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Midvale Journal

Growing up and giving back at the Midvale Boys & Girls Club

Feb 03, 2020 12:34PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Krista Cardenas (back row, center) leads a cheer camp for Boys & Girls Club participants during the summer. (Photo courtesy Presley Austin)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Krista Cardenas has been coming to the Midvale Boys & Girls Club for the past 15 years. That’s approximately 63% of her life.

Cardenas began attending programs as a youth when she was in the fourth grade. Now she is 24 and serves as the club’s outreach coordinator. In addition to organizing leadership activities and providing homework help each day, Cardenas leads special programs.

“I work with the homeless youth right now and reaching out to them in the community has been my goal,” Cardenas said. “With every new family or youth that comes in, it’s good to get to know them and help them in any way we can.”

The youth living at the Road Home Midvale Center often benefit from specialized programming.

“The most important thing is giving them opportunities they wouldn’t find elsewhere,” Cardenas said. “We have lots to give them. Homework help, helping families with what they need or connecting them with other resources. We get a lot of donations for when families need extra food and we do Kid’s Cafe for dinner every day.”

Cardenas has been employed by the Club for nearly five years. After graduating from Hillcrest High School, she started out as a youth development specialist doing dance instruction during the school year and cheerleading classes during the summer. The cheerleading group included kids in the third through sixth grades.

“A few boys were interested, but unsure how it would go,” Cardenas said. “Once we put them in and gave them some cool tricks they got really into it.” The entire group performed for the rest of the club at the end of the summer.

Working with the youth made her motivated to do more and lately she has taken on the role of mentoring youth individually.

Cardenas grew up in different cities around Salt Lake County, but the Midvale club was always her home base. She currently lives in West Jordan.

After finishing high school, Krista Cardenas transitioned from being a Boys & Girls Club participant to staff and mentor. (Photo courtesy Presley Austin)

A favorite memory for Cardenas when she attended the Club as a youth was participating in the Keystone Club, the teen leadership program. “I got to go to a national conference here in Utah,” Cardenas said. “I got to meet other teens from around the United States.”

Leadership programs similar to student councils are available for both age groups at the Club (juniors aged 6 to 12 and teens aged 13 to 18). And teens have chances to earn scholarships, according to Presley Austin.

Austin has been the Midvale Club director since June 2018 and has worked for the organization for 11 years. She stresses the importance of staff like Cardenas.

“A lot of our children here have parents that work two or three jobs and don’t have time to sit with their kids and do homework every night,” Austin said. “So we provide that positive adult role model. The opportunities that our kids have by coming here are endless.”

The club, located at the southwest corner of Midvale City Park, offers different activities youth can choose from each day, including sports, fine arts and performing arts. The youth also take several field trips a year.

Youth like Cardenas who participated in the leadership programs have an important role to play.

“Those are big programs because they plan community service events and do fundraising for the club,” Austin said. “I love seeing how creative they get with fundraising and the different ideas that they come up with. They’ve had a Halloween dance and a concert where they invited different bands and musicians to play. They also help out with Cinco de Mayo and the Harvest Days parade.”

Cardenas recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in dance. Her future career plans include teaching dance, so working with youth at the Club is a great stepping stone.

“My main focus here is being a role model to these kids,” Cardenas said. “I looked up to a lot of staff when I was a kid, so I want to do the same for them.”