LOGAN — The question was posed Wednesday at the Cache Valley Youth Center: What does faith and hope mean to you, and how does it contribute to a successful life?
The answers given by at-risk and court-involved youths reflect the reasons why the correctional facility decided to build an interfaith youth chapel.
"Hope is the light that shows you the way out of the darkness that surrounds you," one youth wrote.
"One's greatest accomplishment comes after one's greatest disappointment," wrote another.
"Being spiritual is loving what you can't see," another wrote.
Together with the Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the Interfaith Youth Council, the Cache Valley Youth Center at 2051 N. 600 West broke ground Wednesday for a new interfaith chapel Wednesday.
Dozens of center employees and volunteers, community members and religious leaders attended the groundbreaking ceremony, which featured a tree being planted rather than shovels digging into the dirt.
"The point of building this chapel is to answer that question, to have a space that's separate from the rest of the facility but still secure, a place where our kids can feel comfortable and safe," said Peter Smith, assistant program director at the Cache Valley Youth Center.
Ecclesiastical leaders from many faiths frequently visit the center to share messages with youths. The 1,000-square-foot chapel will provide a designated place for worship for youths at the correctional facility.
"This is something that is so important for our young people, to have a place for spiritual development and for peace," said Susan Burke, director of Juvenile Justice Services. "We want them to have the opportunity to develop that, and we will give them that opportunity if they are interested in doing so."
Twenty-six percent of Utah’s youths will have some contact with the juvenile justice system by age 18, according to the Utah Department of Human Services. The average length of stay in secure facilities is 9.4 months.
The chapel will be built behind correctional facility. Space will also be left for a small flower garden at the entrance of the chapel.
"When a young person comes here, they've essentially lost their way. We want to help them find their way," Burke said. "This facility offers a place of hope and opportunity for them, and the chapel will also reinforce that message we are trying to bring."
The interfaith youth chapel was completely funded by community donations, as the state can't provide funding for a worship facility. More than $200,000 was raised for the project, with donations from the Wheeler Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. John's Episcopal Church, the Kiwanis Club of Logan, Soltis Investment Advisors, the USU Interfaith Advisory Council and the Cache Chamber of Commerce.
"There have been a lot of little miracles that have helped us get this far," said Doug Younker, president of Interfaith Youth Services.
For five years, Younker has helped raise funds for the project. He also oversaw and assisted designing the building plans for the chapel.
"We want a lot of light into this space," he said. "We didn't want it to look like a prison."
The chapel features a single open room with chairs, a pulpit and a piano, as well as floor-to-ceiling, prison-grade windows facing east to let in the light from the sunrise.
Younker said he hopes the chapel will be completed in the next two years.
"There are lots of requirements to build a chapel in a correction center," he said. "If we don't do it, who else has a vested interest in it?"
The Cache Valley Youth Center opened in 2000 and can house up to 32 youths ages of 12-18. Youths are placed in detention, observation and assessment or aftercare, among other services. Currently, only 10 youths are housed at the facility, but the number is constantly fluctuating.Comment on this story
"We want to make sure that we have given them every possible opportunity to correct that behavior, contribute back to the community and also become a part of the community," Burke said.
The Rev. Stephen Sturgeon of St. John's Episcopal Church led the dedicatory prayer at the groundbreaking, blessing the residents at the center, the staff and administrators. He also blessed that the sanctuary would meet the spiritual needs of youths.
"We always hoped that we would have a place here for young people to come and get away from all the troubles that are ailing them," Burke said.