Building Future Possibilities Through S.T.E.M.

Authored by Karlia Lopez, Afterschool Program Coordinator, Elk Run Elementary

My goal in working with kids is to help them become successful adults–By “successful,” I mean able to function in society as a caring adult, know how to take care of themselves and anyone else that may fall under their care. Success also means not only graduate high school but to receive higher education and be able to work to support themselves. blog2 (002)Finally, success is also the ability to be active members of their community who voice their opinions and give service where they can.

One area we can all work on is helping students educate themselves. Talking education can lead to many roads but I want to look at one way we can help students increase their possibility at finding a successful career later in life through focusing on what their education includes now, no matter their age.

Why is education important to society?

A well-educated population results in a good work force, which then allows a civilization able to grow and progress in multiple ways. The trick is to make sure students are educated in the correct fields. In the 1800s, educating our children in agriculture was a smart educational choice. It made sense because the growing population needed to eat and it also allowed the production for non-food crop exports such as cotton. The US economy thrived during that era because of agriculture (Lebergott, 1996).

Where is the focus now?

If blog3 (002)you were to Google “future job growth” you will find two major fields mentioned: Healthcare and Technology. Both Healthcare and Technology are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) related areas. There is talk about STEM all over the place because we need people who thrive in these areas for future jobs and economic stability. In other words, it’s where the future is headed. When we encourage growth or interest in STEM we are preparing students to find successful careers in the future. As a bonus, STEM careers usually pay very well.

How do we encourage involvement in STEM?

Believe it or not, there is a lot out there to get students involved in STEM. One of my favorite places to look for STEM activities is through Pinterest. If you don’t have a Pinterest account you can also just google “STEM activities for _____ grade.” If you know your child has a special interest try Googling “________ STEM activities.” My 1st grader is currently obsessed with mazes, so I could google “maze STEM activities” and if I don’t see anything that seems age appropriate I could try to Google “maze activities for 1st grade.” Many of these activities can be done at home.ASP Blog Feb 2018

If you have a career in a STEM-related field, you can talk to your child about what you do. Or take it a step further and talk to your child’s teacher or any group they belong to about presenting or doing an activity with the kids to help them gain an interest in a STEM related field.

If your child is old enough to start choosing the classes they take during the school day, encourage them to take STEM-related classes being offered through the school. They may not seem interested at first, especially if they do not have much experience with STEM, but looking up careers related to that specific STEM class including annual salary might be what they need to gain interest.

Children often need a little guidance or push to find things that interest them or to understand what will help them most in the future. If you don’t see success at first, try another STEM area. Maybe Math is not their forte but inventing or creations is where they will thrive. You will be giving them a life-long gift by even introducing them to something they may not have known otherwise.

Lebergott, Stanley. (1996).  Labor Force and Employment, 1800-1960. In D. S. Brady (Ed), Output, Employment, and Productivity in the United States after 1800. (117-204). Washington D.C.: NBER. Retrieved from

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African American Black History Month

Emma E Houston 2018 Biography
Authored by Emma Houston, Salt Lake County Director of Diversity and Inclusion

I was raised in Dallas Texas. I attended all-Black Schools from elementary to high school. I lived in an all-black neighborhood.  My family, friends, and neighbors all spoke the sEmma Houstoname language, “Blackness.” We danced to the same music, watched the same television programs, learned Easter speeches, played outside until the street lights came on, and our parents knew who our friends were and who their parents were.

My senior year in High School, my high school was integrated.  Yes, white teachers and white students were bussed into Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.  Suddenly our world shifted.  What we thought we knew about other cultures, practices and beliefs shifted dramatically. The change was evident when our new History teacher introduced himself; Mr. Jason Kristofferson and immediately told us to call him “Jason” because his last name was too difficult to pronounce. First culture clash, allowing children to refer to an adult by their first name. The second clash was implying that African American students could not grasp pronouncing his name correctly.

From an early onset, the African American culture has embraced titles and positions with dignity and pride. We as youth knew it was disrespectful to refer to any adult by their first name. Once the principal Mr. Woods learned of this request, he made an unannounced visit to our History classes and informed us collectively that we would refer to Mr. Kristofferson as Mr. Kristofferson. Mr. Jason Kristofferson did not last the school year at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.  Not sure what the reasons were but I believe Mr. Kristofferson thought he could provide a “better” way for students to interact without the formality of “titles,” then what our community could.

New-Harriet-Tubman-Quotes-60-For-Love-Quote-with-Harriet-Tubman-QuotesCelebrate with knowledge – To understand the significant impact of African American Black History we must first acknowledge the path we took to get where we are. The beginning of enslavement, the separation of families, and the miseducation of generations created opportunities for African Americans and Black people to tell our stories and craft our narratives to be reflective and truthful of our experiences.

FreedomRidersPBS_600Celebrating African American Black History Month honors the historic leaders of the Black Community.  We all know about the heroes, Dred Scott, Soujourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman: Jackie Robinson,  Malcolm X , Emmett Till, Little Rock Nine, and the freedom riders, who endured harsh treatments and death to ensure future generations would led a better life.

Today, African American Black leaders continue to rise and celebrate to help us be better stewards of the freedoms we’ve gained. Quite often at programs or events honoring civil right icons and the accomplishments of African American Blacks, the song “We Shall Overcome” is sung. Indicating that the struggle for full rights and freedoms have not been fully granted.  I challenge us to sing a new song, produce a new narrative,Melting-Pot highlight the Best of  African American Black History & our Culture by creating awareness for not only African American and Black people but for all people. Celebrating African American Black History reminds us all that Black History Is OUR History.

For more information on African American Black History, visit which is directed toward multiple audiences ranging from scholars and researchers to the general public.

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Anti-Tobacco Film Festival-Call to Action SLCo Youth to Create 60-Second Short!

Authored by the Salt Lake County Health Department

Kick Ash Short Film FestivalCalling all filmmakers! The Salt Lake County Health Department is teaming up with Draper Communities that Care to create the first ever Kick Ash Film Festival! The idea is this: if you were able to show your friends a one-minute video to prevent them from making bad choices about tobacco and e-cigarettes, what would it be? We’re encouraging all Salt Lake County Youth ages 13-18 to write, shoot, edit, and submit that 60 second video inspired by the theme “Standing up, speaking out, and seizing control against Big Tobacco” to have the chance to win over $2,000 in prizes.kickashprizes (002)

There will be 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, and Audience Choice prizes. 1st place will win $500, as well as an ASUS Chromebook, TV, Skullcandy headphones, and Sony Bluetooth speaker, 2nd place will win $300, 3rd place $200, and Audience Choice will win $200! We’ll also be giving out $500 in cash to the school with the most entries!

It seems like only a few years ago the thought of smoking a cigarette was the last thing on most people’s minds. Anti-smoking campaigns since the 1990’s have brought down the United States’ smoking rate dramatically (Nearly 30% in the last 50 years!). Perhaps the most effective way the CDC and other organizations caused people to quit smoking is that not only did they convince them smoking was dangerous, they convinced them it was uncool.

Covapingnsequentially, one of the fastest growing trends among youth has been vaping (AKA e-cigarette use for the not-so-hip-people out there)—and it’s fine cause it’s healthy, right? Or at least not bad for you? Isn’t it just water vapor?

Uh, no. It’s not. And that’s one of the largest and continually debunked myths that is propagating e-cigarette use in the United States. In fact, many vaporizers have some of the same chemicals found in traditional cigarettes, along with a plethora of other dangerous substances and heavy metals unique to e-cigarettes. But still, 56% of high school seniors think vaping is safe, and 11% have used an e-cigarette in the past month.

That’s why we need you to spread the anti-tobacco and e-cigarette message. Make a film inspired by someone who has passed away from a tobacco related disease, the effects of tobacco and nicotine on the body, the little-known dangers of e-cigarettes, tobacco prevention, or a tobacco-related topic of your choice.

Here are a few filmmaking tips to help you get started:Screen_shot_2013-06-07_at_1_49_59_AM
• No camera? No problem! Film with your phone! (Don’t forget to shoot in landscape mode!) You can also download a free video editor like iMovie or Adobe Premiere from the App Store/Google Play Store to edit your footage.
• Shoot from a variety of angles! You can make a boring scene much more interesting if you shoot it from different viewpoints.
•  Use additional lights to make your video clear and grain-free. From the right angles, using simple construction lights from Home Depot can make your video look extra dramatic.
•  Use an external microphone and place it close to your subject. If you’re using your in-camera microphone, just film close to your subject!
•  Use a tripod or place your camera on a table or tall-shelf to keep it steady (unless you’re going for that handheld look).

The submission period closes at 11:59 PM on February 28th, then we will have Audience Choice voting on the Salt Lake County Health Department Facebook Page from March 2nd to March 10th at 11:59 PM.

There will be an awesome red carpet event on March 15th at 7:00 PM at the Viridian Library and Event Center where we will be showing some of the top films, awarding the prizes to our winners, and giving out even more raffle prizes to those who attend.

A big thanks to our sponsors, University of Utah Health, University of Utah Youth Education, RC Willey, and Intermountain Healthcare. We couldn’t have put this together without them.

Visit our website for tobacco and e-cigarette resources to help you with your entry, and make sure to download our competition checklist and required forms. We can only accept films that have all the forms turned in.

We hope to see your entries to the 2018 Kick Ash Film Festival. Good luck!

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It’s National Clean Out Your Inbox Week

Concept of sending e-mailsAuthored by Roger Raney, Youth Services Help Desk Support Specialist

I recently received this support phone call.
Me: Hello, this is Roger
Alice: (Not her real name) My email isn’t working. I think my computer is whack!
Me: Can you be a little more specific?
Alice: I can’t send or receive any email.
Me: Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?
54c138c5-f3f0-426c-898a-2241b719f64fThis fixes 97.6% of all technical issues. Really!
Alice: Rebooting didn’t help
Me: Do you save a lot of email in your Inbox?
Alice: Yes, all of them.
Me: You’re going to have to lose half of those.
Alice: Which half?
Me: The half you don’t need.
Eemailmail can stop working if an email quota has been exceeded. This usually happens when emails are not deleted. Many people are afraid to delete email for fear of losing something important. This leads to email hoarding. Email hoarding can be a serious condition we as IT Professionals refer to as Hoarding Email Continuously & Knowingly or HECK. Think of the television show “Hoarders” only with email. Like other hoarders, email hoarders must go through a 12-step program to cure this compulsive behavior. OK, it’s more like a 3-step program.

If you are a member of HECK or on your way to HECK, there are some simple things you can do to break the habit.
Step One – Accept you have an email hoarding problem.
Step Two – Take action to reduce the number of emails.
Step three – Make a plan to eliminate email hoarding and stay out of HECK.
Some ways to reduce email size:
1) Clean out email older than X date. Choose a year (preferably a year more recent than 1999) and delete anything older than that
2) Sort email by size and delete large emails. These are usually emails with large file attachments such as vacation and family gathering pictures. Move those pictures to another location and delete these emails.
3) Pick a number and don’t keep any more than that number of emails in your inbox. This could be 300, or 200 or 25. My number is 15, but that’s just me.

Some ways to make a plan so you don’t end up in HECK:
1) Create folders for individuals and organizations you regularly receive email from. Move email from your inbox into these folders. Delete the rest or move them into a folder marked “Pending” or “Save for later.”
2) Review your email folders periodically and delete email older than a certain date, say 6 months or 12 months. This is especially important for your “Pending” folder. At some point you’re just going to have to let them go.
3) If you just aren’t able to let go of your old emails, you can set up some archiving files and rules. You will still be a card carrying member of HECK, but you won’t have to admit it anyone, except perhaps your IT Support Professional. And we are bound by Professional/Client privilege. Really!

Fotolia_103126839_Subscription_Monthly_M-1024x373Some helpful web resources to keep you from ending up in HECK:

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Making New Year’s Resolutions

new-years-resolution (1)Authored by Chris Bereshnyi, Youth Services Crisis Therapist

It’s that time of year again where we start thinking of resolutions to make for the new year, or re-visit old ones that we never quite got around to keeping. There are numerous reasons why people make resolutions, such as to adopt a healthier lifestyle, or to get rid of bad habits.
new-years-resolutionsWhen making resolutions, as in planning treatment goals in therapy, the idea is to set expectations that are realistic. According to an article in Psychology Today by Dr. Susan Weinschenk, PD, pick an action that is small and easy to achieve. For example, if your goal is to get more exercise, you can set a goal of running for 30 minutes once a week for the next two weeks, then increasing the length and frequency of your runs accordingly.

Also, if you’re trying to get rid of a bad habit, the science-based approach tells us to PreteenwithMomreplace it with a good habit. If your goal is to stop arguing with your child about grades, you can replace the way you communicate with them with a more positive approach. For example, instead of lecturing your child, you can start out by mentioning the areas in which they have improved, or at least made efforts to do so.

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Parenting Tips for Discouraging Underage Drinking

underage-drinking-driving-780x380-780x380Authored by Jodi Rushton, SSW, Case Manager, Substance Use Prevention & Outreach

Some things that we can be sure of this time of year is that the holidays will be filled with lots of presents, food, parties, and unfortunately, deadly myths about teenage drinking.  Being aware of these – and refusing to buy into them – is vital for any parent wanting to keep their teens as healthy and happy as possible.  It may be tempting to allow your teen that “one sip” at your family Christmas party, but keep in mind that research points to the high probability that that “one sip” may lead to a myriad of physical, emotional and mental health problems later down the road.  Arming yourself with the facts of teen alcohol use is essential to keep your teen healthy, safe and able to enjoy the holidays for many years to come.

underage drinking 2One pernicious myth is that allowing your child to drink alcohol with you is a good way to ensure that they won’t do it inappropriately, without supervision, to excess, etc.  One reason why this myth is so dangerous is that your teen’s brain is still in crucial stages of development and drinking alcohol at an early age can cause irreversible brain damage.  The two major areas of their brain which can be damaged are the hippocampus – responsible for learning and memory – and the prefrontal cortex – responsible for planning, judgment, decision making and impulse control.  Much of the damage done to the brain is irreversible meaning your teen could develop behavioral, emotional, mental and psychological issues that will last a lifetime.  Ultimately this translates into your teen being at a serious disadvantage when it comes to managing any aspect of adulthood, from relationships to careers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that alcohol can seriously damage the pleasure-reward system of your teen’s brain, which means that over time they will no longer find joy or pleasure in normal activities, or even their most cherished activities.  To experience the same rush which drinking alcohol provides they will have to drink more and more, which will not just make them addicted, but can also lead to severe behavioral and personality changes.  Instead of being excited for that annual family reunion or camping and fishing trip, your teen could be obsessed with and fixated on where they will get their next high.  Alcohol is also a serious gateway drug with alarming statistics showing that a high percentage of marijuana, heroin and meth users started by drinking alcohol when they were younger.

Underage drinkingMost important of all, research shows that your setting of boundaries, consistent monitoring, bonding, and express disapproval of your teen drinking, carries far more influence in your child’s decision to drink than peer pressure does.  Never underestimate the power of communicating to your teen on a regular basis about the danger of alcohol use, why waiting until their 21 to drink matters, and how your love and concern for their well-being is at the heart of your strict rules and expectations about alcohol use.  Before you pass your drink to your teen this holiday season remember that the dangers of doing so are not worth it, and that your child’s ability to grow into a healthy, happy and functioning adult, is the greatest gift you could ever give them.

To delve deeper into the research and statistics mentioned in this article, and for more suggestions and support for keeping your teen sober, please visit If you are looking for prevention classes or need substance abuse treatment please call Salt Lake County Youth Services at 385-468-4500.

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Navigating Holiday Family Gatherings as an LGBTQ Person

Authored by Whitney Hardman, Milestone House Manager and Lorri Lake, Family Therapist

The holidays have a way of adding a little more food and a little more stress to each of our plates. If you are an LGBTQ person, it can also mean being around extended family that may not be aware of your status and others who may be fully aware but only half accepting.

Since you cannot change the way family feels about you, or how they feel about same sex relationships, you can only try your best to handle any snide remarks or outright disrespectful comments without rattling the entire family function.

Below are three articles that break down some useful tips and tricks for dealing with trips back home and extended family during the holiday season.Holiday Blog

1. LGBT and Heading Home for the Holidays? How LGBT People can survive and thrive this potentially difficult time of year:

Breaks down the ABC’s of heading home for the holidays:
A – Acknowledgment (and acceptance)
B – Boundaries
C – Compassion

2. Going Home for the Holidays? 5 Ways to Cope
Breaks down 5 ways to cope with being around family that you may not have been around often or those difficult members that somehow manage to turn you into a scared little kid again instead of holding your ground and pride like you’re accustomed to.

3. Read This Before Heading Home for the Holidays…setting intention this holiday season

Speaks about setting your intention and goes through 8 steps to being better prepared to handle anything that could come your way, regarding the family gathering.

If you find you need additional support this holiday season, please reach out to Salt Lake County Youth Services, where youth ages 8-18 can access free therapy, and other wrap around services, or even find a safe place to celebrate the holidays if home circumstances are not supportive. Call us at 385-468-4500 to see how we can help!

Posted in After School Program, Bully, Communication Tips, Family Activities, Family Counseling, Homeless Youth, LGBTQ, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Teen Counseling, therapist, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why We Keep The Lights On Afterschool – A Recap

by Megan Attermann, SLCo Youth Services Afterschool Coordinator, Lake Ridge Elementary

Salt Lake County’s afterschool program aims to increase academic achievement, parent engagement and community engagement, while decreasing behavioral issues. Our sites are work with elementary, junior and senior high schools in Kearns, Magna and West Valley City. A combination of academic support and enrichment activities, our afterschool programs remind students that learning is a joy, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Were it not for afterschool programming, many of our students would be heading to empty homes when the bell rings. It’s no secret that this makes kids vulnerable to dangerous situations. Our programming provides a safe space for students to be with their friends, learn new skills and take advantage of leadership opportunities – at no cost to the parents.

In the month of October, The Afterschool Alliance, a national afterschool support organization, facilitated Lights On Afterschool – an event that is meant “to draw attention to the many ways afterschool programs support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things—such as science, community service, robotics, Tae Kwon Do and poetry—and discover new skills. The events send a powerful message that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs.”Lights On ASP

Squeals of delight erupted from the sixty-some students sitting in the auditorium. They were directed to sit on their pockets, but that didn’t last long. Kindergarteners and first graders popped up, trying to catch the smoke rings our friend from Clark Planetarium was dishing out into the crowd. When the smoke ran out, the students applauded. “Do it again!” they cried. “Blow smoke this way!” suggested another.

When I pulled our scientist friend aside after his presentation, he remarked, “They were excited – just the right amount of rowdy.”

If you drove by your neighborhood school on your way home from work and see the lights on, you may have wondered what was happening in there. If you ventured inside, you may have witnessed the scene above.

But inviting guest presenters is just one of the fun activities we do in Salt Lake County’s Afterschool Program. This time it was an educator from Clark Planetarium. In a few weeks, it’ll be an actor from Magna’s Empress Theatre. At another site, it might be the Drum Bus or a field trip or a friendly game of quidditch. Our Youth Leaders and teachers provide tutoring, engage students in government and leadership practice, teach STEM classes, practice artmaking, read books, cook, create, mentor, laugh and learn alongside our students.

Afterschool programs around the nation organized events to highlight the varied and enthralling work being done in these afternoon and early evening hours. Instead of merely being curious about why the lights are still on at your neighborhood school, feel free to stop in at a local event. And be ready to have fun learning new things – with just the right amount of rowdiness.

For more information about the Afterschool Programs and SLCo Youth Services please call 385-468-4500 and ask for Danielle Latta. Or visit

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National Work and Family Month

Authored by Cory Ybarra, Shelter Care Program Manager

Did you know that October is National Work and Family Month? No, neither did I! National Work and Family month was established in 2003 and celebrated every October, focuses on the challenges working families face every day. National Work and Family Month is recognized nationally by businesses, academic institutions, federal agencies, members of Congress, work-life advocacy groups, and individuals who want to make it easier for their employees to succeed at work and home.

Little baby boy is spending time in his dad’s office

In 2010 President Obama issued a statement which states, “National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do. Millions of Americans continue to struggle day-in and day-out to balance work and family life – to juggle their job responsibilities and caring for a child, an elderly relative, or a loved one with a disability.”

Being that National Work and Family Month has been in place for 14 years it made me wonder, what are some ways employers can support their employees with family and work life balance? In addition, what are some ways I have felt supported by my employer?

First things first, I believe it is incredibly important that employees voices are heard when family issues arise. Being a first time mom, finding childcare can be complex and stressful. By being able to speak openly with my employer about potential schedule conflicts, and concerns, makes me feel valued. I also think it is important for employers to allow flexibility with schedules. Employees who work flexible schedules are typically more productive and loyal to their employers.  Boundaries, boundaries, and more boundaries – wait, did I say BOUNDARIES! Boundaries are SO important. It is okay to say NO, it is okay to give yourself a break, and it is okay not check your work emails while you are on vacation, it is also okay to take five to regroup after a long day, and it is okay to take a lunch break. I myself am extremely guilty of allowing work duties to flow over into my family time. And guess what? This is when burnout happens.

Burn out is incredible high in the social services field and I am challenging you all to unplug when you get home, do not over commit, and get support when you are feeling overwhelming. I am also encouraging you to not be afraid to use your paid time off you worked so hard for! – You deserve it!

Salt Lake County Youth Services cares about their employees and their clients. Every staff member is encouraged embrace self-care through meditation, quiet activities, exercise routines, healthy life style choices because they understand the importance of the mind body connection. If you have questions about self-care you can contact Youth Services at 385.468.4500. #youthslco

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National Coming Out Day 2017 is Wednesday, October 11th!

Authored by Maria Drummond, Youth Services Recreation Therapist

National Coming Out Day is just around the corner, so let’s have a little chat about what that means, and how you can participate!

Coming out, or coming out of the closet, is a term most often referring to a person making an LGBTQ identity of theirs known whether just to one person or to a group of people. Ash Beckam’s got a great TED Talk about how we all have closets to come out of, though. It’s full of valuable insight about having tough conversations and being real with each other. Check it out when you’ve got 10 minutes to spare!

Folks can be out to one person, to only certain circles of people in their lives, or they may be publicly ‘out’. Though there are events like National Coming Out day to help shed light on the topic, coming out itself is more of a practice than an event. A person who identifies in the LGBTQ community likely ‘comes out’ to new people regularly, even if they are publicly out, because they may be assumed straight or cis (sex assigned at birth matches gender identity) by people just meeting them.

Coming out is not a status symbol, nor does it indicate how serious or invested a person is in their identity. Though it does often take courage to decide to come out, and is often identified as a major accomplishment for the person that does so, some folks make the choice not to be open about their identity for a variety of reasons, and should not be pressured to ‘just come out, already!”. Each person’s situation is different, and they need our support to make decisions for themselves about when the right time to come out is, or what the right circumstances to be out are. They may be considering their housing, education, or employment stability, relationships, or even physical safety. It’s never ok to ‘out’ someone. Please don’t assume that just because a person is out to you, or in a certain space, that they are out publicly.

So, how can you participate in National Coming Out day? If you identify in the LGBTQ community, and feel comfortable doing so, the day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate your identity by posting on social media or otherwise proclaiming your pride in your identity. If you identify as an LGBTQ Ally, you can proclaim your support (it’s always nice to know who’s got our backs). If you want to use the day as just the occasion you’ve been waiting for to come out to a new person or group of people, go for it! If you’re not ready to publicly declare your LGBTQ or Ally identity, that’s ok too. Just soak in all the love around you, and know that we support you right where you are.

And just in case someone in your circle chooses National Coming Out Day (or any other day, really) to come out to you, here’s a brief review about response DOs AND

The Salt Lake County Youth Services LGBTQ Advocates Committee is dedicated to creating safer spaces for all who access our services to be exactly who they are, whether in or out of the closet. Please feel free to reach out to me at or the co-chair of the committee, Erin Dixon, at with questions, concerns or suggestions. #youthslco

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