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Jessica Kern is all smiles with children while on a Youthlinc assignment in Kenya last year. Youthlinc, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to create lifetime humanitarians. It will host a Wasatch Back Benefit fundraiser on April 11. (Photo courtesy of Youthlinc)
The mission of the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization Youthlinc is to create lifetime humanitarians.

Executive Judy Zone founded Youthlinc 14 years ago with the vision to "foster individuals in our society who understand local and global needs, and who are deeply committed to work to relieve those needs through personal service, partnership, and good will," according to its website.

Youthlinc's program gets teens involved in volunteer service in their communities as well as in third world countries, Zone said.

"The kids who participate are required to do as much work or more than what they would do at a part-time job," Zone told The Park Record. "They must do somewhere between one and four hours of service a week and attend a three-hour meeting in Salt Lake once a month."

During that meeting, every student will take a leadership role in planning some aspect of Youthlinc's international services, which include education initiatives, community health, vocational training, micro credit and cultural exchange.

"When the kids are able to go overseas, they do at least 10 to 12 days of service," Zone said. "We just don't go and build a house or a classroom. We construct schools or medical clinics."

In addition, the kids teach lessons all day long.

"They teach primary-school students, secondary-school students a variety of subjects from lesson plans they prepare themselves," Zone explained. "They plan the lessons after hearing what the site requires, but they also teach micro credit lessons, which include basic business skills — accounting, inventory, marketing and how to write simple business proposals."

The students also conduct vocational training workshops that include sewing, baking and small engine repair.

"They also teach basic health and hygiene lessons to little kids, teens and parents," Zone said. "The cultural exchanges include ceremonies and then go interview families in their homes."

While the students' parents help pay for the program, it still takes additional money to send the kids overseas. So, Youthlinc will host a Wasatch Back Benefit fundraiser on Thursday, April 11, at the Lodge at Stillwater, 1364 Stillwater Dr. in Heber, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

The event will include a buffet dinner from Good Karma, wine, beer and soft drinks, a silent auction that will feature items from all over the world, and live music performed by the Park City High School Chamber Quartet.

"We will also have a small program that will tell what Youthlinc is all about," Zone said.

Admission is a $30 donation that can be made by emailing office@youthlinc.org or by visiting www.youthlinc.org . RSVPs must be in by Monday, April 8.

"We have a deadline so we can make sure we have enough food for everyone," Zone said.

All the proceeds from the event will benefit Youthlinc.

"A full sponsorship averages about $1,000, and it is up to the family or student to raise the remainder of the balance for their trip overseas," Zone said. "This year, we will help people in Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, Thailand and Vietnam."

Before the students are able to travel to these countries, they need to fulfill service requirements locally, according to Zone.

"The sponsorship is the final payment, a stipend, that is given to them only after all their local volunteer hours are fulfilled," she said. "So, if they don't complete these hours, they don't get to go overseas to work in these countries, and this really holds them accountable. We're hands on, not backroom and these kids interact with people in the community and build relationships.

"Over the years we have come up with a strong service curriculum that makes kids feel their own power to make a difference in this world," Zone said. " the end of the program, they will realize if they don't show up to the main service site, no one else will, and this applies to the local services as well."

In the past 14 years, Youthlinc has had to expel only four students out of the program.

"That's not too bad when you think that more than 1,500 kids who go through the program," Zone said.

Youthlinc board of directors member Kimber Parry was introduced to the program through her son, Bryce, four years ago.

"He was a sophomore at Park City High School at the time, and came home with a flier and said he wanted to go to Peru," Parry said. "I looked through the brochure and applied and he got accepted."

Bryce Parry worked with Holy Cross Ministries and mentored young Hispanic kids in the after-school program, and the experience was great not only for him, but for the whole Parry family.

"I was so impressed at what the great things they do and what they expect these kids to do in their own communities before they even get to go overseas," she said. "The program forced him to get out into the community and get to know other people in the community that needed assistance, and that did a lot for his self-esteem and empathy towards other people."

After Bryce's experience, Parry's 14-year-old daughter, Amanda, a student at Treasure Mountain Junior High, can't wait to join Youthlinc.

"Seeing her brother volunteer has inspired her to volunteer at the National Ability Center," Parry said. "She's already on the pathway to becoming a lifelong humanitarian."

Zone said she is thankful for parents such as Parry who have invested time with the program, but she is also thankful that Utah's rotary clubs have also gotten involved with Youthlinc's causes.

"I think we really connected with the clubs in the state because our mission matches all the goals of what those clubs do with local and international service conducted by the youth," Zone said. "I didn't mean it to be that way when I founded Youthlinc, but I'm glad I did it because the clubs have embraced us and supported us."

Students from the Wasatch Back started participating in Youthlinc in 2003, and a lot of that was related to Jess Reid, from Jess Reid Real Estate, Zone said.

"Jess at that time founded the Interact Club for Park City High School and was president of the Park City Rotary Club and he invited me to speak to the Interact Club and he loved our program," she said. "Then Park City Sunrise Rotary Club also got involved, and it's International Service director Derick Loyola and his wife have been extremely supportive of Youthlinc."

This year, 13 Park City High School students are involved with Youthlinc.

"The number keeps growing, so it's important that we make sure we have the funds to help these students achieve their goals with us," Zone said.

Youthlinc will hold a Wasatch Back benefit on Thursday, April 11, for students in financial need who have been accepted into the program. The event will be held at the Lodge at Stillwater, 1364 Stillwater Dr. in Heber, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Admission is a $30 donation that can be made by emailing office@youthlinc.org or by visiting www.youthlinc.org . The price will include a dinner and drinks. For more information, visit www.youthlinc.org .