It's been eight weeks since 24 Davis County teenagers spent nearly a week in the mountains high above Salt Lake City. Most say their lives haven't been the same since.
For Cindy Skare, an 18-year-old Bountiful teen, her six days in Alta were radically different from the job training program that she might have received last summer from the Davis County Office of Employment and Training.The pilot program, sponsored by employment and training office and Private Industry Council, took teens from low-income families and put them through a week of experiences that takes a new approach to job training - training teens how to master their own future rather than falling into a spiral of bad grades, troubled family relationships or run-ins with the law. Ages ranged from 14 to 19.
"I learned to be myself and take more responsibility for what I do. I can now lead my own life instead of following other people," Skare said.
Richard Nelson, training office executive director, said, "It was a tough group before they went up there. Three boys came from referrals from juvenile court. They were all in our literacy program, but we knew they had the potential for change."
That change comes when teens start to shed inaccurate ideas about themselves and replace themwith the discipline to control their circumstances, said William Guillory, president of Innovations Consulting Inc., which designed the program.
The program was funded with $25,000 from the federal Job Training Partnership Act. Because the unique program has such promise, Nelson said others across the state and nation will want to adopt the program.
"The Job Training Partnership Act has been used to teach teenagers a skill in work or give them a job, but what they were noticing was that learning a skill like landscaping or maintenance was important, but interpersonal skills were not there," Linda Galindo of Innovations Consulting said.
Guillory and Galindo say they used some unusualmethods to help youth learn those skills. Activities ranged from "rap sessions" about accountability and goal setting to climbing up a 60-foot tree and then jumping from its perch to a swinging trapeze while harnessed to a safety rope.
Guillory said the tree jump resulted in some of the most dramatic attitude changes. As the teens stood shaking on top of the swaying tree, doing what looked impossible, false notions about inabilities disappeared. Their self-esteem also changed when they visualized events in their life that had resulted in misgivings or barriers to relationships.
"One of the things I was afraid of before I went up to this was life itself . . . I was afraid of succeeding. When I went up there, there was a certain activity where I made a liar out of that belief. I can do it and I know I can and I am going to have to take that risk to get what I want," said Desi Flores, 17, a student at Layton High School.
Skare said when she first got to the camp she was uncomfortable among those she quickly classified as "the geeks, the stonies, the punkers, the gweebs and the impossibles." Heather Manning, a 16-year-old Layton High School student, said the differences in ages, ethnic, social and racial backgrounds soon disappeared as they began to share thoughts and feelings.
"I have a lot more respect for what people tell me. I have respect for people just for who they are. Before I didn't really respect other people, and I didn't care what people told me," said Jim Goble, 17, from Sunset.
Marc Garaycochea, 17, from North Salt Lake, said he no longer needs to blame others. He is no longer an enemy to himself or others because of the program.
"Ultimately they have a clearer sense of themselves. The can now say, `The more I understand me the more I value me. I will not be manipulated by that which is not in my best interest.' " Guillory said.