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Three Canyons educators recognized as mentoring ‘champions’

Nov 15, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Three Canyons School District educators, Katie Blunt, Elaine Peterson and Elizabeth Davies, recently were recognized as American Graduate Champions in mentoring by the Utah Education Network. (Laura Hunter/UEN)

Elizabeth Davies is a South Park Academy teacher who has helped hundreds of students earn their GED diplomas, whether they’re 15 or 70. Working with her is Elaine Peterson, a counselor who advocates post-secondary education for many who don’t consider it as they are in the Utah State Prison System. But she doesn’t take no for an answer, and instead arranges ACT testing and encourages all students to find challenges.

These two educators — along with Katie Blunt, Canyons School District education technology specialist who helps students from Youth in Care classes participate in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs to help elementary students learn technology skills — recently were recognized by Utah Education Network (UEN) as American Graduate Champions who help Utah learners reach academic and professional milestones.

“American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” is a long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help young people succeed in school and life. Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, more than 100 public television and radio stations have joined forces with about 1,700 partners across 49 states to elevate the stories of youth and the supportive adults that help them find pathways to graduation and successful student outcomes.

These Canyons educators recently were among 11 others who shared their stories with public and higher education officials of inspiring and guiding students preparing to enter careers and colleges.

Blunt, whose UEN-produced video was included in the national PBS broadcast of American Graduate Champions, said the American Graduate program aims to increase high school graduates.

“The desire is for these high school students to prepare for careers and colleges and to help them reach their goals,” she said. “By mentoring students and other teachers and improving education and high school competition rates, these students not only reach graduation, but go on to be successful in the world. All the mentors are wanting to help and have students achieve.”

For three years, Blunt has had Brighton High and Entrada High-Draper campus students participate in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. She has helped them learn broadcasting skills and put together news packages. Parts of three of these reports have been aired nationally, she said.

“It’s a neat program even if their goal isn’t to be a journalist, a reporter or a camera operator. The students are learning so much more. They’re learning technical skills, planning, working as a group, cooperation, writing and organization. These are skills that can help them in whatever career they want in the future,” she said.

In addition, Blunt also helps students at Draper Elementary, Altara Elementary and Midvalley Elementary learn technical skills. She also coordinates the annual Canyons Film Festival, which gives both students and teachers throughout the district a chance to submit their films in several categories.

“I love the power of ed tech to reach every kind of student. Some students are college bound. Some students are career bound. But no matter what their track, technology is going to be part of whatever they do,” she said. “I consider it a privilege to mentor other people, to be able to help them with the skills I have acquired that they haven’t yet and together, make something better.” 

Blunt’s video was part of Graduate Day, an annual television event which has reached more than 83 percent of U.S. households on more than 100 public television stations. The 2017 broadcast, hosted by Soledad O’Brien and featuring guests such as General Colin Powell, focused on efforts to address the “middle skills gap”— the difference between the increasing number of jobs that require specialized training and the number of workers qualified to fill them.

 UEN is part of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), a nationally recognized innovator in broadband and broadcast delivery of educational and telehealth resources to students and educators, patients and clinicians statewide. UETN provides network, application and support services to more than 1,000 schools, colleges and libraries.

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