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Sandy Journal

#EveryTeenSeen fosters unity and understanding between parents and teens

May 07, 2018 12:08PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Every Teen Seen hopes to empower and strengthen youth and help parents communicate through fun and positive activities. (Courtesy of Every Teen Seen)

Monday nights have become a night of fast-skating family fun and positivity for teens thanks to Classic Skating in Sandy and Every Teen Seen, a new nonprofit dedicated to empowering teenagers. 

“We like to partner with existing events to give the teens something to look forward to, be part of a team, and we like to hear what stuff they like," said Karla Hernandez, who helps with media relations for the Utah-based program.

Every Teen Seen approached Classic Skating and asked to have a night where teens and families could have fun in a safe environment for a discounted price. Currently, the Monday night skating is from 7–9 p.m. and costs $5 per person or $10 per family of four.

"The whole family can go skate and the kids are in a super positive environment," said Hernandez. "Some kids have been there every Monday night."

The kids get to skate with families to upbeat music, participate in dancing and other fun activities and listen to inspiring and positive messages called out by the center's emcee. A positive video also plays in the background teaching principles like avoiding bullying others and being kind. Schools in Draper and several residential programs have also brought their kids to have a good time with others their age. 

Every Teen Seen began as a movement when the nonprofit LuvTru was doing assemblies at schools and speaking to kids about promoting peace, love and positivity and teens began expressing their dissatisfaction in how they interacted with the adults in their lives. The teenagers said they felt that adults and parents weren't listening or hearing what they said, that it was like they weren't being seen. The hashtag EveryTeenSeen began and in January 2018, it became an official nonprofit staffed by adult volunteers and teen ambassadors to help bridge the communication gap between teens and parents and to help with suicide awareness.

“We empower teens by doing suicide prevention classes for parents to help them understand their teens and so teens can have a better relationship with their parents," said Hernandez. "In Utah, the suicide rate is off the wall."

Teen Seen Co-founder Levi Earnest has had depression and anxiety since his teenage years, which led him to nearly take his life a few years ago, and both Hernandez and Shelly Owens, who helps garner resources for the organization, have watched family members and friends deal with the same issues.

They realized that although the suicide rate in Utah has been steadily dropping the last few years from mostly young adults to the primary cause of death for children ages 10 to 17, more is needed to save a child than a quick visit to the school counselor. So they came together to help parents understand the pressures teens are under and get them the resources they need.

"If adults do not accept a reality of how bad suicide is here in the state of Utah, they won't be part of the solution," said Hernandez about the discomfort brought on by a difficult subject. "People must know that this is going on, and let's talk about it and then we can focus on a solution."

The main goal is to help unify kids and parents and help inform the parents about options they can use through the schools, community organizations and therapy to help alleviate the suffering that can come from depression, anxiety and suicide. Journaling, hiking and activities like skating have helped facilitate that process and have brought Every Teen Seen to the attention of other Utah and nationwide school districts and communities. The goal is to eventually roll this program out to other areas, but so far, Hernandez said, they're working to see how well their program works.

Other companies have been approached to help with events, such as Title Boxing Club in Cottonwood Heights, who helped host a fundraiser for a $10 kickboxing and yoga class, an activity that can help with aggressive tendencies as well as clear minds of stressful external stimuli. 

Hernandez said these kinds of activities help to foster healthy bodies while also being educational and service-oriented. She hopes to continue finding organizations that wish to help. Plans are also in the works to begin school visits to spread the message and raise awareness about bullying and suicide in elementary age children.

"We're passionate volunteers because it is close to home for us," said Hernandez.