In February 2017, Utah welcomed International Visitors from Central and South America and the Caribbean where they were studying how the U.S. addressed the needs of underserved and at-risk youth. Having just visited Washington D.C. and Chicago, the change of scenery in Utah was captivating for the Visitors. Most of the group had never seen snow until their visit to Utah, and enjoyed experiencing our winter wonderland. While visiting Park City, it snowed for about an hour and they enjoyed throwing snowballs at the Olympic Park.
The Visitors admired the professional program they experienced in Utah. The organizations they met with presented information that was beyond their expectations. They were especially impressed with their visit to the Utah State Courts where they had a brief presentation and observed hearings. Judge Kimberly Hornack was attentive and informative, explaining the witnessed processes in detail. They were pleased to see that the families were all able to participate. This experience provided a well-rounded knowledge of how the U.S. judicial system functions.
The Visitors were also impressed with the Prevention Dimension program at the Utah State Office of Education. This program uses popular songs infused with positive messages to help adolescents retain positive behavior. Their visits to Rose Park Elementary and Community School were also impactful. Mr. Joel Arvizo, the principal, explained the uniqueness of his school. Most students are immigrants and as a supportive service to their families, they offer a health clinic, family counseling, adult evening classes, and other comprehensive support.
Their visit to Utah also included the Utah College of Applied Technology that offers short and long-term studies that provided careers in health, technology, cosmetology, automobile mechanics and other fields. They also visited the Center for Women and Children at the YWCA and the Volunteers of America Utah Homeless Youth Resource Center. Mr. Pedro Balderrama from Mexico commented that he would try to build a center for homeless youth in his city.
They finished their visit to Utah with a volunteer activity at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall. The Visitors experienced firsthand the need to help others. They arrived in the U.S. with the idea that homelessness was not an issue in our country, but that evening they fed more than 5,6000 individuals facing homelessness.
As for cultural exchange, the Visitors experienced an NBA basketball game with the Utah Jazz playing the Portland Trail Blazers. Additionally, participants were very excited to visit the Mormon Temple. They toured temple square and attended a service where the famous Tabernacle Choir performed. Since it was President's Day, the songs had an American theme, resulting in a truly breathtaking and unforgettable experience.