PROVO — Karla Sedillo has worked for four years to build a bank of volunteers who could volunteer at a Provo detention center for troubled teens.
Sedillo's drafted nearly 200 people from the community — artists, musicians and tutors — each month to help at Slate Canyon Youth Center.
Through the volunteer program, some $3,400 in donations and an incalculable dollar amount in mentoring time has come in each month toward the end of helping youngsters whose lives were spinning out of control.
One of its mentors, Alton Beck, was recently the recipient of one of Gov. Mike Leavitt's Points of Light awards.
That program is now threatened with extinction partly because it is different. Only two youth detention facilities in the system have a volunteer coordinator.
"There's a chance we're going to lose our volunteer coordinator position," said Odell Erickson, superintendent of the Provo youth corrections facility. "That would really hurt."
Erickson said the Blake Chard, the new director of the Division of Youth Corrections, is looking at equalizing programs at the division's various facilities.
If the plan is realized, the volunteer coordinator job would be cut.
Dan Maldonado, deputy director for the division, said no decision has yet been made yet. But the growing population creates a demand that outstrips the budget, he said.
"The division is taking a hard look at itself," Maldonado said. "It's not that we're not committed to volunteer programs. It's very important to us," he said. "If we could afford Cadillac programs, we'd have one in every facility in the state."
Erickson said he's been told the idea is to move staff around so there's more "up front" direction — more employees and opportunities offered in prevention and education than in the detention and confinement centers.
Maldonado said each center superintendent will be asked to rework staff patterns to include volunteer coordination as part of a position. That person will then report to a regional volunteer coordinator responsible for a dozen programs.
"The issue for us is we'll lose a valuable connection to the community, something we've built up over years, something that's working for us and for the kids," Erickson said.
Volunteers at Slate Canyon have offered expertise and skill building over the years, Sedillo said. Mentors from the business and professional communities have provided a listening ear and opportunities for seeing the world in a different light.
Some spend several hours every week working with the teens who stay at the center long-term.
Others come in for a specific project or task, as invited by Sedillo.
"I've been coming to work excited every day, wondering what I can do, where I can go with this next," Sedillo said. "At the very least, what we do helps build self-esteem."
If the changes predicted by the new administration go forward, Sedillo will still have a job. It just won't be the same job.
"If I was just fighting for a job, that would be one thing," she said. "But it's right and wrong, and I think it's wrong to cut the standard down just to make it equal for everybody.
"I suppose I could try to do this on my own, after hours or something, but eventually, I think it'll just fade," Sedillo said.
"We've been arguing the point for weeks now," Erickson said. "We already lost the funding for the program because of some budget cuts, so Karla has been working with bare bones. Next, we'll lose our interns. In the next week, we may lose Karla, too."