The Evolution of the Sharks
YWCA Utah’s Afterschool Coordinator, Liz Griffin, is essentially the reason for our Afterschool Program being known as “The Sharks”. Our branding started with simple swimsuits one Summer. Liz thought it would be both convenient and cute to purchase matching swimsuits for the kids to borrow. The swimsuits we found had sharks on them and Liz suggested we start calling ourselves the Sharks. Anytime we were out in public or needed to get the attention of the kids we would yell and sign “Sharks” to which they would shout and sign the same thing in return. The simple name branding caught on quick, and the kids loved being known as the Sharks. We wanted to be differentiated from other Summer Programs but being known as the “Sharks” ended up increasing the kids’ sense of belonging and community. We hope that the legacy of the “Sharks” lives on long after the current staff and children leave YWCA Utah.
Teen Lagoon Trip
During the first week of June, we were able to utilize grant money to take a group of our teens to Lagoon for a day. We invited teens who had come consistently throughout the year or who had remarkable attendance in school that year. Many of our teens had never been to Lagoon before or simply, due to the high costs of admission tickets, did not often get the chance to go. We do our best to give the Teens at least one day that is just all about them and give them a day of fun with each other. In general, Teens often are put on the backburner and do not receive the attention they deserve at such a challenging point in their lives. For this reason, YWCA Utah staff work our hardest to find ways to make the teens feel cared for.
We were able to bring a teen who has been going through multiple tragic family events recently. Due to these events, this Teen has been staying close to their family and helping translate at various medical appointments. This specific Teen has seemingly been the backbone of their family more often than not and has not often gotten a chance to be around their peers as much as we would like to see. Their demeanor after navigating through the most recent family event has been notably lower than it has ever been in our timing knowing them, and it has ached that we have been able to do so little to help them. During our trip, we were able to see this Teen allow themselves to relax and embrace the day. If even just for a few hours, this Teen was able to focus on being around others, enjoying themselves, and taking a break from all their family duties at home. They cracked jokes all day, talked with their peers nonstop, and smiled throughout our time at Lagoon which was one of our biggest successes of the year. Going to Lagoon meant so much more than going to an amusement park for us this year.
REAL Salt Lake Stadium Visit
A few weeks ago, our Summer Program and Teen Program were given the opportunity to visit the America First Field to watch REAL Salt Lake practice for an upcoming match. We were one group among very few people who were invited to go watch the practice. Most, if not all, of our kids had never been to this stadium to see a game. They were amazed at how large the stadium was upon walking towards the entrance. They were even more impressed as we made our way down to the seats that looked across the vast green field where players were scattered around.
They so kindly offered all of the children REAL Salt Lake scarves that are used at games to show support for the team. The kids were even lucky enough to get a chance to chat briefly with some of the players and get their scarves autographed by them. For the kids who already had a love of soccer, being at the stadium made them excited to go to a game one day or even continue playing to become a player one day. Our staff is so grateful that we can take the kids to special events like these because I know they would not have these opportunities presented to them otherwise. Given all the uncertainty and trauma that they may be facing when they come to YWCA Utah, it means a great deal that we can provide them with positive experiences that allow them to be kids.