community. People were still interested, we reached capacity. There is a demand, but for safety, we have to keep things smaller.”

Beyond just pandemic-related changes, Kanter said that the murder of George Floyd and the surrounding protests in May 2020 “mobilized students to show up — whether physically or mentally and internally,” and brought attention to “some of our systemic issues.” She said “this year had brought people together around activism. I’m not really sure we saw that with our students before.”

To serve this increased interest in activism, Kanter said in interviews that every two weeks, the Bennion Center has been virtually hosting monthly “community conversations” with other on-campus partners, namely the American Indian Resource Center, the Black Cultural Center and the Peace and Conflict Studies program in the College of Humanities. They are focusing on dialogues about “about what is happening and what they can do to change it.” She said these talks have been received well by the campus community.

Dean McGovern, the executive director of the Bennion Center, said in an email interview that “the topics vary and sessions have attracted more than 825 faculty, students, staff, and community members over the course of the dialogue series.”

Despite the changes and challenges from the pandemic, these communities were able to stay connected. The creativity and resilience of their members even resulted in solutions that will continue to serve students when in-person life continues. As Kanter said, “This year gave us an opportunity.”

How COVID-19 has impacted Utah’s live music industry

Story by SKY NELSON

You’re in a crowded room, bopping your head to the beat of the music as you weave your way through other dancing, sweaty bodies. Maybe you have a drink in your hand, and you are on your way to your friend’s table. Everyone around you is laughing and talking over the music, but all you care about is one of your favorite songs blasting through the speakers, being played live right in front of you.

You’re at a concert and you feel amazing as the energy around you surges through your veins. You feel the drums in your feet and the bass in your chest. You finally see your group of friends and make your way over to them, smiling as you exclaim, “What a fun night!”

George Kelly, founder of Keys on Main, during a live performance. Photo by Rita Mangum.

Except, you probably haven’t been to a concert in months. You are more likely to be in your pajamas right now, reading this from the comfort of your couch.

Since March 2020, the live music industry in Utah, as well as across the globe, has been struggling. Unlike other industries that keep the economy going, the live music industry’s hardships are unique because the product it’s selling isn’t a tangible thing, but rather an experience.

“Live performance puts an emphasis on people coming together and enjoying something that is spontaneous and is an experience and an event,” said Jordan Saucier, a Utah musician. He was speaking by Skype while he was driving to Elko, Nevada, with a colleague to do a paying gig.

Saucier is the definition of a working musician, meaning all of his income comes from performing live with his array of different bands he participates in, working in studio recording sessions, and teaching private guitar lessons.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in commercial music from Snow College and a master’s in music technology from Southern Utah University, Saucier said his income took a hit “big time” when everything shut down March 14, 2020.

In 2019, Saucier was playing three to seven gigs a week, every week, totaling 135 performances. One of his groups — No Limits, a party band — traveled all around the country for paying gigs. He said the money he made from those live performances accounted for about two-thirds of his income that year.

Now, Saucier only performs locally once or twice a week, which is much better than how he was doing last spring. Because of the pandemic, all his gigs scheduled throughout 2020 got cancelled, and he didn’t get booked anywhere for over 10 weeks. Teaching guitar lessons brought in some money for him, but a lot of his students quit lessons during the first stages of the lockdown.

In one month, he lost an estimated $5,000 and calculated a loss of about $30,000 for the remainder of 2020. Saucier said he realized he needed to “diversify” his income in order to stay on his feet as a working musician. He was able to start his own business called Casino Entertainment Group in which he produces, manages, and books bands for casinos.

Keys on Main, a dueling piano bar franchise founded by local musician George Kelly, has seen hardships as well. Kelly’s two locations in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, have been completely shut down for a year. The Keys on Main in California was forced out of business in the spring of 2020.

Thanks to government assistance and the fact that Utah has been “looser” regarding COVID-19, as Kelly said, Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, 242 S. Main St., was able to re-open in May 2020. Due to the new capacity restrictions, sales went down about 30 percent, and the company had to hire more staff because it had lost 23 employees while Keys on Main was closed.

The Salt Lake City Keys on Main has reopened to patrons for live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Photo by Rita Mangum.

The local dueling piano bar managed to stay afloat throughout the summer and into fall, but on Nov. 9, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m. Keys on Main was able to get through those four weeks of the alcohol ban, but sales were down 50 percent, Kelly said.

This decline in sales isn’t just tough for the business, but for its musicians as well. One of Kelly’s friends, David Holloway, is in a popular Mardi Gras jazz band that played for high-paying, huge events before the pandemic. For Mardi Gras this year, the band performed in Salt Lake City’s Keys on Main for free because the musicians were itching to perform on stage and had no other gigs lined up, Kelly explained.

Of course, it’s not all about money. It’s about the music!

Excellence in The Community is a nonprofit organization that has been showcasing Utah musicians since 2005. “We’re trying to help Utah musicians, and we believe that by helping Utah musicians have better performance opportunities and more performance opportunities, and by having these concerts be offered to the public at no charge, we’re helping Utah communities,” said Jeff Whiteley, founder of Excellence in The Community and a musician himself. “The potential contribution of these fabulous musicians of all genres has generally been overlooked, so that’s where we come in.”

On a recent Friday night, Whiteley was at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, setting up for a livestream concert featuring the Xiné String Quartet. The performers and volunteering staff had their temperatures taken when they entered the building and then they filled out forms about COVID-19 symptoms. It showed the organization’s dedication to safety and health as it worked to put on a quality livestream performance.

A behind-the-scenes photo of Excellence in The Community producing a livestream featuring the Xiné String Quartet. Photo by Sky Nelson.

According to Whiteley, the organization has produced over 910 shows in total since it was founded in 2005. The Gallivan Center is the headquarters of Excellence in The Community and has hosted most of its concerts since 2006.

Before COVID-19, the nonprofit put on big band dance events every Tuesday night, where everyone could go to have a music and dance-filled night with their loved ones. Better yet, the local musicians got more exposure, a top-tier stage to perform on, and a regular paid gig to look forward to.

Excellence in The Community’s big band dance event. Photo by Lex Anderson, official photographer for Excellence in The Community.

Since March 2020, Excellence in The Community has had to adjust in order to continue helping local musicians. That support is needed even more now than it was before. Instead of cancelling concerts, Whiteley said the organization has doubled its shows and has put all efforts into producing livestream concerts.

The nonprofit produces a livestream concert every Wednesday and Saturday night, showcasing some of Utah’s best musicians in a variety of genres. Despite a huge loss of funding in spring 2020, the livestreams have proved to be a success. Since that March, the organization has reached over 7 million views in total, according to the website.

“Music is a spiritual experience. Music is a recharging experience,” Whiteley said. That’s why the volunteering staff with Excellence in The Community do what they do. Livestreams are a great way to keep local musicians in business during this pandemic, but they are not equal to live performances.

As musician Jordan Saucier said about live performances, “The musicians are reacting to each other, reacting to the audience, and the energy exchange between all these people is a unique thing at each event.”

An inside look at the University of Utah’s baseball program

Story by DANNY BAEZA

Photos by BRAD LAPP

Everyone knows that being a student-athlete is extremely difficult. But, does anyone ever think to ask, “What goes into the day-to-day process of being a Division I baseball player?”

The University of Utah has an outstanding athletic department with nationally ranked teams such as football and gymnastics. However, other sports such as baseball seem to go unnoticed.

One such example is Utah baseball — another outstanding program belonging to the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA.

So, what does go into getting the ball moving on a day-to-day basis, and what does it take to be a baseball player?

“In the fall, it usually starts with a lift in the morning around 7 am. Then, I get some breakfast to refuel after the lift. Next up is class from 10 a.m. to1 pm. From class, I head over to practice which usually starts at 1:30 p.m. Once we finish up there at around 5 p.m., I head up to get some dinner, then head home to get done with all my homework and hopefully in bed by 11 p.m.,” says Justin Kelly, a redshirt junior on the pitching staff.

Justin Kelly gets set to deliver to home plate.

Kelly is the Friday night starter for the Utes, considered by many to be the leader of not only the pitching staff, but also the team itself.

When it comes to what it takes mentally, Christoper Rowan Jr., a redshirt junior on the team says, “It takes a mature mental approach because baseball is a game of failure and if you get down on yourself you can continue to spiral downward.”

Rowan enters his fourth year with the team listed as a catcher/utility player.

Concerning the academic aspect of being a student-athlete, Kelly notes, “If you can put forth the energy to be successful on the field, you’ve got to be putting that same energy in the classroom.”

First-year athletes are expected to complete two hours of study hall a week. Along with the study hall, players are given tutors when needed and are counseled by the athletic academic advisor.

Behind the scenes, Logan Nehls manages all the logistics of getting a Division I baseball program rolling. Recently, he was awarded the position of director of operations for the program after working as an equipment manager within the Utah Athletic Department.

“I’m responsible for a lot of the logistics of the program, whether it’s coordinating meals, buses, or travel accommodations,” Nehls says.

Nehls has had his hands full. As the season gets underway, he not only has to focus on how to travel, feed, and house 35 people, but also do it while juggling COVID-19 precautions.

Athletics come with a toll, especially in a sport as mechanical as baseball. Justin Kelly suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his freshman year, forcing him to sit out for 22 months. “I had never been through any sort of injury before, let alone something as serious as Tommy John Surgery. I leaned heavily on my teammates, friends, family, and training staff to keep my head in a good place while I was getting back to good health,” Kelly says. Tommy John Surgery being the process of repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.

Christopher Rowan Jr. throws down to second.

Rowan, on the other hand, has had to go under the knife twice to repair an injured shoulder. “The second surgery crushed my spirit,” Rowan says. “I lost my love for the game for a while and if it wasn’t for my little brother pushing me and being there for me when I needed him I would have given up.”

Baseball is a game of failure. A player with a .300 batting average fails 7 out of 10 times, yet he is still considered an all-star. Managing those seven failures thus additionally makes baseball a mental game.

Rowan admits, “It’s inspiring to see little kids who want to be just like you. Kids who look up to you because you have made it this far.” That is what motivates him to keep pushing forward.

For Justin Kelly, his family motivates him. “I want to get to the point where my family is financially taken care of and I can say I’ve gotten to the point where I belong where I should be.”

Remembering to focus on what motivates them is what helps these athletes continue on, and to push through the demanding lifestyle of a student-athlete.

Not only is college baseball a difficult business, but it is another social outlet for these young men.

“I’ve created relationships that will last the rest of my life here. Some I may even consider family, that’s how close we have become,” Rowan says.

When it comes to relationships with coaches, Justin Kelly says, “I consider them sort of father figures where if I’m having any life issues or problems, I know they will take the time to listen to me and help me out the best they can.”

Kelly has advise for the next generation of ballplayers. “Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go your way, just put your head down and get back to work.”

Rowan says, “I would say that if you dream it you can achieve it. But, dreaming is only part of what needs to be done.”

Division I baseball is a difficult lifestyle, but when it comes down to it, it is nothing but young men playing a game they love.

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. 

Nonprofit organization, Holding Out Help, saving lives and providing hope

By BRYNNA MAXWELL

Holding Out Help (HOH) is an organization that has made it its mission to save girls and women from the dangers of polygamous communities. Through a small staff and dedicated volunteer support, HOH provides the care and resources needed for victims to be able to live on their own and become independent.

Cindy Metcalf, director of development and marketing as well as project manager at HOH, said, “We want to make sure they’re safe. We want to make sure they’re mentally stable, that they are getting the best care possible.” A safe environment full of love and protection is new to the women who have escaped polygamous situations. 

A client is participating in a craft session. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

“Polygamy has the greatest sexual abuse statistic in the state,” Metcalf said. “It has a sex abuse rate of 75%.” Metcalf tells of cases where fathers, uncles, and brothers have abused the girls in the family from as young as 4 years old. Boys are sent away to work camps because of their “sinful behavior” where they are physically abused through beatings. 

According to Metcalf and other sources, the abuse does not stop there. When a child misbehaves, they are withheld proper necessities such as food and water and medical care. Child labor is also commonly found where young children are forced to work long hours. They are often required to operate heavy machinery and work in mines without proper protection. 

Metcalf said she has been helping these people since Holding Out Help started. “The girls are like little moms … you typically see a 9 year-old girl being forced to take care of three little ones (children).”

An escapee from a polygamous community who asked to remain anonymous said in a video interview, “The rest of the world will never be able to understand what it is like to be in a place like that.” Holding back tears she described what life was like in three words, “It was prison.”

Holding Out Help offers a safe space for women and children to be their true selves. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

All this abuse is difficult to overcome but Holding Out Help has been a stepping stone for the healing process. The organization not only provides shelter for the women who have escaped, but it also offers resources to help them get back on their feet. These include necessities like clothing, healthcare, and food. Case managers provide counseling, help them get enrolled in school, and coach them to set goals.

The source who escaped polygamy said she smiled when she first walked into HOH. “I realized this was the first moment since we came out that things might be OK,” she said.

Intern Emma Harter has worked for HOH for three years. Photo courtesy of Harter.

Intern Emma Harter has a soft spot for stories like these and the women who come through the organization’s doors. She is now passionately working at Holding Out Help after hearing about it through her high school where she met some of the clients.

“There were multiple people taking classes at my school who had come out of polygamy,” Harter said. “One in particular shared with me her life story and I just had a huge heart for her and being able to see her grow.”

Now, Harter is entering her third year with the nonprofit organization and is changing people’s lives left and right. She is a case manager, specifically over the new residential complex center that was built in 2020.

Her job is simple, meet with clients — women who have escaped polygamy — and help them figure out what they want to do in life. 

“I help establish what their goals are, initially. What they want to see growth in, where they want to move forward in life,” Harter said.

Cindy Metcalf, pictured on the left in the back row, and Emma Harter, in the middle of the back row, smiling for a staff photo. Photo courtesy of Harter. Below, a client selects some new items from a recent school supply drive and a child holds a new backpack. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

These goals range from physical fitness and academics to having successful careers. She then helps them through HOH to take small steps toward achieving those goals. 

Holding Out Help has made such a difference that it is becoming more and more popular among victims seeking refuge. So much so that HOH has needed to nearly double the amount of staff members in 2020.

Because of the rapid growth, the organization’s resources are strained. “We are constantly in need of host homes, mentors, partners, and any other resources,” Harter said. “Especially with COVID, we have experienced more need than ever.”

Cindy Metcalf, the director of development and marketing, said the biggest needs right now are donations. These could be but are not limited to food, clothing, and cash donations. 

Host homes are also always needed. Most girls and women need a family to take them in short term to help them get back on their feet and smoothly transition into society. 

Other ways to get involved are through volunteering or becoming a mentor to one or more of the victims. 

Metcalf said Holding out Help’s goal right now is to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteering could be a tremendous help to that. 

There are many ways to sign up and join the Holding out Help community. Its website is a great tool to not only register as a volunteer or to donate, but also to learn more about the organization and its mission.

Harter said, “If you could offer any sort of service, reach out.”

How three Salt Lake City women are fighting modern day gender inequalities with their social media platform, Fluence

Story by KATYA BENEDICT

A Salt Lake City-based company is combating gender inequalities with empowering social media posts. Nicole Wawro, Alba Fonseca, and Sinclaire Pierce are the three women behind the social media platform known as Fluence

In a technologically driven world, Fluence is discovering innovative approaches for practical solutions geared toward women.

The idea of women being at a disadvantage in society is a concept that many consider to be antiquated. But for Wawro, Fonseca, and Pierce, this was one of their founding principles — to educate and advocate for women who always felt as though they were falling behind, but couldn’t figure out why. So, after sitting down together and coming to the same realization, they decided to start a company designed specifically for women. 

Nicole Wawro sits in the Fluence podcast studio. Photo courtesy of Fluence.

The three shared similar experiences of gender-based workplace discrimination. This was a huge factor in what drove them into their research. “They fired all the women in my firm who were eligible to take maternity leave because they didn’t want to pay it out,” Wawro said in a FaceTime interview. This was what ignited her desire to stand up for women in the workplace. 

Fonseca shared instances in which she would bring up good ideas that were instantly dismissed. In later meetings a man would bring up the same idea and it would be labeled as “genius” and “perfect.” 

Pierce had always struggled with being interrupted, and it wasn’t until their research was conducted that she realized maybe there was a gender piece to it. “I always thought people interrupted because they were mean, not because the person talking was a woman,” Pierce said in a FaceTime interview. 

These new realizations led to a shared understanding — that until they made people recognize there is a problem, they couldn’t begin to solve it.

The company experienced immediate growth, quickly gaining the attention of thousands of people. “Part of it was timing, and part of it was strategic,” Pierce said. “We saw an opportunity with TikTok and we jumped on it.” They attribute a large majority of the growth to the fact that the stories they were sharing resonated with so many women, and TikTok was becoming an incredibly popular app for young women.

Fluence’s TikTok account has more than 308,000 followers.

The inequalities women face tend to remain swept under the rug, and for Fluence this seemed controversial. The entire purpose of the brand is to achieve more influence and affluence for women, which is why these inequalities are publicly recognized. “We believe that when women have more influence the world becomes a better place,” Wawro said.

Upon obtaining more recognition, Fluence received an overwhelming amount of responses from women who didn’t even understand that these were real issues. And since they didn’t understand they were real issues, they didn’t understand there were real solutions. 

Emma Watson, the actor and feminist advocate, said in her 2014 speech to the United Nations that what many young women fail to realize is that they are living in a society that for hundreds of years has been working against them.

This ideology has become a huge focal point for Fluence. “A lot of people don’t even know where to find information. Being a platform that challenges a perspective to see things differently is something so powerful,” Fonseca said.

The company produces content across Instagram, TikTok, and even music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. A recent video addressed a hand signal used to signify domestic violence in the home.

A main goal of the company is to create refreshing and accessible content that can reach a diverse group of people. Its success is based upon how many people Fluence is able to reach in terms of followers and views.

“Our audience is global — the U.S., Canada, Germany, the UK, Australia,” Pierce said when asked about its demographic. It strives to appeal and market itself toward young women. “If you can catch a 13-year-old before she experiences these horrible things … before she decides, ‘I’m not going into STEM’ — that’s so powerful,” Pierce said.

Fluence targets high school women, educating them on topics such as building confidence and fighting the stigma. From lower left: Katya Benedict, Isela Ayala, Jackie Helbert, and Karen Bruce.

Ultimately, the goal for this company is to change the world, and these three founders believe it has the power to do so. When women are lifted, when women become more active in their homes, communities, and businesses, the result is better for everyone, Pierce said. 

Alba Fonseca wears the Women’s Empowerment Pullover, which features the names Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Serena Williams, and Aretha Franklin. Photo courtesy of Fluence.

Fluence understands that to reach a global market, it has to keep in mind how differently women live in different parts of the globe. But the first step begins with education in order to help women feel more independent, valuable, and capable, no matter their situation.

“I want to empower women to do something about these issues. I want to enable them with very specific tools and resources and practical solutions to then make changes,” Pierce said. Fluence is a community, and the more people it is able to reach, the stronger this community can become. 

Alba Fonseca, left, and Sinclaire Pierce working behind the scenes for a TikTok video. Photo courtesy of Nicole Wawro.

The company does not define itself as the stereotypical feminists people most often picture. The image the owners want to portray does not include feelings of anger or distaste, but rather optimism. The brand intends to be fun, sarcastic, and lighthearted but based on high quality information.

“This company helps people feel validated and understood,” Fonseca said. Fluence centers around being a positive light for women everywhere, no matter what inequalities they might have experienced. So whether it be an informative Instagram story based on well-detailed research, or a goofy TikTok video mocking sexism in the workplace, Fluence is changing the lives of women everywhere.

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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Students in the University of Utah’s Greek life 

 Story and photos by TAYLOR SCOTT

Many people have it engrained in their mind that Greek life creates a distraction from academics. However, the Greek system at the University of Utah provides an opportunity for students to become more involved in academics and the community. Since 1909, students involved in Greek life have proven to achieve better grades and earn positions as leaders among campus organizations and clubs.

The first Greek chapter was created shortly after the University of Utah was founded in 1909. Since then, there have been 11 fraternity chapters and seven sorority chapters established on campus. Throughout past years, some people have viewed Greek life as a way for students to become distracted from academics.

While this may be the case for some students, the U’s Greek chapters have proven otherwise.

The Greek system is one of the smaller Greek organizations in the country holding 1,600 active members. With that being said, students are able to join an immediate community of students in the early stages of their college career.

Ryan Miller, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said, “While Utah has around 30,000 students, you are joining an organization of approximately 1600 – so it brings the large campus to a more intimate space.”

Students are able to connect with the sorority and fraternity chapters to choose their top house. All the chapters on campus have their own common areas of study for students to build relationships with scholars of the same interest.

Statistics have proven that students are more successful when they are a part of such groups. “You have a more direct group watching over you, similar to athletics. Instead of having a coach watch over you, you now have your peers watching you and guiding you through the proper steps,” said Walker Nasser, president of the Interfraternity Council at the U.

Enrolling into a Division 1 university with around 25,000 students can be overwhelming for students coming directly out of high school. Students are able to build relationships both academically and socially by enrolling in Greek life. Ronnie Kaye, from Sigma Phi Epsilon, said, “Joining a house is the best thing I could have ever done. I was able to meet a ton of students who share the same interests in academics and outside of school.”

With the help of your fraternity/sorority, students are able to sync up with friends of the same major and share resources with one another. “Grades do typically go up; the average Greek GPA is 3.7 which is just above the campus average,” Nasser said.

The Greek system on campus provides many different outlets for students to become involved with the community. According to Miller, “Most of the time the Associated Students of the University of Utah president and vice president are Greek as well as student alumni boards, the Mighty Utah Student Section, and Latter-day Saint Student Association.”

Each of the 18 groups at the U have their own nonprofit organization they support every year. Students work together as a community to raise funds for their chapter’s philanthropy.

“I would look at everyone’s philanthropy as great. Beta, for example, does a lot of work with the Rape Recovery Center,” Nasser said. “Phi Delt does a lot of work with Alzheimer’s and all of their projects, Sig Chi is the leading chapter for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.”

Each chapter is able to make students aware of issues in the community and allow students from all over campus to help make a change.

Greek students are given many resources guiding them to potential job opportunities throughout the world. Students currently enrolled at the U have access to a plethora of different scholarship opportunities and connections for those eager to enter the business world. “A lot of the alums stay around the Salt Lake Valley, so if you are looking for jobs most likely there will be some connection to the fraternity and sorority community,” Miller said.

Not only does the U provide current Greek students with these benefits, there are also many alumni associations that can extend your connections worldwide after college. The creation of clubs and academic resources throughout the Fraternity and Sorority chapters has allowed students to become involved within the university and gain the resources to be successful. The relationships that are built with your brothers and sisters will continue on after college allowing you access to an endless amount of connections.

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How being involved in college can help shape one’s leadership journey and future outlooks 

Story and photos by GWEN TRAPP

With over 600 student organizations at the University of Utah, there’s something for everyone to become a part of.

From the Union Programing Council (UPC) to the Prose and Poetry Writing club, involvement on campus allows students to find their own sense of community within the hustle and bustle of college life.

Not only does being involved make the U feel smaller, but it also can help students to discover the passions and future outlooks that they didn’t know they had.

“FAB (Freshman Ambassador Board) was my favorite leadership experience to this day by far,” said Austin Matsuura, the executive director of UPC. “I always wanted to have that leadership journey, to teach people certain skills to succeed.”

Matsuura was the director of FAB within UPC his junior year of college. He worked closely with a group of around 40 first-year students, teaching them the essential skills to become campus leaders. By mentoring first-year students and inspiring them to achieve, Matsuura was able to discover his passion and future goals.

“I found that organizing in a business setting is something that I really enjoy,” he said. “It’s where I belong.” By becoming involved within UPC, Matsuura ended up changing his major from kinesiology to business management. Instead of becoming a physician’s assistant, he now plans to one day become a small-business owner.

“Being involved on campus completely changed my outlook of what I’m good at and what I like to do,” Matsuura said.

From working with first-year students to finding one’s true passion and goals, it’s important to note that not all leadership journeys are exactly the same.

Current Student Body President Anna Barnes plays a crucial role in ensuring that student voices are heard through the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU). She and her team promote involvement, advocacy and student wellness via the different types of positive programming and outreach. With this being said, there are many benefits to being involved.

But there can also be unexpected challenges in one’s leadership journey.

“One [challenge] that really stands out is when we got news that a University of Utah student, Mackenzie Lueck, was murdered,” Barnes said. Even though this tragedy took place off campus, she struggled with knowing exactly how to console students. “I remember having to prepare a statement at her vigil to read,” she said with emotion. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Despite the challenges Barnes has recently had to face, she has found that her leadership position has helped her to see what she wants to pursue in the future. “Before coming into this, I had a pretty good idea for what I wanted to do, but I didn’t realize I had a real desire to focus on policy and the legislative process.”

Barnes plans to continue to go into law, but from finding new passions in ASUU this year, she hopes to become involved specifically with policy as a potential future leader in a think tank.

Luckily, the benefits of being involved don’t stop there. Through volunteerism at the Bennion Center as both an undergraduate and graduate student, Bryce Williams, a U alumnus, shows that being involved can lead students to their future professions.

“This January will mark my fifth year working here,” Williams said.

Williams attended the U as a first-year student in 2005, where he began his leadership journey with the Bennion Center. He got involved with it through the Salt Lake Peer Court program that was originally affiliated with the Bennion Center at the time.

Williams was highly involved on campus throughout his undergraduate career. From ASUU to becoming a residential advisor, he ended up staying a total of six years as an undergraduate before making the decision to go to the U’s graduate school.

Throughout his graduate career, Williams continued to stay involved with the Bennion Center by becoming an Alternative Break staff partner. He mentored students who planned community experiences for U students to participate in during school breaks.

After a year and a half into his career and volunteering as a staff partner with Alternative Breaks, Williams met with Dean McGovern, the executive director of the Bennion Center. He offered Williams its newest position as the student program manager.

In this role, Williams is responsible for supporting and advising programs and the student leaders who run them.

“I do think it helped to have been a part of the Bennion Center because they [McGovern] were specifically looking for someone who was a former student leader and an alumnus from the Bennion Center,” he said.

Williams still works as the student program manager today, but plans to continue working and growing in higher education as well as getting involved with other student leadership opportunities.

Wanting to get involved on campus? From becoming the student body president to working for the Bennion Center, there are multiple organizations at the U that can help you get started on your own leadership journey.

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The Writing Center at the University of Utah

Story and photos by HAILEY DANIELSON

The world is filled with words. Every second of every day is filled with reading, writing, and speaking. But writing is one of the most complicated and demanding assignments at a college or university. Writing, especially college writing, requires a certain skill set. Each class, each professor, each assignment has different formats, rules, and guidelines. It can be tricky for students to meet all the criteria for all sorts of writing, not only adequately but skillfully. 

Many students need help with their writing, no matter their major or area of study. Students often work through these problems alone, because many have no idea the resources that schools like the University of Utah have to offer.

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Screen grab of the results for the University Writing Center.

Tucked on the second floor of the Marriot Library, across from the Protospace office, and just above the Gould Auditorium, is the Writing Center. In the 2018-19 school year, 7,200 appointments were made at the Writing Center, and 95% of the students who visited were satisfied or highly satisfied with their experience at the Writing Center. But if it’s so helpful, why did only 7,200 people visit out of the 24,743 undergraduates enrolled in the University? That’s only 29% of the student body.

Audrey Guo, a sophomore at the university, believes that the Writing Center’s unpopularity is due to the fact that “most people don’t know it even exists.” She said that the Writing Center on campus just slips the students’ minds.

But is that the only reason why the Writing Center is visited by just a fraction of students? Mary Muench, a second-year math major at the U, explained that she had heard of the Writing Center on one of her very first tours of the campus, but admits, “I don’t know enough about it. And I don’t even know how to make an appointment.

Muench was intimidated by the Writing Center as a freshman, sharing how scared she was as a first-year student talking to new people, so she never went.

If current students believe that there isn’t enough information out there, what can the Writing Center do about it? Abbey Christensen, a tutor and student coordinator at the Writing Center, said there’s no consistent form of communication that all students receive, which makes advertising for the Writing Center difficult. 

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Front desk of the University Writing Center.

Currently, the Writing Center has posters in the writing and rhetoric departments, but Christensen admits those posters only reach a certain population. But she explained that some of the best ways that the Center is promoted are through word of mouth. When a student comes into the Writing Center to get some guidance and has a beneficial experience, the student will tell their friends about the Writing Center, and then their friends will visit. Christensen said these conversations are the best type of promotion for the Center.

Anne McMurtrey, the director of the Writing Center, agreed with much of what Christensen said, but also added that the Center is on the orientation tours. And she does her best to represent the University Writing Center in classroom visits and tabling events. She said the Center even uses social media, news stories, and podcasts to spread the word.

So the word is being spread, perhaps slowly, by word of mouth, or through orientation tours or social media. But even if people are catching wind of these promotions, and are aware that the U has a Writing Center, what do they think the Writing Center does?

Guo believes the Center “allows students who want some improvement on papers or other written things to get the advice that they need.”

But when asked, Muench answered, “I don’t even know.” She said that maybe she would visit the Center to work on a resume, but is unsure if the tutors can even help with that sort of thing.

To clarify, McMurtrey said, “The Writing Center can help with so many things! Our tutors can help writers brainstorm ideas, understand their assignments’ needs, focus their arguments, support their points using proper evidence, organize their ideas, and polish their final drafts.” She added that the Center can also help students with procrastination and self-confidence as well.

Christensen said that “it would be helpful to have more students realize that we have a diverse range of tutor experiences and we’re not just English people,” and tutors can assist all students from across disciplines.

McMurtrey believes that students don’t visit the Center because some “may think they are better writers than our tutors. Some might be embarrassed to share their writing out of fear that it isn’t very good. Some may have crazy schedules, and they simply can’t make it in.”

McMurtrey said, “The UWC welcomes all currently-enrolled University of Utah students and offers free, one-to-one consultations in person and online.”

Both McMurtrey and Christensen strongly advocate for the Writing Center. They believe that everyone should come in for any written work they need help with and hope that students are aware of how the Writing Center can assist them. 

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Screen grab of the Writing Center About Us Page

Christensen wants students to know that it “doesn’t matter what you’re bringing to the table in terms of writing level or ability.” The Writing Center can help with all of it, and it’s a free service. She explained how people don’t realize how relaxed the Writing Center is, and maybe if students could recognize that, they might find the Center a lot more inviting. Knowing about the relaxed environment would help many students, like Mary Muench, who found the Writing Center scary and intimidating when she was a freshman at the University of Utah.

McMurtrey described the Writing Center as “the best place on campus, hands down!” She is proud of the fact that the Center attracts good people who just want to help others succeed. 

“The Writing Center’s energy is positive and diverse, with tutors and students from a variety of disciplinary, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds,” McMurtrey said.

To add to the warm, positive, and inviting air of the Writing Center, she added excitedly, “I often bring in baked goods!” 

At the end of the interview, Mary Muench was asked if she would ever see herself visiting the Writing Center in the future. “Personally, probably not,” she said. “But it’s possible.”

It’s possible.

And it’s that possibility that makes McMurtrey excited: “I just want to encourage students to give us a try. Our tutors are highly trained and nonjudgmental.”

It’s On Us and rape culture on college campuses

Story by ALLISON COREY

After eight years of gathering data regarding sexual violence on college campuses, the Obama administration implemented It’s On Us. The organization has now reached nearly 1,000 universities and strives to rectify the country’s rape culture.

When It’s On Us came to the University of Utah, it was run by the student government. In July 2018, Christina Bargelt, 22, became acting president of It’s On Us. “I’m a survivor, and my goal is really just to help fix the things that are fixable,” Bargelt said in a phone interview. “I deserve better and so do other survivors.” Using this objective to fuel her, Bargelt has already made strides to prevent and help victims of sexual violence.

After her third and most brutal assault involving a member of the U’s Greek community, Bargelt said that it was time for her to make a change. An investigation that took longer to occur than she was initially told yielded a heartbreaking result: insufficient evidence. She then pursued a hearing that, yet again, took place almost three months late and had reached the same consensus. Bargelt took every necessary plan of action: she got a rape kit done, hired a lawyer, and had multiple other women testify on her behalf.

Despite her best efforts, Bargelt was defeated by the system. She joined part of the 33 percent of people who become suicidal within a month of their assault, and that feeling heightened when she knew that no legal action could be taken. Bargelt then decided to turn the most traumatic experience of her life into a positive one for others. “It made me lose faith and hope in this institution,” Bargelt said. “I could either wallow in self pity and hate this university, or I could take these things and grow from them so I could improve the lives of other survivors.”

Bargelt has completely transformed It’s On Us at the U. She has worked tirelessly to create relations with university administrators and many resources for victims of sexual violence. She said she forged good relationships with many of the people who helped her aftermath her assault. The Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action, the Women’s Resource Center, and other organizations have since paired up with It’s On Us. The most helpful resources for Bargelt after the assault, Victim/Survivor advocates, are now the organization’s main allies. She said, “I would not be the advocate I am today without them,” because they are an objective source that provides survivors with options. She has helped the OEO create a more transparent system, and personally speaks to roughly five new survivors each week.

Another issue with rape culture on college campuses is the discrepancy between male and female survivors. Men are often taught not to rape, and are rarely informed on resources or steps to take if they themselves are the victim. Bargelt has specifically gone to every sorority and fraternity in the U’s Greek system, and has given the exact same information about It’s On Us and rape recovery regardless of her audience’s genders. She said one of her goals as president is to destigmatize the notions surrounding male survivors.

In her mission to keep everyone, especially those involved in Greek life, informed, Bargelt gave presentations at each fraternity’s house. Ty Monroe, 19, was an avid listener when she visited his fraternity. Monroe left the Phi Delta Theta house that night with a whole new perspective. He said, “She really touched base on the fact that assaults are not specific to either males or females, it happens to both.” For some men, Bargelt’s presentations encouraged survivors to come forward. For many others, such as Monroe, the presentations offered a new viewpoint and increased acceptance for male survivors.

It is true that not as many men have experienced sexual violence as women, but that does not mean men are any less deserving of advocates. Many men are not believed or recognized once they come forward after an assault on them, and our country’s rape culture often perpetuates these notions and ostracizes male survivors.

Paul Eicker, 20, is a sophomore at the U who was raped by a girl during the fall of 2018. He said he did not press charges or seek investigation into his perpetrator because he immediately thought he would be looked down upon, called a liar, and lose support of friends and family. The fear of coming forward after an act of sexual violence is present in many survivors, but more so in men. “It took me about a month before I told anyone,” Eicker said. “People told me that I was making a big deal about nothing, and that men can’t be raped.” The reactions he got solidified his initial decision to take no further actions.

As the president of It’s On Us, Bargelt is adamant about being completely transparent in telling her story. Sexual assaults and rapes happen often on college campuses, and many people don’t know how big of a problem it is because it is rarely talked about. Bargelt is very open about her personal experience because hearing a story from another survivor frequently inspires others to come forward. Bargelt said that “part of the empowering part of being a survivor is now you have the agency to do something about it. You have the chance to give power back to yourself and you get to decide what your healing journey will be.”

In less than a year, Bargelt transformed the U into the nation’s most successful It’s On Us organization. She has laid out a 10-year plan, so even after she graduates from the U this May her legacy will live on. “I am very aggressive and do not give up on people or projects that I believe in,” she said, and she has confidence that whoever takes her place in July will maintain the positive trajectory of It’s On Us.

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.

Millennials are complaining about low pay but favor perks over high compensation

Story and gallery by SAIGE HAWKINS

The cost of living continues to rise and millennials are continuing to struggle to afford it. A common gripe for the cause of this is that they are not being paid appropriately. But is that really at the root of the cause? Experts in their field have noted that in order to keep up with hiring demand, flashy perks and events have become a necessity in order to maintain top talent millennials at a company.

“Most of the people we hire for our corporate office are under 40 and are more initially attracted to little perks that make their day-to-day in the office more tolerable, rather than their income.” says Erika Park, the manager of perks and benefits for Backcountry, an online outdoor retail company based out of Park City, Utah.

This is a position human resources professionals have heard more than once, and yet 18-35-year-olds are often complaining about their compensation. The most repeated comment left in Backcountry’s exit interviews was that departing employees weren’t paid enough. It is also the most common reason employees not at the corporate level were leaving Backcountry. One comment stated, “The free food and fun events are nice, but at the end of the day my paycheck didn’t reflect the work I’d put in.”

This isn’t a problem unique to Backcountry, as the cast member culture at Disneyland reflects the same thing. In Spring and Summer 2018 multiple demonstrations were held across the street from the world-famous theme park by cast members demanding a higher wage. These protests led to union representatives getting involved and beginning negotiations with the company’s leadership team for a higher hourly pay rate.

Tessa Zalfen, a Disneyland cast member for over a year, said, “No we don’t get paid that much. Most of it has to do with how many hours we get scheduled since it’s based on seniority but I don’t work here for the money. We get discounts, free admission, guest passes, and honestly I just love it here so much I don’t really mind it.” This exemplifies what the millennial generation is demonstrating, a willingness to work more for less if they’re doing something they enjoy even if it’s just the company and their values.

The next generation is displaying a sense of importance for similar values over higher pay. They are happy to be working for a company they admire so the other things don’t matter as much. This values-based employment added with the perks catered to them creates an excellent combination for compensation. If the employees already pay business to a company and will continue to do so, discounting those experiences for them allows them to feel compensated, spend more at the company, and in turn create a win-win scenario.

Corporate perks aren’t just something important to the employee life cycle. They also help draw applicants in and sell them on one job over another. “We’re very fortunate here because we offer so much in regards to activities, discounts, and the great events Erika plans. It makes my job easier because the sales pitch is already laid out for me most times,” said Donna Barker, the senior corporate recruiter for Backcountry.

Even though most of the companies that are able to offer this don’t pay as much as smaller companies, they still combine these perks with name recognition on a resume to make their company desired. “It is definitely a bigger draw for younger people just starting their careers to be somewhere recognizable,” said Park, Backcountry’s manager for perks and benefits.

Park added, “They’re more likely to take something now with less pay that will catapult them to their next opportunity than something that pays well and won’t guarantee advancement later on.”

This sentiment is echoed through Zalfen, the Disneyland cast member, who said, “I plan to stay here awhile because I want to work my way up one day and work for ABC. It’s easier to do that if I’m already here.” A foot in the door method definitely seems to be a direction the millennial generation is being steered into. Zalfen added, “From what I’ve been told, it looks better on a resume to have growth and different positions at one place than to have experience without growth at several different places.”

Corporate perks and growth potential have quickly grown to be one of the biggest factors when looking for a job in today’s market and companies don’t have a reason to change. Why spend more to pay someone for a job when they’re willing to work for less as long as you put a sparkly bow on it? Barker, the senior recruiter, added, “We might not pay as much as smaller warehouses but we don’t need to because people want to work for us before they even hear how much it pays. We attract a very niche crowd and they’ll stay if we help maintain their lifestyle, even if it isn’t through a pay check.”

The most sustainable and ethical diet for people and the planet

Story and photo gallery by CAMILLE AGLAURE

With so much talk concerning diet in the media, many people find it difficult to know what to eat. What foods are ethically sourced and grown? What foods truly promote human health? What foods support the health of the planet? These are all questions that are fogging up the minds of so many people.  

One thing that Thunder Jalili, Ph.D., and a professor of nutrition and integrative physiology, and Anne Pesek Taylor, registered dietitian, at the University of Utah can both agree on is that, generally speaking, a healthier plate is one with more plants and less overly processed foods and added sugar. 

Pesek Taylor said in an email interview that balanced nutrition needs to account for individual food preferences, lifestyle factors, and include a variety of food groups so it can be maintained long-term. Pesek Taylor referred to the University of Utah’s Healthy Eating Plate, an adaptation of the government’s MyPlate created in 2011, as a useful guide to good health.

What does this mean for meat and dairy, though?

Studies like the popular health book “The China Study” and documentaries like “What the Health” and “Cowspiracy”detail the harmful effects to humans and the environment that come with the consumption of animal-based foods. Jalili said he believes that the absolute exclusion of animal-based foods is not necessarily vital. However, regarding meat, “a little still means a little,” he said. 

Jalili said the maximum recommended intake of red meat is 100 grams per day while the maximum for processed meat is 50 grams. “Once a day is still a lot,” he said, and as far as human health is concerned, many studies indicate that there is, in fact, a decrease in mortality rate among those who maintain a vegan and vegetarian diet. When considering environmental health, there is slightly more to be taken into account when writing out your grocery list.

As more media attention surrounds the question of climate change versus animal agriculture, many organizations and communities are reevaluating the importance of animal-based foods, particularly meat, in a standard, western diet. 

“Raising cows is an environmental disaster,” Jalili said. With animal agriculture accounting for 91 percent of rainforest deforestation, according to The World Bank, and more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, according to the United Nations, Jalili said he believes that it is time for groups of people, like nutritionists, to not focus on health alone, but the bigger picture. “It’s just responsible,” he said. 

So, is a universal vegan diet the solution?

In the opinion of Christy Clay, Ph.D., an associate professor at Westminster College who teaches courses on subjects including biology, ecology, and environmental studies, “a homogenous, universal diet is exactly what has caused so many problems in our current food system.”

Clay said she believes that the current food system has created a monster of unequal distribution of foods, the elimination of native crops and variation, and potentially the loss of culture and professions. 

“We’re not understanding the limitations and values of local resources,” Clay said, as she explained the harms in seeking mainstream foods that do not naturally occur locally. Clay used the example of quinoa, a grain that grows in the Andes that is now exported to Western countries more than it is provided for locals who have depended on the grain in their diets for centuries. To be truly sustainable and ethical, Clay maintained that “diets should be bio-regional.”

For Clay, the ethical question of which foods to eat is not as simple as drastically lowering our consumption of meat. Rather, “there’s a whole dismantling of a current food system that needs to happen,” Clay said as she painted a picture of just how disrupted our way of eating has become. 

So, where do we begin?

Clay suggested that the first action to take is having the conversation about “how broken our food system is.” This consists of poor income for those in the agriculture industry, the cost and precarious nature of leasing land to farmers, a decline in community gardens, and loss of interest in crops that have fallen out of the mainstream.

“What does it look like to say we actually value this profession?” wondered Clay as she additionally suggested encouraging communities to be a space for local gardening. Already, there are a number of organizations working to do just that, including Green Urban Lunch Box, which goes from school to school, educating children on the value of local gardening while furthermore educating local farmers. 

Making a difference in your community requires collective action to encourage local agriculture and farming. Clay suggested gardening out of your own backyard. If you live in an apartment complex, ask your landlord or property owner about creating a roof garden. Clay also suggested engaging with other community gardens and protecting land to be used for local farming. Getting back in touch with a farm-to-table way of eating is imperative for a sustainable diet. Rekindling a healthy and community-based relationship with food is the best way for individuals to eat ethically, healthily, and in an environmentally friendly way. 

Instagram taking the advertising world by storm

Story and gallery by RILEY SPEAR

Instagram is the largest social media and advertising platform in the world and it continues to grow its users daily by the thousands. Organizations and businesses have taken advantage of the Instagram platform to advertise their products, target their audiences and create awareness for their cause, all for free.

Salt Lake City is a hub for startup companies that don’t have the funds in their marketing departments to pay for advertisements.

Individuals from three local companies, The Hut Group, Beauty Industry, and STEM, have worked closely with Instagram, and have accepted the large role it plays in their marketing techniques.

Beauty Industry specializes in hair, lashes and fashion. Paige Johnson is a member of the social media team who works with Instagram to promote a product.

She uses Instagram analytics to track following, and gauge when good times are to post in order receive the most engagement.

“Marketing is always changing, and shifting. With present digital age, social media is most of what marketing entails,” Johnson said.

Beauty Industry mainly targets young women because they are the majority of the company’s customers, which is ideal for Instagram because according to OMNICORE 59 percent of its users are individuals in the age groups of 19-29.

Johnson said Beauty Industry’s main objective through the Instagram account is to make customers feel as if they are a part of their community. Beauty Industry sticks to its content and theme to best emphasize its products in the market.

“Working in this industry I have become aware of others’ marketing techniques, whether it be competitors or my own time on Instagram. I often find myself taking bits of other techniques, and forming it to ours,” Johnson said.

Beauty Industry has tried to focus on what the big marketing brands are doing, and then tailor it to the company’s own theme. The social media world is extremely competitive, and it’s crucial to notice the likes, comments and following ratio in order to receive the most positive feedback and response.

Beauty Industry is a company that is familiar with the positive impacts Instagram can make. There are very few restrictions, no wrong outlook and is more about finding a strategy that works well with your company.

“Customer service is a big thing specifically on Instagram, because a lot of people currently if they have a complaint or question, it is a lot easier to do this through messages. We try to really be interactive with our following, and our customers who reach out to us on these platforms,” Johnson said.

Instagram is Beauty Industry’s main tool to advertise because it has the highest success rate in selling their products.

Instagram has the ability to capture so many eyes, and create global awareness. STEM, a program that targets schools in the Salt Lake City district, does just this.

Molly Vroom helps run, and plan their social media campaigns in order to educate, and promote STEM research.

“There isn’t much competition in this field of work. It’s more about receiving attention that could possibly lead to funding,” Vroom said.

In order to achieve this STEM uses demonstration videos giving a more hands on approach to the followers. “Instagram gives the ability to educate, and give knowledge, and that is another one of our main goals,” Vroom said.

STEM uses several social media platforms, but targets millennials through Instagram because they are the individuals who use it the most.

The world is constantly changing and growing, adapting to new trends of life. In order to be impactful on Instagram it’s crucial to put out content that ignites your target audience.

The Hut Group, a global company centered around health, beauty and fitness, sometimes can spend up to a month planning a post. This organization opened a small office in Salt Lake City and will grow in the years come.

Jasmyne Reynolds, a manager for their acquisition companies’ social accounts, works daily with Instagram.

Her days are spent brainstorming concepts, working with photographers and videographers in their creative studio, and collaborating with the content director and Search Engine Optimization managers.

Every one of The Hut Group’s Instagram posts is extremely evaluated, and calculated before posting. “Working with Instagram helps us achieve our goal of reaching consumers and getting them to click over to our online platform and ultimately drive purchases,” Reynolds said.

As the social media account manager, Reynolds also spends hours working with other brands doing Q and A’s, giveaways and questionnaires in order to bring in more followers, and gain positive feedback.

Reynolds believes Instagram is a platform that has allowed businesses to create a personal connection with consumers.

“It’s important now more than ever to showcase products as a part of a consumer’s life,” Reynolds said.

Instagram marketing is used in an assortment of aspects, whether it is to bring awareness of a cause, or to advertise and sell products. It has drastically changed the game from billboards and TV commercials to a free platform being used by billions. Instagram is the new outlet for inspiration.

Exemplary Service Through the Bennion Center

by Kyle Lanterman

SALT LAKE CITY─ Since 1987, the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center has been a valuable resource by aiding the Salt Lake Community. The Bennion Center provides service to others living in the region, with many University of Utah students involved in the process. The mission statement of the Bennion Center reflects that there are strong values rooted within the center such as integrity, collaboration, diversity, engagement, and optimism to name a few. Six office spaces, a conference room, and a few couches constitute the space where students make items for the homeless or construct sustainable gardens. The center itself is extremely small compared to the impact it has on the Salt Lake Community.

The Bennion Center delivers service to address a variety of issues in the community including hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, sustainability, and health care. The people that work to make these areas in the Salt Lake Community better have bought into the mission of the Bennion Center and the work that comes along with it. Not only does the Bennion Center extend its outreach in Utah, but students and staff have done service work in many other areas in the Country. In addition, there are two service trips that are located in Cuba and Costa Rica. The outreach to these areas are inspired by a spirit of wanting to help communities that have people and environments in need. The community of the Bennion Center draws students who have want to take action in service.

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An infographic depicting the locations of service projects by students and staff from the Bennion Center from the past year. Service projects have dominated the western United States and have gone outside the country in Cuba and Costa Rica. Graphic creation credit to nationalgeoraphic.com

“So I was kind of involved with volunteer work in high school and wanted to continue doing volunteer work in college,” says Eric Nhem, a 22-year-old University student from West Valley City and Bennion Center volunteer. “My friend texted me one day and sheasked if I wanted to do this thing through the Bennion center,” Nhem continued, “I said what the heck is the Bennion Center?”

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Eric Nhem, 22, a student programs coordinator the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center. Nhem hails from West Valley City and works with students to fulfill their needs for service projects. Photo courtesy; Bennion center website.

That “thing” turned out to be a once a month assignment with Project Youth, which helped Title I students learn about higher education. Nhem eventually became the director of Project Youth after two consecutive years of volunteering with them which lead him to become a student programs coordinator with the Bennion Center. Nhem’s role is vital for the Bennion Center and the work that is done there.

“Basically, my job is to coordinate with students about service projects they wish to participate in and then guide them about what needs to be done. For example, what resources they might need or who they need to take talk to,” says Nehm. “Those two areas are usually what needs to be tackled first in order for the projects to get going.”

Regardless of who needs to talk to who or what the students need, there needs to be a level of optimism brought to the table. This sense of optimism is needed for student run projects to flourish and along with enthusiasm for the service to continue. The students  display optimism in their work and and are enthusiastic about it every day and those elements are what brought Nhem to the Bennion Center originally. 

Bennion Center

The bulletin board located outside the Bennion Center, with the main sign in the background. The Bennion center is located in room 105 in the Union building on the campus of the University of Utah. The center specializes in volunteer work in areas such as hunger, sustainability, homelessness, literacy, and healthcare. Photo credit: Bennion center staff.

“I fell in love with one program that had a mission I believed in,” Nhem stated.

Believing is something that holds the Bennion Center together, as communications specialist, Jennifer Jones, will attest. As the communications specialist, it is Jones responsibility to make other aware of the great work being done at the Center.

“My job is awesome because I get to brag about all the fantastic things students are doing here!” says Jones, and there is no shortage of work to be discussed. “Just the other day we had a group of students ironing plastic bags to make beanies for hospitalized infants and sleeping mats for the homeless. That is the kind of stuff that tends to take place in the Bennion Center on a day to day basis.”

Jones is particular proud of the people she works with. “What motivates me to do my work is everyone who is involved with the Bennion Center. We have so many students from a plethora of backgrounds who are passionate about their work,” she says.

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Students collaborate as they construct arts and crafts for the Primary Children’s Hospital in the Bennion Center. The center specializes in volunteer work in areas such as hunger, sustainability, homelessness, literacy, and healthcare. Photo credit: Bennion center online blog.

On a given evening, the Bennion Center is bustling with activity. This night, students sit on couches and huddle around a coffee table discussing their current work and planning out future projects. Nhem and Jones have their own workspaces where they speak to students or other parties about current or future projects. What goes on in the Bennion Center on a day to day basis continues to change the Salt Lake Community in a positive way.

The mission of the Bennion Center is “to foster lifelong service and civic participation by engaging the university with the greater community in action, change and learning.” This mission is being accomplished routinely through the meaningful work by students at the U with the help of staff members such as Nhem and Jones. Lifelong service is being given and will continue to be given as long as the belief in projects exists along with the drive to help others and make the local community of Salt Lake City a better place.

 

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Curing homelessness with a focus on the individual

Story and Photos By Clara Welch

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has been striving to relieve the burden of homelessness and make downtown safe. A 2017 study found 2,876 homeless people across Utah — 1,804 people in Salt Lake County alone.

 

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Rio Grande area has a high population of homeless and has been the center focus of efforts to combat these numbers in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Operation Rio Grande — Salt Lake City’s initiative to address homelessness along the Wasatch Front — has three phases focused on reducing crime, helping those with mental illness or addictions, and finding employment and housing for individuals. Improvements have been seen from these efforts and are expected to continue.

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A homeless man sits on a bench trying to stay warm on a chilly morning. Other people were walking around or sleeping. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Utah has been using a Housing First model since 2015.  Housing First departs from the traditional ideas that people need to be sober and employed before they can be given a basic human necessity. Finland and Japan have adopted this method and have very low numbers of homelessness. The success rates vary, depending on how you analyze it, from 40-80 percent of those being housed remaining housed. They are encouraging numbers from a tactic that focuses on the person as a human being, not as a burden.

Organizations all across the Salt Lake Valley are striving towards the same goal as Operation Rio Grande, providing multidimensional help from medical to social needs. Community efforts are changing the care that is provided, bringing the humanity back into relieving the burden of homelessness.

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Maliheh Clinic is a free clinic serving those who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty standard. They offer multiple services, focused on providing quality healthcare no matter the ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Maliheh Clinic

Maliheh Clinic’s mission statement and numbers for 2016. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Collin Hoggard, a student at the University of Utah, volunteers at the Maliheh Clinic. Hoggard explained how the Maliheh Clinic, “started as a way to reach out to the uninsured people in Utah.” It’s been serving patients who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines since 2005.

In 2016, Maliheh had 15,344 patient visits and 28,819 volunteer hours served. Providing preventative care, the Maliheh clinic reduces the burden that emergency rooms and hospitals experience with patients coming in with easily prevented emergencies.

Hoggard is a Spanish interpreter and accompanies patients on routine visits to therapy sessions. “It’s been amazing to connect with the patients,” says Hoggard, who sees real people with real needs. It has changed the way he sees those in different circumstances than himself. 

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Fourth Street Clinic has been serving homeless patients since 1988 and was moved to this location in the early 90s. (Photo by Clara Welch)

 

4th Street Clinic

Fourth Street Clinic’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Like the Maliheh Clinic, the Fourth Street Clinic provides free healthcare and is located near Rio Grande. It’s a convenient location for many of the homeless people located downtown. The Fourth Street Clinic has a staff of over 60 people, including 7 full-time healthcare providers, and 150 volunteers providing over 14,000 hours of volunteer service. James Jarrad, Development and Communication Manager at Fourth Street Clinic, explained that the network of donors, volunteers, and staff bring quality healthcare to 5,000 yearly patients, who otherwise, would have none.

Jarrad visits with real patients who share their stories for the clinic website. “Becoming homeless can happen to anyone and for almost any reason,” he says. “There are so many different things to get to where you are in life and they can add up to either completely build your life up or tear it down,” Jarrad explains. “Sometimes you have no control, sometimes it’s within your control.”  

 Jarrad emphasized that, “homelessness is so much more complex”, than what the general public might think.

Connect2Health

Connect2Health’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Connect2Health is a non-profit, student-run organization with a mission to “empower individuals to utilize community resources in order to cultivate multi-dimensional health.” By enlisting eager students, Connect2Health strives to connect patients with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Focusing on needs other than medical, Connect2Health volunteers work one-on-one with patients at multiple locations. Volunteers can be found at Fourth Street Clinic, University Hospital, Primary Children’s, and the Wellness Bus. Connect2Health is creating a new norm by sending patients out with not only prescriptions, but resources including food, clothing, child care, and degrees.

Knowing that help is available is empowering to homeless and low-income individuals, but volunteers are impacted in a powerful way as well.  “It really helps to break down bias, develop cultural sensitivity, and develop empathy,” say Alexis Lee, Director of Connect2Health.

Volunteers work with individuals, who right now, happens to be homeless, says Lee, but it is important to see these people outside of their immediate circumstances. Connect2Health engenders empathy and understanding for these individuals, Lee says. 

Helping the homeless is more than just making downtown safer, it’s about seeing people for who they are. Operation Rio Grande addresses part of the issue of fixing homelessness, but it is organizations like Maliheh, the Fourth Street Clinic, and Connect2Health that fulfill the bigger picture and long-term needs.

What keeps these organization going are the volunteer hours. Donating time and spare items can make a difference in another human’s life. Homelessness is a multi-dimensional issue. A combined effort from the state, city, organizations, and individuals will help lift people from the burden of homelessness and be seen as fellow human beings with just a different set of challenges than you.

 

 

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Come support esports at the University of Utah

Story and gallery by HOLLIS LEJA

Esports and video games in general are starting to become a bigger part of our culture. In a 2018 report by the Entertainment Software Association, 60 percent of Americans play video games daily, and in 2017 Americans spent over $29 billion on video games. The report also said “56% of the most frequent gamers play multiplayer games.”

The University of Utah is one of the first universities in the nation to have a college esports team. This is something to be excited about because it is likely you may be a video game fan too. Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) is the name of the department leading this change and it has created the first varsity esports team in the U’s conference.

The university’s EAE program is one of the top programs in the world for video game development. It is rated no. 3 in the nation for its undergraduate and graduate programs and has published over 100 student-made video games. The U’s esports team was the first varsity esports team in the U.S. and currently offers this unique experience across four different game titles: “Rocket League,” “Hearthstone,” “Overwatch,” and “League of Legends.”

“League of Legends” is one of the most watched third-person Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games in the world. Two teams of five players battle champions with various roles and abilities to be the first to destroy the other team’s nexus — a structure that is well-defended in the middle of each team’s base.

“League of Legends” was the first game to become part of this program back in 2017 and it boasts one of the largest followings in the esports industry. According to Riot Games, the creator of “League of Legends,” over 80 million people tuned in to watch the World Championship in 2017 and Riot expects that number to only continue growing. The 2018 World Championship concluded at the end of October and was hosted by South Korea. North America, represented by the U.S. team Cloud 9, took fourth. This is the first time an American team has placed in the top-4 since 2012 during the first Worlds Championship.

Riot sees the potential in esports just like the University of Utah does. Riot said it has over 500 university League of Legends Clubs on campuses across the U.S. For the 2019 college season Riot will be offering scholarships to both players and staff of the teams that compete. The 2019 collegiate season will start Jan. 15, just in time for spring semester.

In spring 2018, the University of Utah League of Legends Team was in the top spot for the collegiate tournaments played. AJ Dimmic, the esports director at the U, said the team was able to get over 300,000 views on Twitch last season and created over 350 hours of content. Dimmic is working hard to help the team and program continue to grow while creating a place where fans of gaming can come watch and support some of the university’s best players.

Kenny Green works as game studio relations for the University’s EAE program and volunteers his time as the head coach for the League of Legends Team on campus. He is also a student pursuing his master’s degree in game production. He’s been playing “League of Legends” since it came out on beta for PC in 2009.

Green said he tries to instill a “culture of being a family” with his players. The team works on building trust with one another and practices up to 20 hours a week, helping each other improve at the game as they prepare for the 2019 season.

The U currently has 11 students on scholarship for the League of Legends team, each pursuing different degrees varying from organic chemistry to pre-med. Green said his players are just like any other student-athlete on campus and are held to the same standards. Students in the program must be enrolled as full-time students, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and progress through 20 percent of their degree with each season.

Like most of the players and coaches in the program at the U, Green is very passionate about his role with the team and video games in general. He said some of the biggest challenges they face right now are space and budget. The program is on campus in building 72 located at 332 S. 1400 East, Suite 240, formerly used by the College of Law. Green said he is working on making a bigger area for teams to practice and so people can come watch the team play local games in the old mock courtroom in building 73 located at the same address.

The U and EAE are invested in esports on campus and in improving the program. The student-athletes and staff have worked hard to represent the best the U has to offer. Dimmic, Green and the team said the best way students can support the team and program is to come watch the games on campus and subscribe to the university esports Twitch channel. With student support the U can continue to be a leader in innovation and invest in programs like the ones in EAE.

Cool Runnings 2.0: Ghana and Skeleton in the Olympics

by KATIE ANDRESS

SALT LAKE CITY— Ghanaian skeleton athlete, Akwasi Frimpong, became the first skeleton athlete from Ghana to compete in the Winter Olympics in 2018. Today he, along with several former U.S. skeleton coaches and athletes, is forming Ghana’s first Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Just like the Jamaican bobsled team before him, Akwasi Frimpong is pushing the boundaries of the Olympic status quo.

Frimpong’s goal is the modern-day version of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team memorialized in “Cool Runnings,” a 1993 movie about the Jamaican team’s road to qualifying and competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Thirty years later, Akwasi Frimpong is walking down the same path.

A sprinter on the Dutch 4×100 team, Frimpong had aspirations of being an Olympian since he was 17-years-old. Unfortunately, he missed qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Later, the Netherlands bobsled team recruited him due to his sprinting ability. After making the bobsled team in 2012, he competed and narrowly missed qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, being named as the alternate brakeman. In November 2016, his coach convinced him to try skeleton.

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A scenic view from the top of the Lake Placid, N.Y. track in the fall. AP Photo/Katie Andress

Similar to bobsled, skeleton athletes slide on their stomach, headfirst on a large, lunch-tray style sled. Top athletes reach speeds of over 80 m.p.h., sliding through approximately 15 curves on a mile-long ice track.

After deciding to become a competitive skeleton slider, Frimpong then had to decide what nation to represent; The Netherlands, where he began his track and bobsled career, or his birth country, Ghana. “I was 30 and realized that I had not done anything for the country where I was born and this was a huge opportunity for me to go after my dreams of becoming an Olympian.” The only logical choice would be to compete for his birth country, Frimpong concluded. He also hoped that by doing so, he would inspire the youth of Ghana to venture beyond the comfortable and dare to dream.

Frimpong qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea; making him the first athlete from Ghana to represent skeleton in the Winter Olympics. There, he was aided by Lauri Bausch, a coach for the U.S. team who occasionally helped coach athletes from smaller nations on the side. Bausch has been a coach for the U.S. team since 2015, after a hamstring injury ended her own six-year skeleton career.

“Akwasi has a charm about him that is attention-getting which aided him in sharing his unique upbringing and efforts to represent his birth country and continent,” says Bausch. “He is positive and hardworking, and does much to stay connected especially to the youth of Ghana and is not just focused on himself.”

Frimpong ended up being an unexpected hit among the fans. He didn’t really expect to receive as much attention as he did. “I was honored to touch the hearts of millions of people all over the world to dare to dream and to go after their wildest dreams,” he says.

After returning to Utah, where he currently lives with his family, Frimpong set out to accomplish his next goal: start the Ghana Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and bring Ghanaian athletes to the Winter Olympics.

Frimpong has hosted multiple skeleton clinics in Ghana to introduce and inspire Ghanaian youth. He hopes they’ll be inspired to try the sport. Meanwhile, he held a combine event in Salt Lake City to recruit potential skeleton athletes with Ghanaian roots.

Recently, the developing Federation appointed former U.S. skeleton coach, Zach Lund, as the head performance director. Lund competed for 11 years on the U.S. skeleton team before switching over to coaching for the last eight.

Lund decided to join Ghana after philosophical differences with the U.S. program and is excited for the burgeoning Ghanaian Federation. “Akwasi came to me with his vision for the Ghana program. His vision was inspiring and felt like something that was bigger than just skeleton,” Lund says.

Lund hopes to turn Ghana into a sliding sports “powerhouse,” which is not out of the realm of possibility. Not only was Lund an Olympian, he also coached U.S. athletes to three Olympic medals. Moreover, he intends to do more than just go fast.

Lund and Frimpong both want to make history, and that’s what he likes most about Akwasi. “Instead of trying to inspire a continent, we are trying to bring diversity into a sport and Olympic movement that lacks.” There are not nearly enough African nations involved in the Winter Olympics, he says.

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Zach Lund and Akwasi Frimpong are standing at the starting line preparing for a run. Frimpong was competing in his first race of the season on November 7, 2018 in Whistler, Canada. AP Photo/Akwasi Frimpong

That’s what special about the Olympics, bringing nations together, big and small, on one stage to compete. “It’s not about the nation winning medals,” Lund said in an interview with GhanaWeb, a website all about Ghana. “It’s about being with people who are there for the right reasons. The Olympics are about bringing people together.”

The number of countries that have competed in the Winter Olympics have steadily been on the rise. According to olympic.org., the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan,  had 35 competing countries, growing to 92 now in the most recent 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. These figures however, don’t compete with the Summer Olympics. During the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, 121 countries competed, which increased to 207 during the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Lund hopes the creation of the Ghanaian Bobsled and Skeleton Federation will be the beginning of other African countries competing. “It’s about the small nations being on the same playing field with the larger nations, competing against them,” says Lund. “That’s what I love about the Olympics.”

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Chi Omega Sorority Promotes Make-a-Wish

Story and gallery by VIRGINIA HILL 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sorority members flashing the Chi Omega sign at Dessert Night.

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

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Gearing up for the wing contest.

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Sorority girls posing with Wish Girl Mackenzie.

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Rows of college students prepare for the wing competition.

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Mackenzie is introduced to the group of students.

 

 

Reaching out to China’s past

Story and gallery by PORTER L. ANDERSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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