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 slco.org/youth

Posted in After School Program, Communication Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Success Stories, Uncategorized, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Communication Tips, Family Activities, Family Counseling, Mental Health, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, read, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Teen Counseling, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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 mailto:mdrummond@slco.org or the co-chair of the committee, Erin Dixon, at mailto:edixon@slco.org with questions, concerns or suggestions. #youthslco

Posted in After School Program, Bully, Communication Tips, LGBTQ, Mental Health, Mental Health, read, SLCO, Teen Counseling, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

We Have New Teachers for our Kids at Crisis Residential

Authored by: JD Green, Program Manager for Juvenile Receiving Center and Crisis Residential

We are pleased to introduce our new teachers for the Crisis Residential classroom!

Robert “OZ” Osbourne is a seasoned educator with over 31 years of teaching and coaching experience and comes to us from the Granite School District Observation and Assessment Program. He is thankful to be given the ability and the passion to teach children who are in crisis and those that have mental and psychological problems.

He feels that these are children other people have given up on. “They’re the kids who cause burnout in many teachers, the ones whose behavior suggests they’re not serious about getting on track and becoming productive adults.” But his approach is one of making connections and bridge building: he sticks with these kids and he knows how to build significant levels of trust with his students.

Over the years he has had a positive impact on a tremendous amount of at-risk youth and consequently helped guide them back into the community where they have become productive members of society. In his spare time he enjoys family time, working out, yard work, building muscle cars and playing ball with his beloved dachshund, Suzi Cuteness.


A few of the honors and recognition OZ has received include, twice awarded Superstar in Education Honors by KSL News and Radio, 2016 Recipient of KUED/UEA Excellence in Teaching Award.

Our other teacher is Van Vuong, he is a math teacher for the YESS program, and we are really to have him this year.  He graduated from the University of Utah with a major in Math, and has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

He has taught in the secondary level for twenty years, the past five years being at Observation and Assessment. His interests are cycling, golfing, and playing chess with his two kids.

Apart from that, he is always on a quest to meet new people and learn about their interests and culture.  He hopes to make this academic year an educational as well as a fun-filled year for the students. He is looking forward to meeting and getting to know each student and staff at Youth Services.

Thank you both for joining us! This will be an unforgettable experience 🙂

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Building Leadership Skills with Magna Kearns Youth Court

Authored by: Ricky Vigil, Magna Kearns Youth Court Coordinator

I am constantly amazed at how bright, how passionate and how dedicated the teenagers I work with are. Society at large thinks of teenagers as lazy, irresponsible and self-centered, and while all teenagers (and adults, for that matter) can possess those traits at times, it’s clear to me that all it takes is a single opportunity for a teen to break out of that stereotype. Magna Kearns Youth Court offers that opportunity to our teen panelists and to the youth referred to our program. In the last year, I have seen our teen panelists grow more confident, becoming more comfortable with the process of our hearings and learning to communicate better with the youth brought to court. It’s gratifying to see kids I’ve known for several years through our Afterschool programs, flourish into wonderful leaders.

For this school year, HB239 is going into effect. The bill’s basic provisions state that law enforcement can no longer be involved in low level offenses committed by youth in schools, and that school administrators must utilize alternative forms of discipline. This is great news for youth court programs, as it validates our existence and proves that the state’s legislature sees the value in restorative justice rather than punitive justice.


The S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah released a study earlier this year entitled “Misbehavior or Misdemeanor? A Report on Utah’s School to Prison Pipeline.” While the data shows that school discipline is down in general, the disparity in discipline between white students and minority students has been growing. With this in mind, Magna Kearns Youth Court has recruited over a dozen new panelists from Kearns High and Cyprus High, to help youth referred to our program connect to their community, take accountability for their actions and learn new skills.

Our panelists have distinct backgrounds, interests and personalities–we have students involved in drama, debate, soccer, choir–and it has been interesting to see how passionate and invested they are when it comes to school discipline. Actually, when Nubia Peña- from the Utah Coalition against Sexual Assault, and Kathy Abarca- from Racially Just Utah, spoke to our panelists about the recent report released by the Quinney School of Law, the kids were shocked by the statistics. Coming from low-income areas and racially diverse populations, our teen panelists realized that they don’t have to look far to know someone who is already part of the criminal justice system. I was impressed by our panelists’ maturity, engaging with our presenters, asking great questions and sharing their concerns with the current trends.


As it is easy to get weighed down by the grim aspects of the juvenile justice system, we try to bring positivism and fun into our kids’ lives. As part of our training, we have used some experiential learning techniques to emphasize team building and to connect them to the challenges at court, as well as the challenges that the youth brought before them are facing. We also partnered with the Magna Kennecott Senior Center, to give our panelists a chance to connect with their community, so that they get a chance to experience what some of the dispositions assigned to our referred youth are like. Although at first, it took a few minutes for our kids to open up to the opportunity to play bingo with the seniors, after a while they were all rocking multiple cards at a time, laughing and getting invested in their wins.

Throughout our sessions, our panelists have offered suggestions on new dispositions, asked how they could advocate for our program in their schools and even brought friends to later sessions so they could join our panel. I have a lot of confidence in our team this year, and I’m excited for them to begin mentoring kids in their own community and continuing to make a difference.



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Tips for Going Back to School

Authored By: Chris Bereshnyi, Family Therapist

It’s that time of year that children dread, but parents love: back to school. Although it provides a break for parents, starting out the school year on the right foot is important, and like most things, that takes planning.

One of the biggest issues is transitioning back to an earlier bedtime. Kids will want to maximize their opportunities to sleep in, and parents want to avoid, or at least minimize, the hassles of waking their kids up the next day. One way to accomplish this is to have them go to bed a little earlier than they did the night before. This should be combined with restricting electronic use at bedtime, if they are not able to self-monitor and turn them off when they go to bed. This process should be start about a week before school commences.


Along with adequate sleep, it’s important for kids to eat breakfast. According to the USDA eating breakfast regularly helps kids with their problem-solving skills, behavior, and reduces the chances that they will be overweight.

Since we’re talking about routines, creating (or reviewing), an after-school routine might also help. For example, planning fifteen minutes for a snack when the kids get home from school, and then doing homework. Although the needs of each family may differ, teaching your kids to delay gratification will serve them well in adulthood.

In conclusion, as with anything, consistency is important, and sticking to the schedule (which is understandably easier said than done), will help minimize problems.


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Back to School: Setting Realistic Goals

Authored by: Ricky Vigil, Afterschool Program Coordinator, Cyprus High School

Some kids I’ve talked to at Back-to-School nights and Class Registration are genuinely excited to get back to their classrooms. When I asked the kids what they were looking forward to, a lot of them said spending time with their friends. Some were happy to take classes from their favorite teachers or to try out new subjects–our school’s new Japanese classes have a lot of hot buzz. While pitching our After school Program to parents, many of them were drawn to the homework help and tutoring portions of our curriculum. Grades are important, but sometimes parents (and the students themselves) put unrealistic expectations on their kids. A student who mostly got D’s last school year is probably not going to get straight A’s during the first quarter of the new school year–in fact, they might not ever get straight A’s, and that’s okay!


Oftentimes, we feel pressure to be the best. We feel pressure to set an example for our peers and siblings. We want to create a sense of pride in the people who we look up to. But we can do all of these things, and we can teach young people to do these things as well, even if we aren’t at the top of our class.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

It’s only natural to compare our own abilities, accomplishments and failures to the people around us. We don’t want to be perceived as inferior, dumber, slower, less capable than our friends and peers. However, it’s important to realize that everyone is an individual with different levels of understanding, skill and ability. Just because one person excels in a particular subject in school or is great at a certain sport, that doesn’t mean someone else, no matter how similar they may seem, will have the same aptitude or level of success. It is especially important for parents to not compare their children to their siblings or even to themselves when they were students.

Set short-term and long-term goals

If your child mostly got D’s last school year, it is unrealistic for them to get straight A’s in the first quarter of the school year. Instead, talk with your child and work together to create a goal that is easily measurable and not too drastic–in this example, maybe the goal could be getting a D+ or higher in the first quarter of school. If you follow this trajectory, you can work together to create a goal of the child having a C+ or better by the end of the school year.

Don’t be afraid to modify your goals

Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we hope they will. Maybe your child has a particularly tough teacher, or they have to take a class where the concepts just aren’t clicking for them. This  might lead you to modifying your original goal. This shouldn’t be taken as a sign of defeat, but it also shouldn’t be interpreted as a free pass for failure. Encourage your child to continue working hard, and recognize the strides they are making.

Reward progress and effort

It can be difficult to work towards a goal if you don’t see the value of the outcome–a sense of pride is enough for some people to reach their goals, but other people need something else. Work with your child to decide what an appropriate reward for accomplishing their goals will be. You don’t want to get too outlandish with your rewards, but it is important to recognize the hard work your child is putting in towards their goals, and rewarding these goals is a great way to keep them going. It is also important to check in on the progress of the goals regularly to let your child know that you haven’t forgotten about the goals and you care about their progress. This is a great way to encourage them and keep them on the path towards achieving their goals!

Of course, these goals don’t have to be academic. Maybe getting up in the morning is a struggle for your child, or they constantly forget their lunch at home. Focus on what your child needs to achieve their own success, and involve them in the process to work towards solving their problems.

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