What Is EYG Youth Programming?
Some of you may be wondering just what is entailed with youth programming. Currently, it includes the activities that happen monthly through the EYG (Ecumenical Youth Group). This is a collaboration among four local churches who each provide two lay leaders to form a committee that then spearheads combined youth activities. The EYG was started several years ago by Rev. Dave Hedgepeth, who was first a youth pastor and then an interim head pastor at First Pres. The four churches involved are First Pres, Prince of Peace Lutheran, Holy Trinity Lutheran, and St. John’s Episcopal.
Laura and Tanya took over from Lauri the coordination of EYG. In August, the leadership team met for a retreat to map out activities, which occur about once a month throughout the year. Activities for middle school and high school youth occur separately, which means double the planning and time commitment. In addition, both the middle school and the high school youth embark on separate summer mission trips. Lauri used to take care of all the nitty-gritty organizational details for both monthly programming and mission trips, including logistics, venues, fliers and publicity; this past year, all of those details have fallen to Laura and Tanya.
Many Very Successful Activities
Under their leadership, the EYG youth participated in service projects for the food pantry, retreats, scavenger hunts, and fundraisers like the poinsettia sale and the Palm Sunday breakfast. Laura and Tanya instituted a very successful new activity this year called “Santa’s Night Out” where the youth provided child care and activities for children at church so parents could go out and get those last-minute errands completed. The youth also had overnight retreats and services at the Beaver Mountain yurt and participated in a Youth Spring Fling with other churches in Salt Lake City. This is just a sampling of the types of activities.
Laura Sawyer and Tanya Rice have served as the Youth Group Coordinators for our congregation and the Ecumenical Youth Group since last summer. First Pres owes them a huge debt of gratitude. When we were scrambling to find leadership for the youth programming upon Lauri Muller’s resignation to pursue other opportunities, Laura and Tanya stepped up. Because they so graciously volunteered to undertake this huge job, we were able to take a year to search for an Associate Pastor whose primary responsibilities would be for children and youth programming at First Pres.
They even serve on the Pastor Nominating Committee tasked with finding their replacement. More than anyone else, they are keenly aware of the great need for an Associate Pastor who can provide not only programming but also spiritual guidance for our children and youth occurring all year long. Of course, each of these activities takes tremendous effort from the leadership team. Attendance at EYG events has remained high this year: around 10-15 kids for each high school activity and around 15-20 kids for each middle school activity.
Summer Mission Trips
The year’s youth activities culminate in separate mission trips for middle and high school youth. These trips are always a highlight of the year for youth and leaders alike. The high school youth choose from several locations in the West with a group called Youth Works who organizes service activities. The upcoming trip for the high school youth will be in Vancouver, BC, at the end of June and will include working with the local Salvation Army food/homeless shelter and with a Kids Club for deprived children in the inner-city. The middle school youth will complete service projects in Boise, Idaho, at the end of July and then go to Luther Heights Bible Camp for the remainder of their trip. Of course, planning and executing these trips is a big logistical challenge for the youth leaders and takes all year to pull together.
Up Close and Personal with Sawyers and Rices
If you have already had the pleasure of getting to know Laura and Tanya, you know how dynamic, bubbly, and enthusiastic they are about our church and about our youth. They are both parents of young people and they have experienced first-hand the many challenges faced by kids growing up as a minority in an LDS-dominated culture. They understand intimately how important it is for our church community to get behind all efforts to help our children and youth grow spiritually and to nurture them along this challenging path.
Laura has been a first-grade teacher at Woodruff school for the past 22 years. She and her husband Jay were married at First Pres after coming to Logan from Delaware to go to college. They both have been longtime alpine ski coaches at Snowbasin and enjoy sporting activities of all kinds. Their daughter, Katelyn, is a freshman at Oregon State U this year, majoring in Social Work and Psychology. The summer mission trips had a huge career path of service and social work. Their son, Jake, is a freshman at Logan High who enjoys baseball and football as well as skiing. In addition to working with youth, Laura has planned and executed the Vacation Bible School at First Pres every year for the past twelve years! It has become a summer feature, eagerly anticipated by parents and children alike, drawing up to 80 children each summer.
Tanya and her husband John moved to Logan from Blacksburg, VA, four years ago so John could begin a teaching job in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at USU. Tanya taught for a time at Edith Bowen and currently is a student of Interior Design at USU. Her design skills were put to use when she helped Patty Johnson design the upgrades in our Sunday School wing. The Rice children include Logan (l0th grade), Meg (8th grade), and Leah (6th grade). The Rice family also enjoys sports such as mountain biking, tennis, football, soccer, volleyball, and lacrosse. Tanya and John grew up in northern California.
Article by Christine Hult