After being awarded a grant at the Social Summit held in early August, Teens ACT, a non-profit organization based in Provo, Utah, will move to the UVU Business Resource Center this fall.
The first Utah Valley University Social Summit, which took place at the Provo Marriott Hotel, presented a $5,000 seed grant and one year of office space at UVU to a social entrepreneurial organization that demonstrated the potential for student engagement and social impact. A $500 People’s Choice award was also awarded at the Summit, based on an audience vote. Teens ACT was awarded both prizes out of 21 applicants and presenting against three other organizations at the Summit.
“We had only three minutes to present Teens ACT. I practiced a lot,” said Saeko Logsdon, managing director of Teens ACT. “I didn’t know if I could win the whole thing, but when I found out we won and the audience choice, I was just overwhelmed with joy and just grateful for the opportunity to do that.”
Teens ACT works to empower high school students toward graduation, utilizing college-aged mentors in an effort to increase high-school graduation rates across the state. In 2011, Utah’s high-school graduation rate peaked at 76 percent
“What they’re doing serves a very important niche in our community that isn’t really filled by anybody,” said Luke Peterson, director of corporate and community partnerships at UVU. “There are a number of for-profit and non-profit programs that provide tutoring and mentoring to high school students for college preparedness, but what they do that’s different is they focus on low-performing students.”
The organization centers around under-resourced students, defined as students that qualify for free or reduced lunch, students with lower grade-point averages and lower parental support or that lack the motivation to pursue a college education. Potential first-generation students are also considered under-resourced.
Challenged with motivating students not interested in higher education, Teens ACT mentors facilitate workshops that encourage high-school students to overcome personal obstacles and provide resources for colleges. Parent workshops and ACT preparation courses are also provided. Two UVU education students currently serve as Teens ACT mentors for students at Jordan High School.
“We love to have mentors from universities, especially sophomores or juniors because they can stay a little bit longer with the organization and have more leadership gradually,” Logsdon said. “We actually try to recruit secondary education majors or from an education-related department, but we welcome students from any major.”
Logsdon said that undergraduate and graduate mentors interested in teaching for their future careers seem to get the most out of the program. Dayan Bernal, a BYU alumni, developed the program in 2007, mentoring at-risk Hispanic students. Bernal and her colleagues officially founded Teens ACT in 2011.
Any organization, for-profit or non-profit, can apply for next year’s Social Summit grant. Special consideration is given to organizations that make a social impact within the local area.
“Our mission is locally focused,” Peterson said. “I desperately want UVU students to apply and throw their hat in and I want to see them win, but we also want them to see what it feels like to compete against people who aren’t students to give them a taste of the real world.”
To look at an application and requirements for the UVU Social Summit, visit http://www.uvu.edu/sii/. For more information on how to become a mentor with Teens ACT, go to http://www.teens-act.org/contact/.