Advocacy group asking Utah Legislature to help fund teen centers across the state

Nov 16, 2022, 11:00 AM | Updated: 5:50 pm

Teen Centers...

FILE: Wood Cross High is one of many local resources for homeless teens. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — An advocacy group, the Policy Project, is encouraging Utahns to ask the Legislature to participate in a public-private partnership to fund space-based “teen centers” in every high school in the state of Utah. The group calls the project, the “Teen Center Project”. 

The teen centers, according to a press release from the Policy Project, will provide basic needs. Including food, showers, laundry and mental wellness assistance to teens.

More than 15,000 Utah students are classified as homeless according to the group’s press release.

In addition to those who don’t have an adequate night-time residence, the Policy Project said that one in three Utah students is economically disadvantaged and qualifies for free or reduced lunch. 

“Schools have long been on the frontlines of ensuring the basic needs of every student are met,” Emily Bell McCormick, president of the Policy Project said in a press release. “We must ensure schools are equipped to meet the growing number of students in need without adding to the workloads of individual teachers.

McCormick said this is accomplishable by “supporting and amplifying” school efforts to better provide for their students. 

Not only will the centers provide momentary stability, but the idea is also to increase graduation rates. When a student has more resources and all the basic necessities, they are likely to perform better in school. 

The Policy Project said the teen centers meet Utah students where they are and where they should be, at school. Underutilized spaces are a great place for schools to dedicate as teen centers.

How does the Legislature help teen centers?

“Our focus will be on students who are at-risk–knowing that if every school has a safe space with one loving adult, every student has a reason to access that space,” said Mary Catherine Perry, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Policy Project in a press release.

“When we lift one student, it lifts the whole student body.”

Additionally, the Policy Project is hoping to receive funding for teen centers through a public-private partnership between the Utah Legislature and private donors, including the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation and the Huntsman Foundation.

Where does the Legislature come in? The Policy Project will today, urge the Utah Legislature to appropriate funds and create a bill to support Utah high schools. This will happen Wednesday just before noon at the state capitol.

Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, Senate President Stuart Adams and Utah State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson will speak at the event according to the Policy Project.

“Teen centers aren’t about brick-and-mortar buildings; it’s about relationships,” Adams said. “Students helping other students is impactful. Great advisors also provide mentorships that further help Utah students succeed academically. It was inspiring to see the teens in attendance today, and I’m excited to work with the Policy Project.”

Teens who have experienced homelessness will also be present at the event to speak. 

Teen centers may look vastly different for each community, it will depend on the specific needs of the schools. Additionally, how community members rally together in efforts to support homeless teens.

Finally, the Policy Project in their press release states how the initiative will improve lives. Teen centers interrupt inter-generational poverty, support student advocacy and service among peers, and provide support for rural and small schools.

Related reading

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

a helicopter shown, vertiport demonstration tonight...

Sam Herrera

LISTEN: UDOT and USU to conduct vertiport demonstration

The Utah Department of Transportation and Utah State University will conduct the state's first vertiport demonstration Monday night.

3 days ago

West High Principal Jared Wright with James Yapias in front of west high clinic sign...

Amanda Dickson

Healthcare inside West High School

The West High School Clinic allows students to see nurses, pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists right inside their school.

3 days ago

BYU nursing student Jane Pearson smiles before donating her bone marrow in late 2023....

Emma Everett Johnson, KSL.COM

BYU student donates bone marrow to potentially save stranger’s life

BYU nursing student Jane Pearson is donating bone marrow to a stranger through the National Marrow Donor Program.

3 days ago

Students walk at the University of Utah...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Who goes to summer school?

KSL NewsRadio host Amanda Dickson reflects on her first week of teaching summer classes at the University of Utah.

7 days ago

Disagree better toolkit...

Don Brinkerhoff

Local professors create ‘Disagree Better’ toolkit for parents

Professors created "Disagree Better" toolkit which includes free online courses to help parents teach kids ways to handle disagreements.

7 days ago

Samantha Corey poses with several members of the American Fork High School football team....

Kyle Remund

Deceased student will be honored at American Fork High School graduation following outcry

Alpine School District has announced that Samantha Corey, a student whose life was lost to cancer, will now be recognized at the graduation ceremony for American Fork High School.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Advocacy group asking Utah Legislature to help fund teen centers across the state