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Troubled youths, troubled budget

Division of Youth Corrections officials need to carefully study the ramifications of terminating the position of volunteer coordinator at the Slate Canyon Youth Center in Provo before they actually make the decision to do so.

The need for budgetary constraints is real and understandable. But to meet those constraints by removing a program that is doing exactly what the center is designed to do — serve troubled youths — seems unwise.

For the past four years, Karla Sedillo has drafted nearly 200 people from the community with expertise in many fields — artists, musicians and tutors etc. — to help the youths. For example, a boy who had been incarcerated in the secure care unit is now working as an artist because of a volunteer who became that boy's mentor.

And one of the mentors, Alton Beck, recently was the recipient of Gov. Mike Leavitt's Points of Light award.

The best reason to keep the position is summed up by volunteer Gene Faux, who believes one-on-one mentoring is the answer to a troubled society's needs: "In my opinion, it absolutely would be a travesty to cut it out. You have people out there who care. Without a coordinator, how would you get them together? . . . I think mentors make a difference. If we can head these kids off before they get into trouble, it saves the taxpayer money far sooner than incarceration ever does."

Sedillo is just one of two volunteer coordinators at the 30 or so youth detention centers throughout the state. She will still have a job even if her position is eliminated, but she will be doing something else.

According to a spokesman for the Division of Youth Correction, each center's superintendent will be instructed to include volunteer coordination as part of a position. But can someone effectively serve troubled teens in a position that allows just 10 percent to 20 percent of the workload for volunteer coordination?

The answer is "No." Youth Correction officials need to realize that changing a full-time position that has developed over four years into part-time status will surely hurt the program.

In their quest to address budgetary concerns, Youth Correction officials must be careful that they don't sacrifice long-term success for short-term gains.