Youth Bridge Initiative is growing in Salt Lake City

Digging in • Group helps young people get involved in their community.
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What once was just a pile of dirt has started sprouting herbs such as basil.

Those herbs represent much more than a tastier meal for someone.

It's the payoff of hours of hard work by young volunteers.

Kevin Winston, the leader of the Salt Lake City Youth Bridge Initiative, made it his goal to teach the youth in his program key skills, respect and a disciplined approach to life.

Getting kids out of the house and working during the summer is difficult. Persuading them to labor in the sun next to a pile of compost seemed nearly impossible.

"None of them had done any gardening before," Winston said. "When we first started, their only thought was 'Wow, this is dirty.' Now, they can't wait to work in the garden. They can't wait to harvest their goods."

After six weeks, the garden is flourishing. Winston plans to sell the basil at the People's Market in a month, an idea that helped spark interest in the group. The teens were excited by the idea of turning their hard work into profit.

"It's been fun," said Myah Smith, a member of the group and a student at West High School. "We're all looking forward to going to the market and showing people what we accomplished."

Winston started the Youth Bridge Initiative months ago. Growing up in Los Angeles, there were a multitude of organizations to choose from for a young man to get involved in his community. While Utah doesn't lack volunteer opportunities, he felt many organizations didn't actively work on getting the younger generation involved.

So, this past weekend at the Sorenson Unity Center, Winston held the first annual Youth Bridge Initiative Festival, a gathering of organizations specifically aimed at appealing to kids. Several groups jumped at the chance to be a part of the event, with 32 organizations hosting booths.

The festival held a car show, and several local music groups performed. The event was kicked off by a speech by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

The crowd was larger early in the festival, though it dwindled as the temperature rose in the late afternoon. Winston admits organizing the event was a daunting task. In the future, he will work on getting the word out sooner, he said, but he is positive this will be the first of many more to come.

He likens it to Utah Pride and other festivals that have grown over time.

"I'd like to see our festival and the Youth Bridge Initiative continue to get bigger and better," Winston said. "It's a matter of consistency – working with the community and our youth all year and making it something to look forward to every year."

Like the community gardens, he feels this festival is the first seed. With time, care and the work of passionate people, Winston knows it will grow into something in which the community can take pride.

Twitter: @sltribCity —

At a glance

The first annual Youth Bridge Initiative Festival was held at the Sorenson Unity Center last Saturday.

Thirty-two local organizations attended.

Beyond helping get kids involved in the community, the Youth Bridge Initiative also helps them with life skills, including learning interviewing skills and proper study habits.

Those interested in becoming involved can contact Kevin Winston at