ASUU has cut funding to Project Youth, an annual service project that brings elementary students from low-income schools to visit the U and experience college life.
The Bennion Community Service Center sponsors the project and is looking to secure the rest of the funding they need for this year’s event on April 27.
Megan Bettilyon, co-director of Project Youth, said she is frustrated that the program, celebrating its 25th anniversary, did not receive additional budget consideration.
“I’m a little irritated,” Bettilyon said. “Projects that are involving people on campus and providing services for the community should be allowed to receive the money they need.”
ASUU cut funding in half for all student groups this year due to a low budget. Project Youth, which typically receives $5,000 from ASUU, will only be getting $2,600 this year. Bettilyon attended the meeting where budgets were cut, calling it a “downtrodden experience,” and said ASUU should have considered and prioritized the needs of each individual group instead of making a sweeping cut.
The Bennion center also funds the project, but Bryce Williams, a coordinator at the center, said they are going to have to spread their resources thin.
“We’re still very fortunate and very thankful they were able to fund even half of what we requested, but it’s just not something we were fully prepared for,” Williams said.
This year the project will bring approximately 1,000 fifth and sixth graders to the U from Title I elementary schools that have high percentages of students from low-income families. Students attend an assembly where they hear from the ASUU president, student athletes and alumni. They also tour campus and attend two classes from professors who have prepared fun, age-appropriate examples of what colleges courses can be like. At the end of the day, they have lunch with U students on the Union lawn and return home.
“Our goal is to have them leave campus saying, ‘This is something I want to do and something I can do,’ so when they go into middle and high school, where academics is more important, they can have that vision in mind,” Bettilyon said.
Williams said providing lunch alone costs $4,800. The center has been able to secure some funding from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund by switching from pizza to a more environmentally-friendly meal of sandwiches. The project also needs to pay for bussing the students, providing resources for professors, giving the students t-shirts and renting Libby Gardner Hall.
The project is particularly significant for Williams, because he participated in the project as a sixth grader in 1999.
“I’m a first-generation college student myself, and I really remember that day on campus and all of the activities and college students and just thinking, ‘This is something I want to do,’” Williams said. “It’s come full-circle for me, and being able to be the advisor for this event, it’s the favorite part of my job.”
Project Youth is the Bennion Center’s longest-running project. They currently have about 250 U students signed up to help with the event, but are still looking for more volunteers to and guide students around campus. More information can be found online at bennioncenter.org.