Mestizo high school senior shows resilience amid COVID-19

Story by ALISON TANNER

Blossoms are blooming. The sun is shining. Temperatures are rising. Utah has welcomed a beautiful, hopeful spring. Although the familiarity of this shifting season has arrived, there’s no denying that there is a different feeling this year. 

Coronavirus has struck the nation and the world like a lightning bolt. It appears that no one is exempt from some sort of sacrifice or challenge. 

Parks are closed. Roads are sparse. Schools everywhere have transitioned online. Healthcare workers tirelessly tend to patients. Small businesses are holding on by a thread. People are losing jobs. Events are being cancelled seemingly every day. Those being mourned, must be celebrated with what has now been coined as “digital funerals.”

Everything happened so fast that the transition has been difficult for many. Lupita Galvez Zamora, a senior at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, was told repeatedly by teachers and leaders that there wasn’t anything to worry about. But the school was shut down a week later.

“I really envisioned my senior year being so memorable and important, but it’s like it’s been taken away from me,” Zamora said in a video call. 

During what was supposed to be Zamora’s spring break, teachers began to add coursework online for students. Without a proper system of online communication, expectations weren’t clear. This resulted in students missing assignments and having more homework than they realized owing to the change, including unanticipated due dates during their break.

Luckily, Zamora had a close network of friends who helped each other communicate about their new digital reality and responsibilities. 

She added that many of her classmates are very upset, feeling deprived of their senior year experiences and upcoming graduation. “It is what it is,” Zamora said. “We have to accept it and move forward.”

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Lupita graduates from the Salt Lake Center for Science Education this spring. Image courtesy of Lupita Galvez Zamora.

She, too, is making sacrifices. Zamora said her family was planning a large party with friends and family to celebrate her high school graduation. Being a first-generation student, she emphasized the monumental occasion this was in her life, as well as what it meant to her parents.

Despite these setbacks, Zamora has chosen to look toward the future with hope and is reflecting on her positive experiences to help cope with her disappointments. 

During her middle school years, Zamora was involved with the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers for minority groups to pursue higher education. She began participating full-time once she was in high school. Her experiences with MAA and the people she has met have inspired her to be more involved in her community and learn relevant information about issues that are often ignored or forgotten. 

“They’ve taught me so many things. It’s something that I’ve cherished and has shaped the direction I want my education to go,” Zamora said.

Though the details of the future are uncertain for many, Zamora has been accepted to the University of Utah and plans on attending soon. 

“Listening to people’s stories is so important,” Zamora said. Showing an interest in social justice, political science, ethnic studies and the possibility of law school in the future, she knows that whatever she pursues, she’ll always be an advocate for her community. 

Hip & Humble, keeping business and positivity during a shelter in place

Story by MEG CLASPER

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Hip & Humble creates a safe and comforting atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

During a time with a lot of stress and negativity, it helps to know people are out there sharing hope and positivity. Hip & Humble, a woman-owned boutique, focuses on being a safe place and happy environment for the surrounding community. With two locations, one in Salt Lake City, at 1043 E. 900 South, and the other in Bountiful at 559 W. 2600 South, Hip & Humble is accessible to customers in the Salt Lake Valley. Employees of H & H are positive and are always ready to help.

H & H has spent over two decades embracing perseverance. In June 2019, Salt Lake City made the decision to update 900 South. The construction shut down most of the street and the sidewalk outside and the store was in the middle of it all.

Hip & Humble offers free same-day delivery through the shelter-in-place mandate. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

“For clients it was frustrating and confusing where to drive, park, and even access the store,” said owner Sheridan Mordue in an email interview. With a pile of rocks almost blocking the storefront, it was a task for customers to get to the store. To maintain business, the employees at

The construction of 900 South had its challenges. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

H & H set up curbside pickup for online orders. This allowed customers to still purchase items and have them delivered to their car by an employee.

By the time H & H began to finally regain its original numbers and regular customers, it had to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though customers may not be able to browse in person, online shopping is encouraged. Same-day delivery in the Salt Lake metro area has been implemented, and customers love the service. “It is something I see us continuing beyond the stay at home order,” Mordue said.

Not all products offered in stores have been made available on the online store front. If customers are unable to find what they’re looking for, they can call and have their own in-store personal shopper. Employees take calls and connect with shoppers to find what they are looking for in the store.

Dammit Dolls are a good way to relieve stress and anger. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The employees at H & H are positive in the current hard times. They show up for work ready to offer the best customer service possible. One way they share positivity is through the blog. Available on its website, these posts share tips, showcase new products and tell Hip & Humble’s story.

The most recent post, “10 H&H ways to connect and thrive while ‘sheltering in place,’” offers a “thrive all” guide to staying at home and spotlights useful products. The first product mentioned is a “Dammit Doll.” These dolls are meant for stress relief. The user slams it against the wall or countertop. Some variations come with markers for coloring the doll before destroying it.

These gel crayons are washable for big imaginations. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The post also suggests keeping little children busy with clean coloring fun. Color-changing gel crayons and “Chunkies” paint sticks are a no-smudge washable way for kids to color.

Other products are suggested to help people relax while working from home. Weighted lavender-scented neck wraps help to relax with the aromatherapy and weight. A 500-piece puzzle, featuring a women’s march, is a therapeutic distraction from everything.

Above all, one of the biggest suggestions made in the post is to support one another. Sending something to a neighbor, friend, or grandmother can give them a nice surprise. H & H supports this idea with the offer of same-day delivery.

This 500-piece puzzle of a women’s march is fun and helps to relieve stress. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

Hip & Humble has a project to look forward to once the “stay at home” mandate is lifted. With renovations to the Salt Lake City International Airport currently happening, Hip & Humble has been chosen to have two locations in the new airport.

The renovations are prompted by the overcapacity of the current accommodations of the airport. Before the upgrades, the Salt Lake City International Airport was built to serve 10 million people but has been projected to have 27 million people a year, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. With the first phase adding an extra 30,781 square feet to the airport and an additional 14,554 square feet in the second phase.

Though the airport has lost 90% in retail sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mordue is still optimistic. “We are expecting a 2 year turn around on the airport economy. Which in retail time can be really short. In the end I am still optimistic and I am so proud of my brand and to represent SLC in the airport.”

It is projected that the retail section of the new airport will open in August 2020 and inventory stocking will happen in early July. Along with the other retail stores in the airport, Hip & Humble will have street pricing. This means the prices you would pay at airport locations will be the same prices as you would pay at the Salt Lake City and Bountiful locations.

By keeping busy and looking forward to the new locations at the airport, Hip & Humble has built its staying power. It keeps focused on the positive and holds contact with its customers in high value. Hip & Humble shares a lot of positivity during hard times.

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Story and photos by MARTIN KUPRIANOWICZ

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Klub Deen in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood has been closed since early April when the coronavirus began shutting down the nation’s economy.

Business owners everywhere are getting hit hard by the financial impacts of COVID-19 as hundreds if not thousands are being forced to temporarily suspend physical operations.

One such owner is Newton Gborway, the owner of Klub Deen, a nightclub with a focus on African culture, music, and dance in Salt Lake City’s west-side Poplar Grove neighborhood. 

“Music and dancing are a huge part of life in Africa,” Gborway said in a phone interview. “It brings people together and it’s a great way for everyone to have fun, especially refugees who may be struggling after they move here.”

Gborway is from the West African nation of Liberia. Like most other Americans, he was taken by surprise when everything started shutting down because of social-distancing mandates. His business — which operates on the coming together of large groups of people — was hit especially hard.

“Every day that we’ve been closed we’ve been losing money,” Gborway said. “We had to shut down in the beginning of April because of what the public health order said, and now they’ve just pushed it back until the end of the month. We want to set a good example by following these health orders and doing what the government is telling everybody.”

As Utah’s stay-home directive gets extended until May 1, Gborway can only patiently wait to get the green light to re-open business doors. He hopes that the spread of COVID-19 is reduced and public health orders allow for some normalcy to return. Otherwise, his night club business will continue to suffer financially every day it remains closed. 

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A COVID-19 health notice posted on the outside of Klub Deen.

Some other west-side business owners are more fortunate than others. Those who own or operate what Utah decides are “essential businesses” are still able to keep their workplaces open for now. Christine Mason — the owner of Rise by Good Day, a Polish grocery located in the same Poplar Grove neighborhood as Gborway’s club — is still running her store at this time. However, she has had to make drastic changes to the way she does business and she, too, has suffered near-catastrophic financial loss.

“When the shutdown started, I had to close down my catering business,” Mason said. “I lost 98% of my revenue stream with that alone.”

Mason said in a phone interview that times have been tough for the Polish grocery store. As the coronavirus put its grip on the economy nationwide and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert urged his state’s citizens to “stay home, stay safe,” Mason had to make modifications to her shop.

“We’re hanging in there. We’ve had to adapt since this has happened, and a lot less people have been walking into the store,” Mason said. “But we’ve just ordered sneeze guards and a new hand sanitizer station and we’re going to continue to stay open as long as we can. We’re just going to have to take this one day at a time.” 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Mason. She’s optimistic about the future. She just hired a new chef and plans to stay open as long as possible. “People still need food,” Mason said, and with that in mind she’s confident she can get through this crisis. 

For business owners like Gborway and Mason, there’s not much else they can do besides wait and remain positive and adapt their businesses where they can. They do not know what the future will bring. 

In the meantime, Salt Lake City’s nightclubs will stay closed hoping they can reopen soon, and food stores deemed “essential” will continue to strive to give their customers what they need. As Christine Mason put it, you can only take things now one day at a time. And as time goes by, sanguine west-side business owners along with an anxious nation are all doing just that. 

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A pre-pandemic photograph of Rise By Good Day in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood.

 

Mestizo youth make difference on Capitol Hill

Story by ALISON TANNER

Though it varies by seasons, the sun rises early over Salt Lake City. The bright glow peeks over the Wasatch Mountains until the entire Valley is bathed in golden light. Cars flood Interstate 15, as drivers make their commute north, south, and everywhere in between.

The hustle and bustle of the day-to-day continues outside, while dedicated students gather on Capitol Hill right as the doors open at 7 a.m. They engage in powerful discussions regarding political implications of bills in the state of Utah. Then they head to their respective schools to continue the rest of their day. 

For over 10 years, students of color — primarily those in high school — have been determined to let their voices be heard.

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The Mestizo Arts & Activism Legislative Internship provides an opportunity for high school students to a gain valuable learning experience during the 2020 State Legislative Session. Image courtesy of Itzél Nava.

In 2009, the Mestizo Arts & Activism Legislative Internship (MAALI) was created by University of Utah professor Matt Bradley to inform students about educational and political pipelines. This opportunity provides young students with hands-on working experience and a chance to interact in a legislative environment.

Although Bradley died in 2012, his legacy is felt and cherished by minority groups and his impact is seen across the Salt Lake area. Also serving as a co-founder for the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective, Bradley created MAALI to help people of color and minority groups remove barriers toward higher education.

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MAALI students attending the HB 271 committee hearing. Image courtesy of Itzél Nava.

The internship usually includes five to seven students, who are high school sophomores and juniors. From the end of January to mid-March, students meet regularly three times a week or more, often spending hours at a time to discuss perspectives and make plans. The diverse group of youth track bills, write analyses and interview legislators, while participating in lobby and liaison engagement.

Itzél Nava, University of Utah student and mentor at the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective, also oversees responsibilities for the MAALI internship. Nava coordinates much of the program assigning reading and curriculum, facilitating discussion, managing recruitment of students each year and scheduling.

Nava said that although many people want to help minority communities, they often don’t listen when people of color share their voice. She added that in order to understand what issues minority groups are facing, you have to go to the source. “We are that source,” Nava said in a video call. 

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The students follow bills that could potentially affect SLC’s west-side communities and prepare themselves to continue lobbying. Image courtesy of Itzél Nava.

One high school student shared with Nava that until participating in MAALI, they hadn’t considered attending college as an option in their future. Once they had meaningful experiences and learned how they could impact their community for the better, they felt empowered and capable of pursuing higher education.

“Our voices matter,” Nava said. “Young people are the future of our country. People of color should take up space. They’re just as qualified and intelligent and their experiences matter.”

 

Olosaa Solovi, West High School’s motivational football coach

Story by HUNTER THORNBURG

Coaches are mainly expected to help student-athletes develop in their respective sport. Most also take part in keeping an eye on the athletes’ academic standing. However, the coaches who tend to have the largest impact display motivational characteristics, love for their community, and honesty and connection with their athletes. Many athletic programs dream of having a coach who goes above and beyond to make sure the student-athletes succeed. 

That dream came true for West High School upon hiring the varsity football coach, Olosaa Solovi.

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Coach Solovi on the field with his team. Photo courtesy of Olosaa Solovi.

Solovi has worked as a youth advocate for six years. He is heading into his second year of football coaching at West High, located at 241 N. 300 West, in Fall 2020. He said his coaching style is based around identifying the athletes’ needs, and getting involved.

“I try to meet with each player at least once a week. We make home visits and we get on the phone with them. We’ve broken up our staff into teams, looking over different kids and their needs. Then, as needs come up, we try to formulate a plan and go from there,” Solovi said in a phone interview. He said the staff tries to visit the athletes’ residences at least once a month to check in and make sure they are in a good position to continue to play football.

When the athletes are struggling academically, motivationally, or personally, Solovi said it is vital to incorporate the parents.

“I think the major approach is getting the parents involved. I think in my experience, especially with the demographic we deal with, unless the parents are involved, we’re going to have a harder time with each student,” Solovi said. He added that his staff’s ability to include the parents is the key factor to guaranteeing the success of every student-athlete.

Even though he’s mostly focusing on the little aspects, Solovi said the right way to coach is just to approach the position with love. In his opinion, if you love the student-athletes, your staff, the game itself, and the community you work in, you’ll find some level of success with coaching. 

Despite the fact that Solovi is a fairly new coach at West High, Assistant Coach Keith Lopati said he has had quite an effect on the football program thus far. “He communicates very well with his players. He has a very open and upfront relationship with our administration, faculty, his players, parents, and coaches. His rapport with everyone involved in the football program has to this point been very refreshing and much needed,” Lopati said in an email interview.

However, Lopati said Solovi’s impact is far-reaching. “His passion to bring back the ‘West High Pride’ even goes beyond the football program. He is actively involved and engaged with just about every program that we have in the school both athletically and academically. He encourages his coaching staff to do the same and always says, ‘We cannot expect our players to be involved if we are not willing to do the same thing,’” Lopati said.

Lopati said he enjoyed working alongside Solovi and learning his style this past season. “His coaching approach is a smash mouth, win the game in the trenches mentality on the field,” he said. That method reinforces his impact off the field by teaching the student-athletes that good character can be just as important as learning the physical skills on the football field. 

West High’s athletic director, Rachel Townsend, recognizes Solovi’s dedication to the program and the community. “He is 100% in all the time. I’m not sure there’s a time he doesn’t think about coaching. He loves his community and it’s a way he gives back,” Townsend said in an email interview. She said he is very honest with his players, is motivational, and sets high expectations for the team.

Townsend said one of the most prominent aspects of Solovi’s coaching is that he has been able to obtain the support of the community. “They trust him and believe in him. He keeps academics as the focus,” which she said will benefit the community in the future.

Townsend said Solovi finds ways to keep the athletes engaged academically and athletically. She said the players attend study hall as part of their weekly team hours, and this has resulted in positive grade checks. Athletically, Townsend said, “the students feel investment through visits to camps for 7v7, college coaches visiting practice, and the coaches that show them purpose daily.” 7v7 football is a no-contact style of play that promotes the learning of the mechanics of the game by inserting the players into any position that isn’t an offensive or defensive lineman.

She said the athletic and academic involvement of Solovi has resulted in the student-athletes showing dedication and taking ownership of the program. This has created a family atmosphere for the football team.

As the 2020 season approaches, Solovi said he is looking forward to making adjustments and improvements based on last season. He said West High is scheduled to play one of the top teams in the country, and he is excited for the challenge, believing it will make his team better.

However, above all else, he said he is eager to see how the athletes will develop individually and as a team. Solovi said, “I’m excited to see these kids come together, how each of them have gotten better, and see which new leaders we have. I’m really excited.”

Kilby Court provides venue for emerging artists

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

Tucked into a corner just outside of downtown Salt Lake City, Kilby Court sits at the end of an unassuming street with hardly any indication that a music venue is there. The décor has a homemade feel, with walls covered in posters and stickers. While the venue is inconspicuous, Kilby Court’s small size combined with its active promotion of small acts has made it a staple of the local music scene.

Named after its location at 741 S. Kilby Court, Kilby Court promotes itself as “Salt Lake City’s longest running all-ages venue,” and “a springboard stage for beginning local and touring artists alike.”  

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Kilby Court welcomes artists both local and touring.

Salt Lake City resident Brittany Burrahm praised Kilby Court in an email interview, saying that the venue was “professional, yet still felt personal. It’s one of the better concert venues I’ve been to.”

The types of musical acts one can expect to see at Kilby Court vary widely. Bands from nearly every genre of popular music have performed at Kilby Court, from Hip Hop to Indie to Punk Rock. Performances are booked nearly every night of the week and represent the range of musical talent present in Salt Lake City. Upcoming shows at the venue are frequently promoted on other well-known community platforms like the radio station KRCL and SLUG Magazine.

While there are many venues in Salt Lake City, they vary in their accessibility. Kilby Court’s size, location and do-it-yourself philosophy allows for an all-ages venue with ticket prices rarely exceeding $20. Kilby Court has also been known to host lesser-known bands that go on to achieve greater acclaim, such as Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw and George Watsky

Kilby Court is owned by Sartain and Saunders, a promotional and event planning company that collaborates with venues, concert halls and restaurants within Salt Lake City to book and promote events. S&S also own Urban Lounge and Metro Music Hall, two other venues that host a variety of musical acts, including local artists.

Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Kilby Court has joined many other Salt Lake City venues in postponing or canceling all events through early May, providing refunds to those who had already purchased tickets. Rescheduling information is not currently available, although the venue does intend to continue with the Kilby Court Block Party event scheduled for May 2, an all-day event that is slated to feature over 20 local bands.

Offering a flexibility of function that is not as commonly seen in other Salt Lake City venues, Kilby Court can adapt its space for various conditions. The interior space is little more than a garage, and one of the walls can open up into a courtyard featuring a fire pit and seating. Kilby Court operates throughout the year, able to repurpose the relatively limited space to different crowd sizes and outdoor conditions.

The size of Kilby Court is often brought up in reviews for the venue, and is primarily cited as a positive feature of the space, allowing for a more intimate show for both performers and audience members. Reviews on Kilby Court’s Facebook page praise this aspect of its concert experience. Reviewer Tristan Marie Montano said in 2018, “I live for intimate venues like this where everyone feels like they are a part of everything going on.”

Salt Lake City resident Burrahm found it easy to recommend Kilby Court for this reason. “It’s a bit cramped but they do a good job with the space they have. It’s a cozy experience and the sound quality is great.”

Kilby Court is focused on providing a professional and memorable experience for Salt Lake City concert-goers. Venues also play a significant role in the success of a performance. “It allows the audience to get a really close-up and personal contact with the musicians, which is important, rather than them being so high up on a stage. It’s like you’re on the same level,” said Kendra Squire, a musician who has been performing in the Salt Lake and Provo areas for the past few years. She spoke about performing at other venues in Salt Lake City, stating that communication between artists and organizers is key to producing events that are successful.

Having a venue that supports local, independent artists is vital to those who rely on them as an outlet to a broader scene. “It’s community building,” Squire said. “If people that are trying to start up have nowhere to go, then that becomes the whole question: where do they go?”

Kilby Court not only provides a stage for artists that encourages local audience engagement, but also a place for notable touring artists to reach a larger number of people. Kilby Court stands alone in the Salt Lake City community as a venue dedicated to the promotion and celebration of artists who may not otherwise have an opportunity to perform for a large audience. Having these types of spaces fosters a community that supports musicians, no matter their goals for performing. “I don’t think that every musician or band necessarily wants to make it big,” Squire said. “I think a lot of people just want someone to hear.”

Read, and hear, more about Kilby Court in this piece by Palak Jayswal.

 

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KRCL uses music exploration to connect communities

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

When tuning in to 90.9 FM, it’s usually hard to determine exactly what you’re going to hear. Depending on the time of day, you might hear lively conversations with activists, updates on local events or a varied, eclectic selection of carefully curated music. KRCL aims to provide a place where Salt Lake City residents can get connected with their community through programming that promotes exploration of culture, music and politics.

Located at 1971 W. North Temple, KRCL was founded in 1979 with the goal of providing Utahns with a community platform for discussing ideas that were important to them. With over four decades on the air, KRCL is still community owned.

KRCL has been broadcasting since 1979.

Part of being a community-owned platform is representing those community members. “Salt Lake City is growing and culturally diversifying, and as a community radio station, we seek to be a reflection of the people who call this place home,” said Tristin Tabish, general manager of KRCL, in an email interview.

Diversity is represented on KRCL through its programming, especially the music that gets played over the air. A far cry from typical Top-40 hits, KRCL’s music ranges from classic to obscure with genre-specific shows that focus on exploring the depth of styles that don’t often get heard on public radio. “Smile Jamaica” highlights reggae artists both old and new, and the “Fret ’n’ Fiddle” program celebrates the authentic American sounds of bluegrass.

Deciding what gets aired usually starts from a place of passion for a specific style of music. “Oftentimes a new show starts with a deep love and knowledge of music. Someone who has been collecting vintage surf rock records for decades might pitch a show that features music from their collection,” Tabish said.

Shows can feature genres like psychedelic, bluegrass, heavy metal, world music or even just a mix of music that the KRCL staff find to be compelling. This dedication to providing a platform for unique music has garnered KRCL a reputation among listeners for being the place to go when they want to experience new music. “It’s important that hosts are able to connect with listeners through their love of music,” Tabish said.

Aside from being interesting or entertaining, the music played on KRCL aids its mission of representing the voices present in Utah communities. Tabish discussed how it is important to have a radio station that can represent the growing diversity of Salt Lake City. “The voices you hear on the station are everyday folks who are passionate about sharing their love of music and they’re invested in helping to build a more vibrant and inclusive community. That means you’ll hear music from bands living here in Utah alongside emerging artists from Mexico City and beyond,” she said.

KRCL recognizes that there are more ways to connect a community than simply through a shared love of music. The station features several programs designed to bring to light issues facing the people of Utah, and spotlights those who are invested in addressing them. One of these programs is “RadioACTive,” a show that airs daily and strives to encourage civic involvement through hosting conversations that deal with topics important to local listeners. “The conversation ranges from urban farming and food security to poverty and human rights,” Tabish said.

KRCL uses music to connect with the community.

With it being an election year, “RadioACTive” plans to increase the number of shows that focus on things like voting as well as participating in the 2020 census. “RadioACTive” airs every day at 6 p.m.

After all of this, merely playing diverse music and talking about community issues isn’t enough for KRCL. It is constantly using the platform to promote local nonprofit organizations, events and businesses. The “KRCL Presents” series is used to promote up-and-coming artists through concerts, as well as on-air events. Tabish recalled a specific instance of KRCL’s community involvement. “A few years ago, we held a rally at the Utah State Capitol to commemorate International Women’s Day,” she said. “That gathering was incredibly meaningful to women and their supporters who have ever felt silenced or inferior.”

Being a community-owned and -operated radio station doesn’t come without its challenges. With a lack of traditional funding, KRCL relies almost entirely on donations from organizations as well as individual listeners in order to keep things running. “As an independent radio station, funding is always a challenge — almost 80% of the station’s yearly operating budget comes from our listening community,” Tabish said. 

KRCL annually hosts a “Radiothon” with the goal of raising funding to support the station. This event among many others that support KRCL rely heavily on volunteer support. Those with an interest in contributing time to the station are encouraged to contact volunteer coordinator Eric Nelson (ericn@krcl.org) to learn more about how they can help out.

KRCL is more than a place to discover new music and listen to talk shows. As an independent, nonprofit and community-owned station it aims to represent all aspects of Utah life. The programs are designed to explore ideas and bring attention to issues that are facing the places where we live. KRCL occupies a unique space in Salt Lake City’s media landscape that isn’t filled by any other radio station.

The Green Urban Lunch Box brings creative ways to solve hunger

Story by NINA YU

What started as a school bus converted into a mobile greenhouse, The Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) quickly has become a local source that challenges communities to look at natural resources right in their backyard. The nonprofit is based in Salt Lake City and has multiple gardens across the Valley.

According to the GULB website, the mission is to “empower people to connect to their food and community by revitalizing urban spaces and building a resilient food culture. We envision a strong network of communities centered on the cultivation of food.” The farm is located on 3188 S. 1100 West.

The nonprofit focuses on allowing people to engage in local food production, urban agriculture, or fruit gleaning by using resources that are available in their community. The GULB tries to connect neighborhoods to the resources and opportunities. At the same time, the organization revitalizes urban spaces that have been neglected by growing food and sharing the crops with the broader community.

The Back-Farms program connects seniors to volunteers, who help with gardening. Photo Courtesy of GULB.

The GULB promotes three programs on the website. One of those programs is Back-Farms, which connects senior citizens with volunteers who help build and maintain gardens in the seniors’ backyards.

“The Back-Farms program is a free gardening program that we do with senior citizens,” said Katie Nelson, the executive director at GULB, in a phone interview. “We partner with seniors who are generally lower or fixed income, who are unable to take care of their yards. We come in with our staff and volunteers and teach people how to garden while gardening those seniors’ yards.”

The GULB shares the gardened produce with the seniors and volunteers. The Green Urban Lunch Box also offers markets at senior centers where the produce is free.

“We have 40 gardens in the Back-Farms program. They’re all over the community,” Nelson said. “We have several in Rose Park, a few in Fair Park, and some in Glendale. With our community partners, the GULB is able to go to senior centers all over Salt Lake County.”

Senior citizens are given a consistent amount of produce throughout the summer so they can rely on fresh vegetables and fruit. Any seniors who have a neglected garden they want to utilize can contact the GULB.

The FruitShare program is a partnership between fruit tree owners and volunteers who help harvest and distribute fresh fruit that would otherwise go to waste. An individual wanting to participate would have to register their fruit trees, request a scout when the tree is ready, and harvest the fruit. The fruit is distributed in three ways: the homeowner, volunteers, and toward hunger relief.

The last program that the GULB runs is the Small Farm Initiative. According to the site, it is “an urban training program that teaches people how to farm in urban spaces using sustainable growing practices and make money doing so.” The initiative is for those who want to learn more about farming and gardening. Prospective students can apply to the 8.5-month Farm Apprenticeship and School that focuses on space-intensive vegetable production. Students are taught organic gardening methods, business aspects of running a farm and hands-on activities from farm instructors.

People who are looking for a less intensive schedule can pick the On-Farm Internship, which teaches participants how to grow a lot of produce in a small amount of space. Successful participants have the opportunity to continue their studies with their farmer training program.

The GULB also recruits volunteers every season. In 2019, Nelson saw hundreds of volunteers coming in to help.

“Volunteers are the foundation of our organization,” she said. “Everyone usually contributes three to five hours a season. They are the reason for how much food we can produce and get into the community. They’re building gardens. They’re harvesting gardens. They’re also learning something in the process.”

This engagement aligns with the nonprofit’s mission statement. The GULB wants volunteers to immerse themselves in connecting with their food and being able to share the knowledge with family and friends. They also hope volunteers are able to teach others how to garden or explain the types of produce to spark interest.

Photo courtesy of GULB.

The farm has a team of staff members who direct volunteers. The team includes garden leaders who have an extensive grasp on gardening and being able to grow food. They also help facilitate events and maintain a good relationship with the senior citizens in the Back-Farms program. They see the seniors twice a week and bring the community to them. This way, senior citizens feel connected even if they are homebound.

In 2011, when Shawn Peterson founded the GULB, he wanted to challenge the way people thought food was grown. He purchased a bus, took the ceiling off and converted it into a greenhouse. The bus went to community events to show people that food can be grown in anything. It was also taken to classrooms to teach children about growing food. Now that the bus is not driven around anymore, it is used to grow seedlings for the farm.

The GULB works with different organizations throughout the county, like International Rescue Committee, Intermountain Medical Center, food banks, and multiple food pantries to help bring fresh produce to them every week.

“We’re trying to help the Latina population right now,” Nelson said. “We’re getting them engaged on our farm and providing them fruits and vegetables.”

The farm starts preparing for the season in spring. In early June, the organization starts producing food so that markets are ready to be opened in mid-July. The growing season usually ends in October, when the GULB members regroup and prepare for next season.

Family-owned taxi service brings success to Salt Lake City’s west side

Story by CHEYENNE PETERSON

Passengers from an arrival flight at the Salt Lake City International Airport make their way to the outside pickup location. Cellphones are pulled out within seconds and with a simple tap on an app, ride-share drivers swarm, like busy bees picking up their pollen. 

Corporate ride sharing has dominated the field, casting taxi drivers to the curb. But not all taxi companies have lost their edge. A family-owned business stays competitive in this evolving marketplace. 

Ricardo Mendosa has been a taxi driver for the past 18 years in the Salt Lake City area. 

AAA Latino Transportation owner Ricardo Mendosa at Salt Lake City International Airport. Image from Google Photos.

Mendosa first worked seven years for a major taxi service, but decided that he could create a better transportation business of his own. He calls it AAA Latino Transportation. 

AAA Latino Transportation is located west of Salt Lake City’s Interstate 15, conveniently on 1007 S. 800 West.

According to AAA Latino Transportation’s website, the business provides an efficient and reliable taxi service, without the struggle of getting a rental car and for a good value. Owners stress the importance of helping clientele reach their destination without draining their wallet.

Mendosa generally takes most of his rides to the Salt Lake City area and to the Salt Lake City International Airport. 

“And if you want to drive to Vegas, I’ll drive you to Vegas,” Mendosa said in a phone interview.

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AAA Latino Transportation at the border of Idaho. Image from Google Photos.

The transportation service areas include Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, Park City, Tooele, Layton, Logan, and Heber. 

Ride Sharing has become lucrative and convenient for many. Either as a part time or transitional work. Julie Bennett moved from Georgia and as she was transitioning to her new home in Utah, she had not secured a job. While applying to potential careers, she spent two months driving for Lyft. 

According to Bennett, as a Lyft driver, she would not go any farther than a 20-minute drive. 

Drivers are unable to see a passenger’s destination, until they accept the fare.

“You can’t see where they want to go or where they need you to pick them up. Unless you have a certain amount of rides, which I had not done. Every time I would pick someone up and notice they would need to be driven more than 15 to 20 minutes. I would reject the ride. Nothing more than 20 minutes, just because I didn’t get paid to drive the 20 minutes back,” Bennett said in a phone interview. 

She said many other ride-share drivers also would not go the longer distances.

“I do know some other Lyft drivers. I bet they would not drive more than 20 minutes, because it’s a waste of their time, money, and miles on their car,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she would take Mendosa’s transportation services, since she could confirm that they have great reviews. Google reviews rates AAA Latino Transportation at a solid 4.6 stars, whereas other company reviews like Yellow Cab have 2.4 stars. 

“I would definitely take a taxi to Las Vegas, if I knew they were reliable and at a good price. If I knew what the rate of it was, before they even took me, I would trust them a lot more. I just know that if I were to request a Lyft, they would reject my ride. I don’t even know if any ride-share would even allow a ride that far. I don’t like that I won’t know who I’d be riding with either, until they accepted the ride. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with someone that I would be uncomfortable with,” Bennett said. 

Haley Meyer lives on the west side of Salt Lake City and uses ride-share companies frequently.

“I’m a big skier and sometimes I take an Uber to Solitude [Mountain Resort, a ski area near Salt Lake City]. Solitude at the beginning of the season started enforcing pay parking. Probably to get traffic off the roads. There was a lot of traffic and blockage on the roads up there, last season,” Meyer said in a phone interview. 

Although Meyer takes an Uber to go skiing, she runs into some issues getting rides. 

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AAA Latino Transportation will take you anywhere, in any weather. Image from Google Photos.

“My favorite time to go skiing is when it’s snowing, that’s when there’s fresh powder. That’s when most people go skiing anyways. It’s hard to find an Uber that will pick me up and take me to Solitude when it’s snowing,” Meyer said.

Mendosa’s company will take you to all the ski resorts. 

According to the website, “Our mission is to take you where you need to go, no matter if it’s raining, snowing, lightning, day or night. We are your best option for Taxi Service in Utah. Twenty-four hours, 7 days a week, and 365 days.” 

There is no need to take a shuttle to the ski resorts. 

“Taking a shuttle is not really that convenient. They stop at so many places and I feel like I wasted so much time,” Meyer said.

AAA Latino Transportation promises to be on time, professional, courteous, knowledgeable, and offer a safe taxi service.

Local pantries struggle to meet the demand of COVID-19 virus in Utah

Story by ELLIE COOK

The hoarding situation that arose upon the arrival of the COVID-19 virus has only increased following the 5.7 earthquake that rattled the Salt Lake Valley on March 18, 2020. While the public hunts across the state for items such as toilet paper and paper towels, pantries in the community struggle to keep their shelves stocked to ensure those in need get the supplies not only needed for quarantine but also everyday survival. The organizations in the western area of Salt Lake City are scrambling to focus on inventory, while also having to serve many more people and adjust their protocols to meet safety needs implemented by the state of Utah. 

The community consists of many working-class and/or impoverished families, many of whom have a yearly income of less than $80,000 a year, said David Wright, director and educator of the Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry, in an email interview. Organizations that provide food security already serve a great population within the area, but the need only seems to be growing. The pantries have seen a significant increase in clientele since The Road Home, the main homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, closed downtown. Now as the virus forces more businesses to close, making the unemployment rates skyrocket and the earthquake damaging some homes, these organizations are struggling to find enough supplies and volunteers to tend to the large crowds pursuing their services. 

When asked about plans regarding situations such as natural disasters or other national emergencies, Captain Rob Lawler of The Salvation Army said in an email, “The Salvation Army has always been ready to respond to disasters and crisis since 1906 in Galveston, Texas, when we first responded as a response agency. You might say it is in our DNA!” 

However, it seems with the cards stacked against the state of Utah, just being prepared isn’t enough for anybody. While toiletries and other health/cleaning items are always in demand, the panic and hoarding issue the pandemic has caused has only made them even scarcer. “We do have an increased demand at this time,” said Kate Corr, the communications coordinator at Utah Community Action, in an email. “Right now, many clients are in greatest need of emergency services, primarily food, housing, and utility assistance. … At this time we will continue to do everything we can to keep providing essential emergency services to our children, families, and clients.”

While the inventory remains an issue, the ability to serve the community promptly has become hard as well, due to safety measures being taken to protect volunteers and the public. This becomes tough as everyone is short-staffed and in need of volunteers. It’s also time-consuming to take on new help because they must be screened to be sure they do not put people’s health at risk. 

Some organizations are no longer accepting new volunteers to protect current staff from exposure. “Our protocol is much more controlled and strict,” said David Wright. “We no longer have lines and instead are having clients with cars stay in their vehicles. Those without cars stay 10 feet away from each other.” The Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry, The Salvation Army and other organizations have also taken on drive-by pickup services. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic having an unknown end, and still in recovery from the earthquake, how can the public get help? Is there any assurance that people can get necessities, and also ensure that nonprofits can attend to the growing amount of clients? “As we see the fallout from businesses closing and people either losing jobs or having reduced work hours, our organization recommends that people consider applying for SNAP (otherwise known as food stamps),” said Gina Cornia, the executive director of Utahns Against Hunger, in an email. Utahns Against Hunger also provides lists of places where people can obtain essential items if they are not receiving an income. 

For the rest of us, any donations from food, cleaning supplies, and perhaps the most coveted item of all, some good old toilet paper, will be gladly received by any local pantry (please see list below). If you require assistance concerning food or other home essentials, reach out to Utahns Against Hunger or any of the listed sources. 

Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry

“We are looking for gardeners for this season. Growing your own, locally sourced food is proving to be more and more vital. Do not harm those around you. As an organization, we extend our services with no regards to; class, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, gender identity, immigration status, or social/political ideology, and we encourage others to extend themselves and their services (groups or individually) in the same way.”

Utahns Against Hunger 

“The benefits people get to purchase food have an immediate positive impact on the economy and that money circulates throughout every community.”

The Salvation Army

“We are making about 400 meals a day to take home, we are operating 7 days a week.”