A monochromatic mountain

One family’s mixed feelings toward Utah’s slopes

Story by HANNAH CARLSON

A ski lift traversing a snowy slope. Photo by Simon Fitall on Unsplash.

“I grew up skiing in Utah’s Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons with my dad,” Micheal Bradshaw Jr. said in a collaborative Zoom interview with his sisters. “At the time, I didn’t realize that my dad and I were the only Black ones on the mountain. It doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore.”

In 1974, Micheal, a Millcreek, Utah, native, started skiing with his father, the late Micheal (Mike) Sr., at 3 years old. His younger twin sisters, Sierra and Kellie Bradshaw, started skiing two years later when they too turned 3 years old.

In order to hit the slopes each season, the Bradshaws were often required to make financial sacrifices to afford lift tickets and new ski gear for their growing children.

“Growing up, we never had cute ski outfits like most of the other kids did,” Sierra said. “I remember one year wearing blue camo ski pants and a pink jacket with fur. We wore whatever we could scrape up on clearance or whatever hand-me-downs the neighbors dropped off that year. It always made me sad as a little girl.”

The children’s mother, Ariel Jackson Bradshaw, didn’t share the rest of her family’s passion for skiing. Instead, she often read in the parked car while the others skied on the other side of the resort. She brought sandwiches and snacks.

“My mom loved coming with us,” Kellie said. “She’d always say, ‘I’d rather read in the mountains than on the sofa.’ She rarely missed a week.”

By their college years, the Bradshaw children were elite skiers and masters of the slopes.

In 1999, however, their father unexpectedly died from a heart attack just two months before his 66th birthday.

It was February, and Utah’s shimmering slopes were still covered with snow. “It felt right to go skiing,” Micheal said. “I guess it was both a way to cope and honor his memory.”

By this time, Ariel was too frail to wait in the car parked below the frigid slopes. Instead, she remained in her Millcreek home, reading, while her adult children skiied.

It wouldn’t be much longer until the rest of the Bradshaws would join their mother for warmer weekends indoors and skip the slopes altogether.

A skier pictured below a ski lift. Photo by David Klein on Unplash.

A year later, Micheal went skiing alone one Saturday morning. He was 26 years old.

“Everyone says to never ski alone out of fear for one’s physical safety,” Micheal said. “But I wasn’t worried about it as long as I stayed on populated runs. I didn’t realize at the time that falling off my skis wasn’t the only threat to my safety at the resort.”

After a morning of skiing, Micheal said he went to purchase lunch from the resort’s crowded lodge. He had never been to the lodge before. He had always packed sandwiches like his mother did for him and his sisters growing up.

With his lunch tray in hand, Micheal asked a bearded man seated at a table with his family if he could eat his lunch from one of the table’s three empty chairs.

Micheal recalled the interaction.

“F— no,” the man said while laughing. “Can’t you see that I’m trying to eat with my family here?”

Micheal apologized for interrupting the family’s lunch and asked if he could at least take one of the table’s extra chairs elsewhere to eat his meal.

“Are you kidding me?” the man replied to Micheal. “I just said, my family and I are trying to enjoy our meal. We don’t need a lone n—– like yourself here. F— off.”

Nobody came to Micheal’s defense, despite the room being full of snacking skiers, snowboarders, and stares of shock.

With everyone’s goggles and helmets taken off to eat, he quickly realized that he was the only Black person in the lodge of one of Utah’s most popular ski resorts.

Micheal now understood why his mom waited in the family’s car bundled in jackets and blankets rather than inside the lodge beside the fireplace.

Kellie spoke of her mom as a young mother, having had a similar experience to that of Micheal’s. She was asked to relocate to the other side of the ski lodge after making some of the resort’s regular guests “feel uncomfortable.”

“She was just reading a book,” Kellie said.

In a later attempt to purchase ski pants from a popular outdoor clothing company, Sierra also came face-to-face with the ski industry’s lacking inclusion. After trying on multiple pairs of ski pants that didn’t fit, she was eventually referred to plus-sized alternatives.

“I was 5-9 and 150 pounds at the time. I didn’t wear plus size in any other type of pant. Just in ski pants,” Sierra said. “Those ski pants were made to fit white women, not a body type like mine and my sisters who carry our weight differently.”

Kellie added, “Don’t even get us started on helmet sizing.”

After Micheal’s frightening incident in the lodge, and a few subsequent instances of microaggression later, the Bradshaws retired their skis and hung up their helmets.

“It’s not worth it anymore. The fun of skiing has become so tainted by the lack of inclusion,” Micheal said. “When my father died the bubble of ski bliss popped and we were introduced to the reality that he and my mother tried so hard to keep us from while growing up.”

While the Bradshaws’ story may air extreme, they aren’t alone in skipping out on the slopes. Many of Utah’s minority groups aren’t interested in racing to the resorts each winter either.

An infographic illustrating the racial distribution of Utah’s ski and snowboard population during the 2019-2020 winter season. Image by Hannah Carlson.

 In 2019-20, a Snowsports Industries America participation study reported that 88% of the season’s ski visits were made by people who identify as white or caucasian.

Native Americans and Blacks each represented only 1% of that population. Asian and Pacific Islanders made up 4% and those identifying as Latino made up 5%.

Skiing is also an extremely expensive sport to pursue. In Utah, the average price of a single-day lift ticket last year was $95. The cost of a resort season pass ranges anywhere from $300 to $1,500.

On top of a lift pass, a skier or snowboarder would also require a pair of skis or a snowboard, ski poles, boots, pants, a jacket, a coat, gloves, goggles, and a helmet.

For a median household income of $71,621 in Utah, skiing isn’t an easily approachable sport. Especially for larger families, where Utah ranks first in the country.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Micheal said. “I just wish that I could take my daughters skiing without them having to experience what many of us already have.”

Academic success and social happiness for student-athletes: mentorship and support is just as crucial off the field as on the field

Story by LEIF THULIN

Collegiate student-athletes aspire to reach the highest level in their sport. However, the reality is that only one NCAA sanctioned sport, baseball, has a percentage above 2 percent for college athletes becoming professional athletes. 

Many students who attend universities like the University of Utah travel far from home for the first time, naively entering college with expectations of becoming a professional athlete. They may have assumed that there would be no problems adjusting to the academic and social demands of their new situation.

Though the racial demographics of colleges are less skewed than that of the city within which the campus is located, many students experience culture shock. Salt Lake City is 87.2 percent white, University of Utah students are 70 percent white, yet an average of only six starters per collegiate football team is white. 

What this means is that many minority athletes attend the University of Utah for athletics and encounter entirely new racial demographics everywhere but the field of play. School alone is an adjustment for adolescents, but especially for minority athletes. There must be a liminal space or person to create a space for minority athletes to acclimate and grow academically and socially within the new environment. 

T.J. Burnett, who worked as the U’s football learning specialist, helped create comfort and prowess in the classroom. 

T.J. Burnett was the the University of Utah’s football learning specialist. Photo courtesy of T.J. Burnett.

Burnett, a former four-time Academic All-American, and a five-time All-American track athlete, proudly aided African American student-athletes at the U in their educational and social maturation on campus for two years. 

Burnett knew firsthand from his experience as a first-generation African American student the importance of prioritizing academics and social transitions. These can be overlooked, yet adjusting to these challenges may prove more difficult than the leap to collegiate athletics, which can form a shelter from the outside world. 

Burnett recalled in a Zoom interview, “Transitioning from high school to college, I honestly had no idea what it was going to be like to go to school, to go to college. When I got letters from schools, a lot of times it would be overwhelming. I didn’t really know what it would be like for me to go to college. I didn’t know if it was even affordable or accessible.” 

Nearly five years removed from his final days as a student, Burnett reminisced about his growth as an individual. He attributed much of it to the importance of education, and his gratitude for having African American role models to show him that people who look like him can thrive in the world of academics. 

“I truly believe education is the great equalizer in terms of getting people to have the opportunity for vertical mobility but it isn’t accessible to all students from all backgrounds,” he said. 

Burnett, who hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, spoke of Dr. Damon Arnold, the special associate to the athletic director at Grand Valley State University.  Arnold inspired Burnett to take a job that remained within the realm of athletics while influencing students in a long-lasting way through academics. 

“He was somebody that young Black athletes could look at and be like, it doesn’t matter where you start it matters where you finish,” Burnett said. 

Burnett gratefully reflected that without the mentorship of Arnold and other mentors, many student-athletes including himself would have been worse off in their college experiences. 

“When I was graduating, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I wanted to have this impact on student-athletes as well, paying it forward, and also it is meaningful work,” Burnett said.

U offensive lineman Braeden Daniels said in text message, “He [Burnett] helped relate the school material that was being taught in our classes to our lives as student athletes, men, and real life examples … He understood life from our perspective as he was a student athlete.”

Elijah Shelton, an African American Salt Lake City native and transfer from Utah State University to the U, did not struggle with culture shock, or making friends with either team. 

Elijah Shelton practices for the Utes. Photo courtesy of Elijah Shelton.

Though his transition from high school to college was not difficult, Shelton recognized that many of his former teammates who came from other states struggled mightily adjusting to the academic workload and the 82.4 percent white population of students at USU.

In a Zoom interview, Shelton noted that at Utah State, a class called Connectionsbecame important because it explained Utah’s culture and the importance of getting to know people and appreciating the cultures of everyone.   

“We kind of made our own culture within the Logan culture,” Shelton said. 

Josh Nkoy, a collegiate rugby player at Stanford University from Salt Lake City,  acknowledged several facets in his university experience that contributed to his academic and social acclimation and success. He listed campus organizations for African Americans and members of the African diaspora, including the Black Cultural Center, where Black people can congregate and study.  

People like Burnett provide a Black athlete an excellent academic role model, and can relate to issues of culture shock inherent in attending predominantly white institutions. He understands the balance of school and athletics, and can remind students to prioritize academics because there are worthwhile jobs beyond professional athletics. 

While sports fans focus on athletic feats, Daniels, Shelton, and Nkoy have found succeeding in college relies on a confluence of mentorship, university support, communities of peers, and cultivating a culture of prioritizing academic excellence. 

Nkoy put it best when he observed, “You’ll see a Black face doing good things at all times — I guess all of that really mitigates culture shock for everyone.”

Passion for sports can traverse racial divides in Salt Lake City, some Black sports fans say 

Story by LEIF THULIN 

Former Utah Jazz star Deron Williams recently said on The Ringer’s podcast “Real Ones,” “I had been around all the best players in the world … I was trying to recruit everybody. I’m talking to everybody. Nobody’s coming to Utah.” 

Williams implied that no players wanted to join him in Utah due to Utah’s reputation of being inhospitable to African Americans. 

In interviews conducted over Zoom, three Black men involved with the Utah Jazz as journalists or fans acknowledged the reality of racism. However, when it comes to their personal experiences on the job and in the stands, they said that loyalty to the basketball team, not racial divisions, takes center stage. 

Contrary to the experience of many African Americans in America, Tony Jones, a sportswriter covering the Utah Jazz for The Athletic, said he has not experienced racism in his professional life in his many years in Utah. 

During his years covering first the Bountiful Braves, then the Utah State University Aggies and now the Utah Jazz for The Athletic, Jones’ affability and the unity he attributes to the culture of sports has helped him evade racial discrimination in his industry. Once he covered sports above the high school level, most of the athletes he covered were African American, which he said was one possible reason for his comfort. 

Jones has found his time in Salt Lake City to be seamless despite an 87 percent white population. 

He didn’t initially dream of being a sportswriter. However, with a mother he described as a “titan in the [journalism] industry,” he was introduced to Black sports journalism legends like Rob Parker and David Aldridge from a young age. 

Jones realized that many aspiring sports journalists did not have the advantages he modestly partially attributed to being Jackie Jones‘ son. Hard work paid off. 

“I worked on my craft and got good enough,” he said. 

Jones explained writing about the Jazz basketball team is especially rewarding because the entire state admires and supports the Jazz. There is no divisive viewpoint as there could be if he wrote for the University of Utah or Brigham Young University. 

When it comes to that college competition, “The rivalry can dehumanize the opponents’ fans,” Jones said. 

“The Utah Jazz speaks the universal language of the state,” he said. 

The concept of sports banding people of all races together within the context of a game is not an uncommon notion, but Jones’ personal avoidance of racial discrimination in his professional life in Utah was echoed by former Deseret News and current ESPN sportswriter, Eric Woodyard. Jones and Woodyard attribute this to their involvement with a basketball team, in which team goals and success take priority over individual goals or attributes — in this case, the color of their skin. 

Woodyard decided to take a leap of faith and moved to Salt Lake City from his hometown of Flint, Michigan, to cover the Utah Jazz in 2017. Woodyard described his move to Salt Lake City as a risk since he didn’t know what to expect, but he now calls Salt Lake City a second home. 

He said racism exists and he is extremely conscious of it, but he never experienced racism while covering the Utah Jazz. He credited the Deseret News for how it took care of him, as well as the culture and unifying aspects of sports for protecting him from racist encounters.

“People often asked me why I moved to Utah, and it was hard to find diversity in Salt Lake City.” He continued, “For example, I didn’t know who to go to as my barber or where to find good fried chicken initially, but I was treated excellently.” 

The Utah Jazz have had incidents in recent years where opposing players have received racist remarks from Jazz fans. The Jazz have even been labeled as a place that NBA players do not want to play due to these interactions and the numerical lack of African Americans in Salt Lake City. 

Woodyard released what became a viral video of a Jazz fan verbally and racially abusing then-Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, and he personally felt disturbed by the racial abuse from the Jazz fan. 

Woodyard said, “I know what’s right to me and it’s there for the reader to interpret and figure out what it means to them.” 

It can be difficult to try to reconcile seemingly opposite viewpoints — that Utah Jazz fans enthusiastically support the team and people affiliated with it like Jones and Woodyard, and yet have a racist reputation that makes new players hesitant to come to Utah.

Josh Nkoy, a member of the Stanford Rugby Team, is an activist who was born and raised in Salt Lake City. Nkoy, who is the son of Congolese refugees, considers his family to be “proud, proud” Jazz fans. 

 Like Jones and Woodyard, he has successfully traversed mostly white Utah without racial discrimination, attributing it to community support and the equalizing nature of sports. 

“Sports were the only time on the field, well, the only time growing up, I would say that there are no outside expectations in terms of how far you need to go,” Nkoy said in a Zoom interview. 

Josh Nkoy is throwing in the ball. Photo courtesy of Josh Nkoy.

However, he said he felt about the racial abuse Russell Westbrook received from fellow Jazz fans: “It’s frustrating in the 21st century, people still haven’t learned.”

Nkoy elaborated and alluded to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery while Arbery was running, “This is athletics, this is what we are stereotypically good at, and regardless of even that we are still in danger.” 

Woodyard spoke of being “numb” to Black Lives Matter because it is a continual fight he and others have to wage including in Utah outside of Jazz games. He referenced assuming stares he receives in grocery stores and the specific manner in which he has to wear hoodies, as everyday examples. 

Talking about Black Lives Matter, Jones said, “The racial issues are unfortunate and what has transpired has been unfortunate for hundreds and hundreds of years on some wavelength.” He said he was happy to see more recognition of the racial issues in the Salt Lake City community both after the incident involving a racist fan and surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“I recognize what I am and what my culture is, and where I’m from, and I’m passionate about where I’m from, and I’m passionate about being Black, and passionate about being African American,” Jones said, “and I have not shied away from stating my beliefs on it, but my primary obligation is to set a good example for myself and kids and those who look like me who want to be in my industry.” 

This self-knowledge is key to Jones’ comfort and liking of Utah. He said he feels appreciated for his work by fans at The Athletic, and not judged by his skin color. 

As a player on a sports team, Nkoy reflected, “Everybody is equal in terms of how much work they put in, how much love they have for their craft, and how many wins they want to rack up with their teammates, especially among teammates.” 

As deep racial tensions have gripped our world, lessons can be gleaned from the unity exemplified in certain communities. In Salt Lake City, racial tension can be superseded by strong communal bonds created within the environment cultivated through sports. 

Basketball star-turned-coach; Vanessa McClendon is paving the way for girls basketball in the Pacific Northwest

Story by BRYNNA MAXWELL

Fighter. Go getter. Resilient. Difference maker. These are the words that come to mind when describing Vanessa McClendon. 

Former college athlete-turned-coach McClendon’s life is all about basketball. She was highly recruited in high school and earned a full ride basketball scholarship to the University of Oregon. Her talent would have taken her far professionally, but a career-ending knee injury forced her to retire early. 

Now, McClendon uses her basketball knowledge and love for the game by coaching her travel team organization, Northwest Magic. With teams scattered across Western Washington, McClendon and her husband have built a program that has become a household name in the Pacific Northwest basketball community. 

Vanessa McClendon has had a successful career from playing basketball in college, to now coaching the Northwest Magic. Photo courtesy of Vanessa McClendon.

In the youth basketball world, travel organizations like the Northwest Magic play a critical role. The travel teams not only help young players develop their basketball skills, but they also provide a platform for exposure of these players to college coaches as they chase their dreams of a basketball scholarship. These teams travel the United States to compete in tournaments in the AAU circuit, which is a travel team circuit that takes players and their teams all around the country to play basketball. 

Back in 2008, McClendon had just one scrappy team of teenage girls and an outsized vision for the future. She now has 22 teams — 14 for girls and eight for boys — that compete on a weekly basis around the nation.

University of Utah women’s basketball alumna Megan Huff was on that first AAU team McClendon assembled in 2008. 

“Since I started playing for Magic, Coach Vanessa was always someone I looked up to,” Huff said in an email interview. “When I walked into Magic tryouts, I was shy, uncomfortable in my own body, and insecure about my height and skills. I had no knowledge about basketball or about myself. But, through the whole thing I always knew that Coach Vanessa believed in me and was someone I could always count on.”

That first team McClendon coached produced four big name, Division I college athletes. This included Huff who, after graduating from the University of Utah, got drafted by the New York Liberty in the third round of the 2019 WNBA draft

“Magic was like family to me,” Huff said. “The lessons I learned helped me in college when I was deciding to transfer (from the University of Hawaii to the University of Utah). I knew how to handle the situation with open communication and honesty.”

When asked how McClendon separated her program from other teams in the state of Washington Huff said, “I knew the way things should be when a coach really cared about the individual and not just the organization.”

McClendon’s coaching has greatly impacted many young basketball players, and the teaching does not stop when she leaves the court. Her intentionality to connect with individuals has helped players learn life lessons away from basketball.

Huff said, “My journey was not an easy one but through the whole thing I always knew that Coach Vanessa believed in me and was someone I could always count on. For advice, knowledge, a ride, or a workout I knew I could always count on her and still can even to this day.”

Megan Huff shoots a jumper over a Washington State player in a collegiate basketball game. Photo courtesy of Megan Huff.

McClendon agrees that Northwest Magic is a special and empowering team to be a part of in order to help players get ready for the next level. 

“Our players go to college, and they are impact players right away,” McClendon said. “They can play in a system they’re used to. Some of the stuff that we’ve done, like the way we run practices, they’re used to it already, so I think that differentiates us.”

Current players in the Magic program have been working hard to improve and agree that McClendon has already helped them. 

Sixteen-year-old Tala Mitchell has been a part of the program since she was in the fifth grade. 

“Coach Vanessa brought me out of my comfort zone,” Mitchell said. “In the beginning I wasn’t really a talkative person and was a little shy. She taught me how to speak up and communicate with my team on the court.”

During her interview, she was surrounded and supported by her Northwest Magic teammates, showing how close the bond is that has been formed from her unique basketball experience.

“There are other teams in Washington, but I feel like the people who have been here are very welcoming,” Mitchell said. “When new people come (to join our team), they enjoy us, so they come back and that helps us create bonds that last.”

Mitchell has built lasting memories from her time in the program and has made lifelong friends because of her experience with the Magic. The point guard has already had a strong couple years in high school and only hopes to keep improving. 

Sitting at a table next to a noisy gym for the interview, McClendon looked around at the organized chaos that surrounded her coming from several of her practicing Northwest Magic teams. 

She smiled.

“It is so great to see the full circle of Magic players come through. We have the girls just starting out, to the alumni coming back to show support and it is just so cool,” McClendon said. “I want Magic to continue to develop college-ready players, and then I’d love to see my players that have moved on, just come back and pay it forward.”

Vanessa McClendon established Northwest Magic from the ground up and continues to grow the program. However, there are challenges in this business.

Because McClendon believes every kid should have an opportunity to play, she routinely covers travel expenses for players who cannot afford it. These include hotel costs, plane tickets, food, and tournament fees.

“The biggest challenge right now is money,” McClendon said. “You know, a lot of families can’t afford to do what we do when we have to travel, and so the biggest challenge is trying to fundraise, or get sponsorships for the kids that need to get out there, because we know we have the kids but not everybody can afford to get to these exposure events.”

Setting up fundraisers and collecting donations are the most common ways to raise money, but McClendon is not fazed by the obstacles. 

“Basketball is my passion,” she said. “There is no place I would rather be than in a gym coaching these kids.”

Finding order in the chaos: how the pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of athletes

Story by BRYNNA MAXWELL

The benefits of playing a sport at any level are endless. From cool gear, to free food, to notoriety and fame, who would not want to be in their shoes? Athletes have it all … or do they?

Looking back at the year 2020, everyone knows it was not easy. The pandemic impacted so many people and has been talked about so much, that it has become normalized, commonplace, mundane, even boring. 

However, one topic that seems to have been glossed over is the effect COVID-19 has had on athletes — whether high school, collegiate, or professional. 

The toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of these competitors has been monumental and has affected every level of athletics.

Meghan Edwards is a senior at Gig Harbor High School in Washington state this year. She has played varsity basketball for three years and has played competitive basketball since middle school. 2021 is her final year of playing basketball. Or it would have been if not for the worldwide pandemic. 

Meghan Edwards shoots a jumper during a game against Eastlake High School in 2019. Photo courtesy of Meghan Edwards.

Her last year of playing the sport she loves has been stripped away and cut down to just a few short weeks beginning in May.

It has impacted her acutely and has robbed her of some of the joy she used to have for the game she loves.

“COVID-19 is slowly tearing away the love I have for basketball,” Edwards said in a phone interview. “Since I am forced to be away from the basketball atmosphere and self-isolate, it is making me feel unmotivated to train and practice.”

This emotional spiral resulting from isolation is very common for athletes who are being forced to shut down team activities and stay away from each other.

Edwards has endured quite a few changes because of this.

“I have noticed I would rather be at home by myself than hanging out with people, especially people I am not extremely close to,” Edwards said. “I have also been going through different phases where my mental health is great, and I am super motivated and productive. And then some days I am super hard on myself and then feel very unmotivated.”

Edwards has since developed new hobbies such as painting and listening to podcasts to give herself a mental break from the emotional chaos resulting from all of the ups and downs and unknowns of this year. 

Every sport has been affected in one way or another.

Utah sophomore and softball player A.J. Militello has had her first two collegiate seasons dramatically impacted because of COVID-19.

“It was really strange, really surreal,” Militello said in a FaceTime interview. “You got to this point of asking yourself what’s the point of even playing sports?”

Because Militello plays a spring sport, her team is just starting their 2021 season and so far, COVID-19 has still been a huge factor in everything they do. It has changed the way they conduct practices, travel, lift weights, and even room together on road trips. 

The fall softball season was canceled and so were all of the other activities over the last six months of the 2020 year, forcing the team to adapt and live day to day, never knowing what will happen.

Militello said, “We weren’t allowed to practice when we came back (from summer break). All we were allowed to do was individual groups.  And then we finally got cleared to do full team practice on a taped-off field wearing a mask the entire time. If your mask was below your nose, you got sent home. We weren’t allowed to break the rules.”

These strict guidelines carried over into the 2021 softball season where there are rules on how to eat, act, and even stand when doing team events and activities. The players have to make sure they are at least 6 feet apart at all times and when eating a group meal, they have to eat by themselves. In their own rooms. In total isolation. 

All this has taken quite the mental toll on Militello and her team. 

“Because of all the time we weren’t allowed to play, a lot of people were really struggling with figuring out who they were outside of being a Division I athlete,” she said. “A lot of people put all their worth into their sport and when it gets taken away, they don’t know what to do.”

Professional soccer player Stephanie Cox , an Olympian and a gold medalist, can relate to that and more when reflecting on the past year. 

Stephanie Cox with her daughter and husband after a soccer match. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Cox.

For her, she was one of the few who was allowed to play through the pandemonium of the pandemic. 

The National Women’s Soccer League played a short season in one location in Salt Lake City. Cox’s team, the Reign, was lucky enough to get through the short spurt of a season with no negative impact from COVID-19.

However, having to play through the heart of the pandemic caused her and her team to become emotionally exhausted. 

“The hardest part was that it was a shorter season and most players wanted to make the most of it, so they played super tight,” Cox said in a phone interview. “There was not a lot of time to warm up into the season.”

Normally, Reign FC plays around 25 games in a season before playoffs. However, the 2020 season was cut short because of the pandemic. 

Even though these athletes were beat up the past year emotionally and mentally, the players interviewed all had a common theme from their experiences: growth.

Cox said, “I have gotten a fresh appreciation for being able to play. Next time I get the chance to play, I am not going to feel any pressure and tension and just soak it all in.”

That “next time” is coming fast as the 2021 season is set to start April 9.

Softball player A.J. Militello learned a life lesson that some athletes never fully grasp. When reflecting, she said, “Sports are not what you are, it’s what you do. You should never put your identity into something like a sport that can be taken away just like that.”

University of Utah discusses racialization of homeownership on President Biden’s first day

Story by SUNWHEE MIKE PARK

MLK Day 2021 arrived in a timely manner – just two days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The transition marked a political shift that many Americans saw as synonymous with the return to progressive social attitudes and the renewed start of efforts at racial unity after four tumultuous years under the previous presidential administration.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lasting legacy, the University of Utah’s Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion hosted a series of events throughout the week of Jan. 18, aptly titled “Good Trouble.” Those words were uttered by John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil-rights icon who died in 2020.

One event during the week held particular significance: a virtual seminar on the topic of redlining. This practice was exercised by American banks and federal bodies until the mid-20th century to exclude minority families in underprivileged neighborhoods from receiving mortgages or homeowner loans. Areas were defined by red lines on maps, hence the term “redlining.”

While the practice has been outlawed for over half a century in the United States, the vestiges of this discriminatory act are still widely visible to this day.

The event, “Reframing the Conversation: Good Trouble & the Red Line,” was held via Zoom on Jan. 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration. Afterward, he signed multiple executive orders. One extended the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium to allow nearly 40 million Americans to keep their homes until late March, according to the Washington Post. Many of the homeowners that the order impacts are minorities who reside in redlined regions, the Aspen Institute reports.

The virtual seminar introduced a panel of leaders from within the Salt Lake City community: Ciriac Alvarez Valle, a recent graduate of the U and policy analyst at Voices for Utah Children; Ashley Cleveland, a board member for Utah’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee and nonprofit Curly Me; Fatima Dirie, policy advisor for the Mayor’s Office of New Americans; and Franci Taylor, director of the U’s American Indian Resource Center. The conversation was moderated by Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, director of University Neighborhood Partners.

Mayer-Glenn posed a series of prepared questions which covered a range of topics — from the implicit ways redlining practices remain today to their long-term effects in modern American society. Some panelists shared personal stories about the challenges they have faced in homeownership as Black and Indigenous women of color.

“Redlining went from legal to insidiously hidden,” Taylor said about the ways discrimination can still be seen in homeownership today. (The Fair Housing Act banned the practice in 1968, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.)  She said it is painfully obvious when noting how many exits and entrances go in and out of Salt Lake City’s minority-rich, lower-income west side compared with the whiter, richer east side. Taylor said this was an intentional design implemented by the government to minimize access into wealthier Salt Lake City neighborhoods.

Other panelists discussed how redlining affects their personal lives. Cleveland, a new mother, explained that redlined minority neighborhoods pose serious health issues, especially to children and pregnant women. Their proximity to freeways causes rampant asthma, and a lack of healthy food options in these “food deserts” leads to high numbers of patients with diabetes and hypertension. But minority families are unable to escape these conditions because of the continued effects of redlining today, Cleveland said, expressing how difficult it is for her and her daughter to live healthily.

The seminar, however, was not restricted to a gloomy discussion about how minority groups have been, and still are, disenfranchised by redlining practices. The latter half of the event breathed an air of hopefulness to an otherwise dismal topic, as panelists were asked how they fight to overcome discriminatory challenges, and how American society as a whole can move forward.

Valle, the youngest panelist, suggested the equal dispersion of resources to all communities, regardless of their populations’ racial backgrounds or financial statuses in order to ensure their growth. She explained that constant participation in community activities, especially by the younger generation including students, would gradually help to raise redlined neighborhoods out of a continuous cycle of poverty and neglect.

Later in the discussion, in a moment undeniably evocative of King and Lewis during the Civil Rights Movement era, Taylor said the fight against discrimination and hatred must be taken on as a daily chore. The key, she said, lies in refusing to tolerate discrimination nor embracing the fear that comes with it each day.

In a separate email interview with Mayer-Glenn, she explained that conversations like these play an important role in informing communities about how certain laws and policies are enacted to promote discrimination. When people become educated about structural racism and biases in their communities, she said, they can then take part in “good trouble” by voting for representatives who will fight to eliminate inequality and racial disparities.

As the event neared its end, it was clear that the hour-long conversation represented a much larger phenomenon occurring at that very moment: America ushering in a new administration with the dire hope of overcoming its deep and painful racial divisions. Panelists and moderator of the event alike seemed to be ardently optimistic as the conversation came to a close.

Valle, the young panelist, quoted the words of Lewis himself as the mantra for her work, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

Student athletes join in community service in celebration of MLK week

Story by BRYNNA MAXWELL

Lola Pendande has always had a fear of needles. Gritting her teeth, she closed her eyes in anticipation of the dreaded sharp pain that would inevitably come. The only reason she would ever put herself in this situation would be to help others.

The Utah women’s basketball team came together in January 2021 during Martin Luther King Jr. Week to join in acts of community service to celebrate and keep paying forward all that King did for America.

To these athletes, this week is more than just a few days of remembrance. It is a great opportunity to serve others.

Giving blood was a common theme for the team and Pendande was surrounded by teammates.

“It was a great way to bond as a team,” Pendande said. “I don’t know if I could have done it without them, but it was for a good cause.”

Lola Pendande focuses on shooting a free throw in practice. Photo by Becca Jonas for Utah Women’s Basketball.

Utah women’s basketball point guard Issy Palmer looks at MLK Week a little differently. Originally from Australia, this is only Palmer’s second year in the United States so she has a unique perspective on the service week.

“Although I am from a foreign country and have not grown up celebrating MLK Day, I understand its significance and history.” Palmer added, “By donating just one unit of blood, I could have potentially saved the lives of up to three people. This was important to me because it was a reflection of what MLK stood for.”

Members of the basketball team enjoyed the opportunity and the challenge of doing something sacrificial for others, something King was known for. Both Pendande and Palmer experienced joy in serving others through blood donation.

Student athletes are the face of their school. Eyes are on them at all times. They are representatives of their university. For the Utah women’s basketball team, using their influence to serve others shows their true character.

The women’s basketball team was only one of the sports teams at the University of Utah that participated in acts of service during MLK Week. And all those who participated found that they were able to learn and grow from the experience.

“This week was important to me,” Palmer said, “because it was a reflection of what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, a reflection of how he was selfless and sacrificial for the greater good of his race and for the rights of all people.”

2020 opened many eyes to the racism and fear that is still alive in America. Being able to conduct service projects and lead the way with love is a powerful way to help heal our country.

“MLK means a lot to me,” Lola Pendande said. “He was such an inspirational man. This service project week was important because it means I get to give back and help others with any problems they may have, just like Martin Luther King did. “

Mindfulness and holistic wellness blossoms in Salt Lake City’s Latinx community

Story and photo by JASMINE BARLOW

Sacred Energy Empowerment Center (SEEC) and Latino Behavioral Health Services are creating dynamic, inclusive, and accessible spaces for Latinx individuals in the Salt Lake City area to explore holistic health options.

Jomar Hernandez, an accredited holistic coach from Venezuela, is leading Spanish-speaking group meditations and healing circles at SEEC. Additionally, Hernandez offers private coaching and organizes large-scale events. She says her events are amassing an impressive turnout, and she is excited for future projects.

Hernandez’s unwavering passion and commitment to holistic wellness stem from her bravery of battling an early phase of cancer, diagnosed in 2013. “I was very scared of what was going on and how it will affect my family,” Hernandez says. “I returned to my meditation practice and participated in healing circles for comfort, like I did back in Venezuela.”

Hernandez recalls an “empowering treatment experience” during her stay at the Sanoviv Holistic Institute in Mexico. A variety of holistic-based treatments were implemented, a type of medical experience unfamiliar to Western societies. “It was there I began to connect with health coaches, and I fell in love [with this path],” Hernandez says.

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When it comes to addressing individual client needs, she has a simple approach: “The biggest question I ask [my clients] is this: ‘How open are you?’ And that’s where the process of true healing begins.” In relation to her Latin American roots, she feels the overarching culture surrounding holistic healing in Latin America is an “ancient practice,” and says she is honored to bring this essence of sacredness to helping Latinx women, her target client demographic.

Her line of work is not exempt from challenges, with difficulties ranging from establishing a client network to tackling misconceptions surrounding coaching. “It has been a little bit complicated because the people really don’t know about how a coach can help,” Hernandez says. “They usually come to me if they want to lose weight. [However], when [the clients] start asking questions about their health problems and diet, they realize there is an emotional part that we need to go deeper into.”

Hernandez believes her “Before and After” photo approach is a highly-effective tool, where clients can see a physical manifestation of emotional progression and positive change in their demeanor following a session. “It brings me so much joy to see how much they are glowing and growing,” she says.

Healing takes many forms, and mental health therapy is a crucial aspect of the holistic equation. For Latinx communities, there is a dimension of unique importance. Latino Behavioral Health Services (LBHS) serves such a purpose in the heart of Salt Lake City. It is dedicated to helping vulnerable members of Utah’s Latinx community recover from mental illness and addiction.

Diana Aguilera, a Peer Programs coordinator at LBHS, describes the foundational incentive in creating the award-winning, nonprofit organization: “[LBHS] saw the need for mental health services in Spanish,” she says. “It is a peer-run organization, helping substance abuse and mental health issues for individuals and family members.” Deemed a “softer approach,” Aguilera finds that peer mentorship “makes it easier for people to open up, as if everyone in the room completely understands you.”

Aguilera says deep stigma and economic barriers are prominent factors that may discourage the local Latinx community from seeking help. “Mental health services are so unapproachable,” she says. “You are calling someone up, saying you need help. It’s hard for people to do. On top of that, it can be very expensive.”

Aguilera believes that Latinx cultures may view mental health as a “character weakness” or something that is chosen. “We have families come in, where parents feel they have failed as caretakers,” she says. Empathizing and addressing these commonly-held beliefs, LBHS offers a rich variety of mental health education and support classes to deconstruct stigma and strengthen connection with the self and others. Additionally, therapy services are offered by licensed professionals at a reduced cost to accommodate all economic levels.

Despite these challenges, Aguilera says she believes there is positive progress being made. “In the grand scheme, mental health is gradually becoming more accessible. At [LBHS], we are creating a wonderful community to heal. We don’t have the power to do it all, but we are creating a space where we are not ashamed to share our stories.”

Whether an individual’s healing journey aligns with mental health therapy, holistic health coaching, or both, Aguilera and Jomar Hernandez both emphasize the importance of spreading awareness and strengthening local outreach. These efforts cast a welcoming net to reach those who can benefit from their guidance and resources.

A rite of passage gone: COVID-19 leaves high school seniors up in the air  

Timpview High School Senior Class of 2020. Photo courtesy of Sommer Cattani.

Story by IVANA MARTINEZ

Hundreds of schools around the nation — from K-12 to universities — have closed doors in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In Utah, the “soft closure” for K-12 schools has been extended to May 1.

For many high school seniors, the uncertainty of the pandemic

means the prospect of returning to school remains up in the air. School activities such as sports, alongside the traditional senior year festivities — senior “assassination,” prom and possibly graduation — have been put on hold.

“These are unprecedented times in Utah’s and our nation’s history,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a March 23 statement.

“I have been overwhelmed with Utahns’ outpouring of support for one another, and nowhere has this been more evident than in the way our educators are supporting Utah students and families,” Herbert said.  

The closure was extended in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in public schools and limit gatherings of 10 people or more. Several in-state universities and colleges have postponed or canceled graduation ceremonies.   

Photo courtesy of Sommer Cattani.

Sommer Cattani, a senior at Timpview High School in Provo, said she was experiencing the worst case of “senioritis” prior to the pandemic. She never had anticipated any of this happening and it was a little bit disappointing for her.  

“I hated going to school, but now that I can’t, I really want to,” Cattani said in a phone interview. 

For most seniors, spring semester is a time of transition to celebrate and prepare for secondary education. Graduation for many is considered a rite of passage to commemorate the last 12 years of education. 

“A lot of people are acting like high school is kind of done for me, like I’m probably not going to go back. Which is just weird, so it kind of feels unfinished,” Cattani said.

Cattani said her online classes have easily transitioned since her school had the “soft closure.” However, COVID-19 has affected her decision to attend universities out of state, since most have shut down for the semester. After high school, Cattani was planning to study hospitality and tourism. Now it seems uncertain.  

She had planned to tour the Brigham Young University-Hawaii campus over spring break to see if tourism was actually something she’d like to academically pursue. She said it wouldn’t be smart to go to BYU-Hawaii without touring the campus. 

“I’m in this weird limbo phase. Hawaii has a really good hospitality and tourism department and I’m not sure if I would want to study that somewhere else,” Cattani said. “So it’s just kind of like oh, I don’t really know what my future holds anymore.”   

Sean Edwards, assistant principal of Timpview High School, said the district’s focus at the moment is to effectively transition classes to a distance learning model. The district will then focus on assisting seniors through this transition to post-secondary education. 

“I think that is key for continuing the learning experiences if we were to extend the closure or the dismissal,” Edwards said in a phone interview. 

“Making sure that, you know, we have a solid and coherent plan with our school counselors, with our college and career access advisor and just making sure we are pushing communication out.  We’re doing a lot of proactive reaching out to students and parents,” he said. 

Hailey Giles, another Timpview senior, spoke about her experience during this time. She said it has been a “pretty smooth transition” for her because she is used to working on Canvas Instructure. Canvas is an educational technology company based in Salt Lake City.

Giles said in a phone call that she’d dropped one of her advanced placement classes, because it wasn’t pivotal to her graduation and she wasn’t planning on taking the test. But the real impact she’s felt is the loss of senior activities, like hanging out with her friends and specifically spring sports such as golf. 

“The fear that we’ll miss out on our senior experience, and especially I play a spring sport,” Giles said. “So this was my year, I finally made varsity and we’re set to win state. And so that was just big, like knowing that I won’t be able to play that sport for the spring season.” 

Both Giles and Cattani made it clear that they understand the seriousness of the pandemic and the measures the school administration is taking to protect them. Giles hopes that once school starts she may have a chance to play golf in the summer to make up for the spring session.  

As of March 23, assistant principal Edwards said the administration’s focus is on getting the transition right. He mentioned conversations relating to senior activities will happen later when the school has a better idea of how long the extension will be. 

The school is continuing to plan for graduation as it’s normally scheduled. For now, many students are working from home waiting to hear what may come in the following months as this pandemic continues.

Mosquito Abatement District helps prevent the West Nile Virus in Salt Lake City

Story and photos by CHEYENNE PETERSON

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile Virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. 

West Nile Virus was introduced to the U.S. in 1999 and to Utah in 2003, said Greg White, the assistant director at the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District.

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Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District located at 2215 N. 2200 West.

Since 1924, the SLCMAD, located at 2215 N. 2200 West, has had a group of specialists working on keeping mosquitoes controlled in the Salt Lake area. The principal focus is on population control and limiting the spread of the West Nile Virus. 

The CDC states that the West Nile Virus often begins with a bite from an infected mosquito. Mosquito season begins in summer and ends in fall. 

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SLCMAD lab.

“We feel like we do make an impact on the West Nile Virus. We take samples of mosquitoes for [it] specifically so that we find out if they are positive for the West Nile Virus. Then we will increase control in specific areas to try to interrupt the disease transmission,” White said. 

Every year, Utah has a large amount of mosquitos and these mosquitoes tend to gravitate to areas with stagnant water. In residential areas, culex pipiens mosquitoes are very common. These mosquitoes are the specific kind that transmit the West Nile Virus and can be a nuisance at times.  

“We don’t have as much water as the midwest like Minnesota and New Jersey, but we do get all of the water runoff from the mountains that we have. That goes straight down through the Salt Lake and as it gets closer everything stops flowing so good and the water starts to get stagnant,” White said.

The Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District provides an Urban Field Operation. There are three different services available within it, but one is critical to managing the West Nile Virus. Greg White calls this service “the bicycle program.” 

The bicycle program was created by the SLCMAD to keep the pesky mosquitoes out of the city.

“We will drop some people off with bikes and they will do their routes down the residential areas of Salt Lake City. They will look for places with standing water, like drains that don’t drain properly and storm water inlets,” White said.

The program consists of four bicyclists. Each has a few disposable pockets of biopesticides that resemble Tide laundry detergent pods. They keep these pods in a pouch located on the back of their bike. When riding their bikes through residential areas and standing water is observed, they throw the pods in the stagnant water. Each treatment lasts for three to four weeks each time.   

According to the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement Center’s website, the biopesticides are “surface agents such as refined mineral oils or monomolecular films spread across the surface of the water to prevent mosquitoes from breathing. Mosquito larvae and pupae breathe through tubes called siphons that extend above the water surface.”

Cindy Oliver was diagnosed with West Nile Virus in September 2006.

“At that time there were a few cases and it was getting in the news that there was a West Nile Virus going around. In that year there were 131 cases in Utah,” said Glenn Oliver, Cindy’s husband, in a phone interview. 

According to the CDC, most people infected with West Nile Virus do not feel sick. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. 

Cindy said she had a headache and didn’t feel well. She thought she had a sinus infection, but it lasted for about five days.

Next, Glenn said, doctors thought she had meningitis.

Eventually they determined it was the West Nile Virus.

“She had to learn how to walk on her own again. Learn her motor skills all over again. So she couldn’t walk, talk, or do anything. She was completely wiped out of abilities,” Glenn said. 

Cindy said she spent four months recovering in hospitals. It has taken an additional 10 years of physical, occupational, and speech therapy in her home. 

“Doctors were amazed how well she has recovered, because we were expecting it to be worse,” Glenn said.

According to Cindy, “Support from family, getting better from doctors, and my faith” are the reasons why she recovered from the West Nile Virus.

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Greg White shows a visitor mosquitoes of different ages and sizes at the SLCMAD.

The Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District recommends being aware of mosquitoes in the area and to report them. Its funding is from a small portion of the Salt Lake area property taxes. After that there is no additional cost for using the services.

The CDC website suggests, “You can reduce your risk of West Nile Virus by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites.”

White said, “If people have a mosquito problem in their area, we will come out, check it out and give them treatment, inspections and everything with no cost.”