New partnerships benefit Salt Lake Peer Court

Published: Sunday, March 23 2014 11:05 p.m. MDT

Bugden said Peer Court is working on solutions to help students show up but admits a student's success depends largely on their family and support network.

Although a recent grant allows Peer Court to give bus passes to their students, not all parents are comfortable sending their young teens on a bus alone to these programs that end in the evening, Bugden said.

If a student does not come to their assigned disposition, they do not pass. If they do not pass, they are sent back to whoever referred them and possibly filtered into the juvenile justice system.

Kroon Van Diest said gardening creates a shared experience in which people can work across from each other and form bonds despite their differences.

Time could only tell if that would be the case for Felicia and the two new counterparts at the community garden. Felicia dragged a spade down next to a rope to create a small trough for spinach seeds. Across from her, new attendee Dayani Vargas also created a row. They joined forces with Bugden, Peer Court mentor Ellie Campbell and newcomer Demetri Mata to bring canister after canister of water over to the rows of newly planted seeds.

It will be weeks before vegetables sprout, and possibly just as long to see what the three youths take away from their work in the garden.

Salt Lake Bicycle Collective

Ruben Aguilar, 13, came to the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective for the first time Wednesday as part of his Peer Court disposition. He joined other students in the Earn-A-Bike program to learn about bikes and bike maintenance.

He said he was "not really into bikes," but the work reminded him of the skateboards he's worked on in the past. Wearing a grey hoodie, he took his hands out of his sweatshirt pocket to twist and push a bike seat into place.

Jude Widmann, director of Earn-A-Bike, said he is confident Ruben will be one of the top students by the time end of six weeks.

Earn-A-Bike targets at-risk, low-income youth offenders, minorities and immigrant youths, but it welcomes anyone who wants to participate in the free program.

Ruben is close to the age group of students when dropout rates increase, between middle and high school. Widmann hopes to be able to reach students like him and help them see their potential before this happens.

Widmann used his training as an educator to create a system where students not only participate, but they learn skills to help them fix the bike if it breaks. At the end of their six weeks, each student gets to choose a bike from the collective's stable.

A recent grant will pay to provide locks, helmets, patches and lights for graduates in the next two years.

"We're not just giving them a fish that's going to break," Widmann said.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7

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