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Utah education champions to be recognized


In middle school Isabel Perez Vega shied away from science. That changed when she got involved in the Natural History Museum of Utah’s Youth Teaching Youth (YTY) peer mentoring program. After volunteering hundreds of hours learning science skills then teaching other youth, she is now the first in her family to graduate from high school.

Vega’s story about the role mentorship has played in her success and other inspiring examples will be celebrated Thursday, Sept. 15 at the American Graduate Stories of Champions Dinner at Ashton Gardens in Lehi. The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN/UEN-TV) is hosting the event along with public media stations KBYU, KUED and KUER.

The Stories of Champions project includes the dinner and production of short videos profiling remarkable mentors who have dedicated time and talent to helping others stay on the path to college and career readiness. The project was funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen initiative and public television station WNET in New York.

The videos, which may be viewed at www.uen.org/americangraduate/videos, will air during American Graduate Day, a live, national broadcast delving into challenges and solutions to the high school dropout crisis.

Carried by more than 100 public television stations nationwide, American Graduate Day airs locally on UEN-TV on Saturday, Sept. 17, from noon to 4 p.m.

During the dinner, more than 30 Utahns who have been nominated by peers and community members will be recognized as American Graduate Champions. KUER News Director Terry Gildea will emcee the program. Keynotes on the value of mentoring for Utah learners will be provided by Angela Romero, Sorenson Unity Center community programs manager, and Dr. Jose Enriquez, Latinos In Action founder and director.

American Graduate Champions like Vega attest to the power of a caring, consistent guide in inspiring and empowering them to pursue academic credentials and, in turn, guide others along the way. Now studying nursing in college, Vega says, “When I started out in ninth grade, college was not a possibility. Then I came into [Youth Teaching Youth], and I feel it really changed me.”

American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen is public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help young people succeed in school and life. Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), more than 100 public television and radio stations have joined forces with over 1,700 partners across 49 states to elevate the stories of youth and the adults that help them succeed. Learn more at www.americangraduate.org.

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