The Women’s Business Center: A support in the entrepreneurial journey

Story and photos by LIZ G. ROJAS

One of Utah’s best-kept secrets for aspiring entrepreneurs is the Women’s Business Center, located in downtown Salt Lake City within the Chamber offices.

The WBC is a nonprofit organization that is partially funded by the federal government through the Salt Lake City Chamber. Because the center is a 501(c)(3), it is expected to match the funding it receives through fundraising or sponsors.

The Women’s Business Center’s goal and purpose is to help increase the number of women-owned businesses in the state of Utah through consulting, training and networking opportunities.

The center has been operational for 17 years and has a consultant who provides a variety of different services. Services are free to the public and range from helping with business plans and cash flow projections to government consulting.

Former day-care owner Lorena Sierra missed the opportunity to work with the Women’s Business Center.

Lorena Sierra

Lorena Sierra

“I know a lot of times I needed help with grants and I wasn’t able to apply because I had no idea how,” Sierra said. “I wish I would have known of an organization like that [WBC].”

Sierra owned a day-care center in Utah County alongside her business partner for 17 years. In 2012, after her partner sold her half, Sierra ran out of funding options and chose to sell her business.

According to American Express, her center was 1 of 73,000 businesses in Utah that are women-owned, compared to the 9.1 million nationally that are owned by women.

The Small Business Administration defines a woman-owned business as one that is owned at least 51 percent by a woman. In addition, the woman can make independent decisions regarding the business without being undermined by anyone and is responsible for planning the short- and long-term activities.

Ann Marie Thompson- Program Director for the Women's Business Center

Ann Marie Thompson

Ann Marie Thompson, program director for the Women’s Business Center, says there is demand for a woman-oriented organization because there are different stresses for women than there are for men.

Most women are trying to start a business from home or as an addition to full-time responsibilities. They’re driven by flexibility because their first obligation is to their family. The majority of clients who meet with the WBC have these similar backgrounds and priorities.

Evette Alldredge, a local business owner, was guided by the Women’s Business Center and benefited from its services.

In a phone interview, Alldredge said that she arrived at the center with a partial business plan and high hopes. She met once a week for approximately five months with the center to create a business plan and explore all aspects of the planning.

Alldredge was able to present in front of Utah’s Microenterprise Loan Fund and received funding from the nonprofit for her business.

In April 2014, Evette Alldredge’s business, Super Gym Gymnastics, opened its doors.

However, even though the business center does direct its organization toward women, its services are for everyone. Thompson said that 20 percent of the WBC’s clientele are, in fact, men. She said, “We consult with anyone who wants to come.”

The Women’s Business Center has a broad range of connections and partnerships. Some of the partners are the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The center also works with the Salt Lake City World Trade Center and Salt Lake Magazine. The WBC refers clients to the World Trade Center if they need help learning how to import and export.

Salt Lake Magazine features the Women in Business section in the September/October issue. The WBC is highlighted in that issue.

Although the center is associated with the Salt Lake City Chamber it is not confined to the Wasatch Front. Thompson said Google Hangout and Skype are frequently used to communicate with clients throughout the state.

According to the Small Business Administration, twice as many women-owned businesses are opened every day, compared to three years ago. However, there are still barriers that haven’t been overcome by women business owners.

One of the barriers is the compensation gap. Even if a woman is the owner of a business, her salary is lower compared to others in her same position.

“Women choose to pay themselves less, not knowing what others are paying themselves,” Thompson said. “Women are also choosing jobs that pay less. ”

American Express reported in 2014 that the goal shouldn’t be to motivate more women to open businesses, but instead to financially support those who are already established and help them expand.

Regardless, the need for the Women’s Business Center in Utah is crucial. As Lorena Sierra said, “We do need a lot of support. We have the desire to have our own businesses but we don’t have a guide.”

The WBC is one of Utah’s best-kept secret support systems for aspiring business owners.

“If it weren’t for the Women’s Business Center I would not be where I am today,” said Evette Alldredge, owner of Super Gym Gymnastics, who continues to work with the center for a business expansion loan. “I am the most happy, successful entrepreneur.”

LGBT youth become homeless for many reasons

A look into the back room of the Volunteers of America homeless youth shelter in downtown Salt Lake City shows shelves of food, clothes and other items donated by people.

Story and photo by AINSLEY YOUNG

Take a tour of the Volunteers of America resource center.

In 2009, the Road Home, a homeless shelter based in Salt Lake City, helped more than 4,456 individuals.

Statewide, 42 to 44 percent of the homeless population self-identify as LGBTQ+. This number of  individuals is disproportionate compared to the overall population. About 6 percent of every population self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transdender, questioning or another identity within this community. When most people think of homeless LGBTQ+, they usually get the scenario of a young person coming out to their families and then getting thrown out and are forced to live on the streets.

However, Brandie Balken, the director of Equality Utah in Salt Lake City, said that is not usually the case.

“When you think about the paradigm of… [coming] out to your parents and [getting kicked out] of the house, that’s the most extreme situation — not to say that it doesn’t happen — but that’s not the most common situation. Parents will frequently do things like ‘you can’t see these friends, you can’t dress this way, you can’t say those things’ or [they will] say things that are demeaning to folks who happen to be LGBT, and if that’s your own identity as a 13-, 14- or 15-year old, it’s unbearable,” she said.

Individual identities are so fragile at those ages, and there’s so much going on in the lives of youth. To not be supported by family, their most intimate support structure, makes the situation become unbearable. As a result, many people choose to leave home altogether, Balken said.

“They feel like it’s safer and they have a greater chance to explore their opportunities that way…,” she said.

These individuals will frequently stay with their friends, doing what is known as “couch hopping,” or sleeping on couches and air mattresses because they can’t afford a bed. Eventually, they find themselves with no other place to go but the streets, Balken said. Many of these young people haven’t even come out yet, but they feel that the unsupportive environment is not something they can live with, so they leave.

Balken said part of the contribution to the LGBTQ+ homelessness comes from a part in the adoption system that doesn’t allow any committed, long-term couples who are unmarried to adopt. This knocks out those couples as potential parents to children in need of foster care or adoption.

“We know that some of our young people are not with their birth parents or not in a stable home because of their orientation or because they don’t feel supported in their lives by their parents and we have a system that doesn’t allow youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender to be adopted into a family that could model for them what it is to be an adult and be that person,” she said.

Intrigued with the process of becoming homeless, Natalie Avery created a documentary called “Outside,” which follows the lives of homeless LGBTQ+ individuals. This documentary followed four individuals for five years and was released in May 2012. Avery was a graduate student in film at the University of Utah when she began the project.

“I was in my last year of graduate school and I learned about the issue of couch surfing.… I had never heard of it and I heard that the LGBT population was significantly higher than just the average and that when people were talking about homeless youth, at that time, they were talking about children of families, not invisible youth,” Avery said.

Avery was inspired to take a deeper look into the issue of homelessness and highlight the lives of these individuals, the problems they face and how they handled them. Avery said she was surprised at how fast the fall could be from having a home to getting involved in drugs, finding a safe place to sleep or keeping warm in the winter, some of the many issues they were met with on the street.

“There is this remarkable group of people out there trying to help [these youth] in different ways, particularly the Homeless Youth Resource Center which still exists and is getting stronger and doing a lot for LGBT homeless youth. I was really impressed with the level of service they were getting,” she said.

Many youths take refuge in shelters like the Homeless Youth Resource Center, run by Volunteers of America Utah, located in downtown Salt Lake City. The shelter runs during business hours and offers refuge, hot meals cooked by volunteers, a donated clothing box and group activities to teach life skills and also bring the individuals together.

From July 2011 to July 2012, the shelter served 1,264 homeless youth, and around 30 percent of those individuals self-identified as LGBTQ+.

“Our hope is to meet the needs of youth and help keep them off the street,” said Zach Bale, vice president of external relations at the VOA in Salt Lake.

The drop-in shelter bases its different services on the intake of individuals, mostly aged 15 to 22 years, and what their needs are, Bale said. The center allows youths to come in and get what they need, including showers and laundry, with computers just recently added to provide individuals with aid in job searching. Youth can select everyday clothing from the donations closet at the front of the shelter. A special closet in the back contains clothes suitable for job interviews.

In addition to providing individuals with food, clothes and daytime shelter, a therapist at the shelter is available to work with youths each day to give them guidance and direction on personal matters in their lives. Tanya Ray is a certified counselor who completed a class at the Utah Pride Center where she learned how to be inclusive and friendly toward members of the LGBTQ+ community.

While many may have the classic scenario of getting kicked out of the house after coming out to parents, many members of the LGBTQ+ community feel that leaving home is their best option as far as making their way in the world.

One World Café heightens the food expectations of the non-profit world

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by Tricia Oliphant

Imagine a menu that offers so much variety it actually changes on a daily basis. You choose your portions and then pay what you are able or what you think your meal was worth. If you do not have money to buy a meal, you can volunteer an hour of your time and eat for free.  Those who serve your food are also the people who helped prepare it, allowing you to find an immediate answer to the age-old question “It looks good, but what’s in it?”

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Such is the organization of One World Café, a non-profit community café in downtown Salt Lake City.

Denise Cerreta founded One World Café in 2003. It is now part of several non-profit cafés nationwide that make up the One World Everybody Eats Foundation. The café provides delicious, healthy meals to all who desire to eat, regardless of their financial situation.

When I heard about this revolutionary idea of choosing my portions and what I wanted to pay for them, I was curious about how it worked. I decided to give it a try with a friend.

Upon entering the café, we immediately noticed the friendly atmosphere. We were greeted kindly by one of the cooks/servers who directed us to choose our plate size. Although we were only required to pay what we deemed fair, we did see price suggestions according to the size of plate written on a blackboard (small: $4 to $6, medium: $7 to $9, large: $10 to $12.)

Our server then described each of the dishes laid out in front of us, buffet style. The main dishes included sweet curry over brown rice, a unique asparagus quiche on a potato crust, and seasoned beef bursting with flavor.

An assortment of fresh salads complimented each of the main dishes, including a zesty marinated carrot and cucumber salad, and a wild rice salad with celery and tomato.

We tried a bit of everything. We also chose a drink from a selection of coffee, tea, soymilk, almond milk, or water.

The One World Café offers a cozy, “feel like you’re eating in your mother’s dining room” atmosphere.  Each of several dining rooms contains only a couple of dining tables to provide a sense of privacy. A patio in front allows for dining al fresco.
In addition to the warm, inviting atmosphere and the plethora of food and dining options, the food itself at One World Café was simply succulent and mouthwatering. The ingredients were clearly fresh. Most were organic.

“I believe in getting food as close to the source as possible,” One World Café manager David Spittler said.

Sunflower Farmers Market donates many of the ingredients used at One World Café.  The café also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a monthly fee is paid to a local farm for its fresh produce.

Spittler became an advocate of fresh, organic food while he worked on a peach farm after high school.  The peaches they shipped to places such as Wal-Mart, Spittler said, were picked while they were still green, thus robbing the produce of many vital nutrients.

Using several of their favorite cookbooks, Spittler and a group of regular volunteers decide how to use the fresh ingredients as they prepare a weekly menu — about a week in advance.

“We try to make the menu as friendly to everyone as possible,” he said.

“My favorite cold dish was the Cucumber and Carrot Zest,” said customer Lauren Snow on a recent visit. “The ingredients were so simple but it had so much flavor, and it’s something I can make at home.”

One other point in One World’s favor: very little food at the café goes to waste. Because customers choose their portion sizes, they eat most of their food.

Furthermore, the food that is left over at the end of the day, such as salads, can often be reused in another dish the following day. Although the hot dishes are not reheated, Spittler said, they are often reused in a soup. Any leftover waste is recycled as compost.

One World’s kitchen is small, but out in the open for all to see.  Customers can watch their meals being cooked. With only one six-burner stove in operation, something is always cooking.

“We can’t prepare large quantities [of food] at one time,” said volunteer Isaac Hoppe. “This is a good thing because it’s fresh.”

Whether you’re looking for a pleasant dining atmosphere, a delicious variety of well-prepared dishes, or would simply like to help feed the hungry of Salt Lake City, the One World Café has something for everyone.

One World Café

41 S 300 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Hours: Wed -Sun, 8 a.m. -7 p.m.; Fri –Sat, 8 a.m. -9 p.m.

Phone: 801-519 – 2002519- 2002

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City Creek Center opening brings thousands to downtown Salt Lake City

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by Tricia Oliphant

Crowds lined the walkway. Parents gripped the hands of their squirming children, who were eager to run off and explore. The shutters of cameras repeatedly clicked.

In one corner a musician put his soul into playing the blues on his saxophone.  In another, musician and performer Steven Sharp Nelson of The Piano Guys entertained a crowd with playful tunes on his cello. The laughter of a nearby group of adolescents resonated as they talked about their plans and what they wanted to see first.

That overflowing excitement most often only theme parks can create filled the masses swarming downtown for the opening of Salt Lake City’s first downtown mall in three decades.

City Creek Center opened on Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012. Like many others, I was drawn to the novelty and newness of City Creek. I decided I had to join thousands of others in visiting City Creek on its opening day so I could answer the question posed by a dear friend of mine, “Is it really as big a deal as it has been made out to be?”

Although City Creek offers ample parking in a giant, heated three-level underground parking garage, I chose to take the TRAX (Utah’s light rail system) to the new shopping center.  In spite of the train being loaded with anxious shoppers of all ages who were also heading for the mall, I thought it offered the convenience of not fighting downtown traffic or hunting for a parking place.

City Creek Shopping Center was funded entirely by cash reserves of the LDS Church and built on three church-owned blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. A sky bridge over Main Street connects two of the blocks and allows shoppers on the second level of the center to cross from one side to the other.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the classy architecture and design of City Creek Center. I quickly realized this wasn’t just any ordinary mall when I noticed the glass roof is actually retractable. City Creek opens the roof when the weather is just right, providing a view of the open sky and surrounding skyscrapers.

Along with over 90 stores and restaurants, the shopping center offers a wildlife landscape downtown with the re-creation of the historic City Creek that winds through the shopping center’s walkways and plazas—complete with live fish.

In addition to the creek, the shopping center offers a variety of waterfalls, ponds and fountains (one of which is open to children who would like to cool off while splashing in the choreographed blasts of water.) I found each water feature to be quite beautiful and each added a sense of natural serenity to the busy shopping center.

“Standing at the base of the skyscrapers surrounded by rivers and waterfalls was a striking experience of both outdoors and the big city at the same time,” shopper Matt Argyle said. “It’s really breathtaking.”

Benches and tables rest on the edge of the creek and beside the waterfalls. These provide places to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Some believe the quality of the food court can often make or break a shopping center.  City Creek’s food court is nothing to scoff at.

The massive food court is located next to the creek and a waterfall. Diners can eat inside (with many of the tables located next to giant windows in front of the water features) or can dine al fresco.  Both options offer a relaxing place to eat.

The food court is made up of everything from Subway to the Taste of Red Iguana to the Great Steak and Potato Company. Other restaurants, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, are also located in the shopping center.

By wandering through City Creek Shopping Center, it soon became clear that people came for much more than shopping and spending. This was a public event, a place for relaxing and enjoyment with friends and family. While taking all this in, I wondered about the future of City Creek and its potential impact on surrounding malls (such as The Gateway, a mere two blocks to the west).

Although City Creek attracted large numbers of people opening weekend, The Gateway was not left completely desolate.

“We were actually pretty busy opening weekend,” said Kara Johnson, an employee at Down East Basics, at The Gateway. Down East Basics, a moderately priced casual apparel store, is not duplicated at the new City Creek Center. “I expected it to be dead,” Johnson said.

Despite the crowds of people at City Creek Center opening weekend, many realized the stores at City Creek were more expensive than they had expected. “They came to Gateway because they knew what to expect,” Johnson said.

Unlike The Gateway, City Creek Center is closed on Sundays. This gives the older mall an extra day to attract shoppers and therefore compete with the novelty of the new shopping center.

Furthermore, although some of the stores are duplicated at both shopping centers (such as Forever 21), many are not. This gives a distinct shopping opportunity at each location.

Johnson said that because she has never been to many of the stores now located at City Creek, she would like to go there just to see what they’re like. “I just want to say I’ve been in a Tiffany’s.”

The uniqueness of the new stores to Utah clearly attracted crowds to City Creek Center.  However, many Utahans are known for being “frugal” and “resourceful”. Higher-end stores may not sit so well with a thrifty people.

“I love City Creek. It’s just so nice,” said Jannali Ouzounian, a new mother from Holladay. “I just wish I could afford to shop at all the stores. A wallet at Tiffany’s [costs] $600.”

“I think Utah could do a lot better by bringing in the outlets,” said University of Utah student Kelly Wolfe. She said that putting in stores such as the Tommy Hilfiger Outlet and Bloomingdale’s Outlet would not reduce the classy appeal of City Creek and would attract a greater portion of the Utah market.

Being a bargain hunter myself, I would love to shop at classy outlet stores downtown. However, I find the higher-end stores at City Creek to be alluring.

How long this allure will last remains in question.

“I think once all the hype wears off, City Creek will be just another mall,” said Utah State University student Elise Olsen. However, once all the hype does wear off, Olsen said she plans to shop at City Creek with hopes of finding good sales on high-priced items.

Only time will tell the fate of City Creek Center and whether it will continue attracting large crowds of people to the downtown area. In spite of this, I found City Creek Center to be beautifully constructed and thought it added class to Salt Lake City.

In answer to my friend’s question, City Creek is quite a big deal — for now.

Local Utah artist’s work reflects on community, beauty of Utah’s wetlands

Story, video and pictures by JAVAN RIVERA

Slideshow courtesy of Shawn Porter

Derk’s Field photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society

For everyday people the world can often seem dull. We wander through our lives, habitually proceeding from task to task. Rarely do we stop to appreciate the

Shawn Porter, 43, with a sample of the Braille text that will be displayed on his artwork.

world around us, much less take inspiration from it.

Shawn Porter, however, is not an everyday person. The facilities supervisor for the arts and sculpture buildings at the University of Utah, Porter sees inspiration in places few would think to look. From that inspiration are born pieces of art that are as reflective of their environments as they are creatively breathtaking.

Porter, who has had work featured in both public places as well as more traditional gallery settings, didn’t begin his career as an artist. In fact, his artistic inspiration stems from more practical creations.

Having grown up in Lehi, Utah, Porter, 43, spent more than 13 years working as a professional woodworker, designing and creating functional pieces of furniture. It was that time spent honing his skills with wood that actually allowed him to branch into art, Porter said.

“The technical end of woodworking or being a craftsman has given me a platform to spring off of as far as making artwork is concerned,” Porter said. “People often say, half-jokingly, if you can build a chair you can build anything.”

Since coming to the U, Porter has expanded his use of materials beyond wood. His time working in the Department of Art and Art History has allowed him to gain a better knowledge of the “artist’s dialogue and process.”

In 2010 Porter began working on a project for the Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) “art in transit” program. The agency, in collaboration with the Salt Lake City Arts Council, commissions local artists to create pieces for the various TRAX stations and routes that run throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

Porter believes public art, such as his work for “art in transit,” should be reflective of the cultural and historical values of the area in which it’s being placed.

“In a way I think public art is in place to represent the community,” Porter said.

He wants his work to be as much a representation of the public area surrounding it as it is a creative piece of art.

“That’s what public art is really supposed to do. That’s what it’s intended for, in my mind. That is, it isn’t just pretty decoration in a location. It definitely references local environment, culture, history, and it all depends on the history and culture of that area.”

Justin Diggle, an assistant professor of the Department of Art and Art History, at the U, agrees with Porter. Having worked on the committees for both the Salt Lake Art and Design Board in 2003, as well as the University committees, Diggle aided in the selection process for past “art in transit” pieces.

“With any public art I think you have to be sensitive to the area,” Diggle said. “You have to be sensitive to the people who live around there, people who are going to use it.”

Porter’s work will be installed at the 1950 W. North Temple TRAX stop, and will be modeled after the wetlands and waterways that exist between the Salt Lake City Airport and the stop. It’s expected to be installed around September of this year.

Porter said he wants his work to draw attention to the fact that the Great Salt Lake is actually a thriving wetland full of life.

“It [the Great Salt Lake] is not just a wasteland. It’s not just this smelly thing that people think it is,” Porter said. “It really is a thriving ecosystem.”

Porter’s minimalistic design for his “art in transit” project will be made primarily of stainless steel, a bit of a departure from the wood materials he’s used for most of his life. The change has been a good one, he said.

“That’s the challenge I really enjoy. The thinking through an idea and then bringing that to life through the use of different materials and the complexity of those materials.”

Porter’s work will include two large steel plates, elevated two feet above the ground to simulate a river’s surface. It will also include segmented pipes that evoke the idea of river reeds resting among a riverbed of smoothed metal stones. Porter is fabricating three minimalist representations of birds associated with the Utah wetlands that will also be placed throughout the piece.

“I think it’s really critical also to draw visitors into that conversation of—what is this place? What is it like? What might I experience in visiting Salt Lake City?” Porter said.

He wanted to ensure his work reflected more than just the natural surroundings leading up to his stop, but also the areas of public access nearby. For the 1950 W. North Temple stop, that includes the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled.

As a way of incorporating the library into his piece, Porter included an artist’s statement about the piece as well as some poetry about the Great Salt Lake and the birds that migrate there. The poetry will be written in Braille, directly on the piece.

A sample of the Braille text that will be featured on Porter's artwork.

Roni Thomas, the public art program manager for the Salt Lake City Arts Council, said that Porter’s inclusion of Braille on the piece was yet another inspiration from the well of his creativity.

“Shawn recognized that there was an opportunity to reach out to an audience that ordinarily couldn’t participate because of their visual impairment,” Thomas said.

Whether it be through addition of Braille, or simply, the inspired reflection of Utah’s beauty, one thing is certain—Porter’s creativity is sure to shine through his new piece.

“A lot of people just look at public art as decoration,” Porter said. “But I think it’s important for people to take something from the work that is there. Whether they recognize that it is a representation of something in their community or not, I think at the base level people can at least take [something] from the aesthetic.”

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Field of dreams: Sometimes a triple is a great shot

by LEWIS WALKER

What if you got paid to do what you love and have grown up doing your whole life? This is the life of Keenyn Walker, who by the age of 20 was drafted twice before signing a contract to play professionally in major league baseball.

“I thought he was crazy not to leave once he was selected out of high school. Not many people are that blessed,” said Jeff Myaer, head baseball coach at Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City.

Of all the odds and breaks in life, Walker has been blessed with his share.

Walker who is currently a part of the Chicago White Sox farm league in the Single-A organization is stationed in Kannapolis, N.C. playing for the Intimidators. His journey before making it there may have been a whirlwind to most folks.

As a senior at Judge Memorial, Walker was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, but he turned down that deal and moved on, choosing instead to attend Central Arizona College( CAC) in Coolidge, Ariz., one of the powerhouses for college baseball. After his freshman year at CAC, Walker was drafted again, this time by the Phillies. “It was crazy when I was in high school and got drafted, but then again just a year later is humbling,” Walker said.

Denying the offers from the big league left Walker, a center fielder, wondering if he would get another chance. “After my freshman year of college was over and I turned down another chance to play baseball, my dreams kind of became a blur,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone else would draft me again because I had turned down two teams already.”

Some doubted Walker might get another chance at his dream. “I was drafted when I was in college. I know how hard it is to have that opportunity come your way, but three times is out of this world,” Myaer said.

With many people watching from the outside, few stood strong in his corner, Walker said. Except for one. “My mom has been a huge part in this whole journey,” he said. “When I doubted myself she had the right words to put me back on track to complete what I had set out to do a long time ago.”

“Keenyn is someone who just loves to play baseball,” said his mother, Lori Walker, of Salt Lake City. “In baseball you have ups and downs that come easily and it can transfer over to life as well.”

June 6, 2011 is a day Walker will always remember. “That day I was just at home with my family watching the draft,” he said. “Teams just kept calling me and saying they may take me at this pick,” he said. Nervously walking around waiting for his name to be announced, Walker continuously ate snacks to calm his nerves, as well as talking and joking with the few family members who were present.

“It was a family thing,” Walker said.

After all the hoping and waiting, Walker’s blurry dreams have finally become a reality. Now 21, he was selected as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft for the Chicago White Sox.

“I wake up and I feel like it’s a dream,” Walker said over the phone while training in Phoenix. Being a professional athlete comes with a lot of responsibility, as well as temptations.  “I have more money than my mother does now,” said Walker, laughing. But his mother thinks he’s doing just fine.

“I am proud of the decisions he made. Even though they were hard to make, he made the correct ones,” said Lori Walker. “It is crazy seeing my son become something he has wanted to become his whole life.”

“My schedule has been hectic, kind of,” Walker said. He wakes at 8 a.m., goes for a run and then heads to batting practice. He does interviews between ball games. There seems to be an endless number of items to autograph, such as rookie cards, helmets and photos. “Each day I sign about 500 items for people I don’t even know,” Walker said.

“I am so fortunate and blessed to be where I am right now,” Walker said. “This is so crazy. It still hasn’t hit me yet, even though I have already played six minor league games, moved my way up to the single A organization, and now in spring training.”

Although the process to the big leagues is a long bumpy road, things seem to be falling in place for Walker. “I guess the third time is a luck charm,” he said.

Photo credits: Clockwise from top left, Megan Wallo: Keenyn Walker: Central Arizona College, Athletics: Jim Shipman.

Jason Nowa

Ute Basketball a Story of Struggle

By Jason Nowa

The University of Utah Utes’ 2011-2012 men’s basketball (Voices of Utah) team has completed the most atrocious season in their history. This season marked the Utes first 20-loss season as they tumbled to an uninspiring record of 6-25. They finished 11th overall in their first season as a member of the Pac-12 Conference.

“This season was rough, no way around it, but from where we started we saw improvement throughout the rest of the season.” said junior forward Dijon Farr.

The Utes packaged numerous transfers together to make a team, as eight players left the team last year following Coach Jim Boylen’s exit.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak (Voices of Utah) spun the best team available to him, and though it was a struggle from the start, many team members felt they competed hard in the second half of the season after a distraction in the locker room was resolved.

The team’s best player, senior Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was dismissed from the team January18, due to violation of team rules and constant struggles in the classroom. Watkins was the team’s leading scorer and with assists, with 15.6 points per game and 4.8 assists in only 16 games. The loss of Watkins occurred mid-season, and set the Utes back even more.

A season of few ups but mostly downs hit phenomenal proportions when the Utes suffered a 40- point setback at the University of Colorado on New Year’s Eve. Then the worst loss in the program’s 104 years occurred in the regular season finale, when the Utes lost by 46 points at the University of Oregon.

The Utes’ best victory of the season was at home, against Stanford, which finished in the middle of the pack in the Pac 12. The first conference victory was a January 5 home win against Washington State, 62-60 in overtime. The Utes finished 3-15 in their inaugural season in the Pac 12.

Jason Washburn was the team’s pleasant surprise player of the year as he broke out with 11.4 points per game. The junior center led the team after the dismissal of Watkins, with 6.2 rebounds per game. Washburn was a big fill-in player after starting center David Foster’s injury sidelined him for the season.

Some close to the team say it’s hard to put a team together on the fly and expect to win as the Utes did, especially after so many players left the squad. Krystkowiak has to get a few years of his own recruits to determine the tenor of his success or failure.

The Utes finished their season with a loss in the Pac 12 Tournament to conference champion Colorado, which upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Utes heading into next season will look to schedule more home games at the beginning of the year. This past season the Utes had only six non-conference home games far less than most Pac 12 teams. With a young team, home games scheduled for early in the season can be a great confidence boost. Team managers expect to overhaul the roster as numerous new players come in and some older player will likely transfer out.

“This year was a bad year for our team but coming back next year we hope to get our team situated and turn this thing around,” said junior guard Cedric Martin.

Expect Martin, and Farr to return next year. Kareem Storey, and Chris Hines are among four players who have been granted their release of scholarship to transfer. Center David Foster, nursing his broken foot, is recovering and should be ready for next season team managers mentioned.

Foster was the 2009 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year as he led to a school record in blocked shots. Coping wit his injury, he said, took its toll. “It was tough to see and watch the guys all year long, but I’m on the road to recovery and look to really help our team become better next season.”

Hines, who at times during the season was the most explosive player on the team, mentioned that the Utes might surprise every team in the conference next season despite the fact that he is transferring.

There might be two new suspected starters in the lineup next year with redshirt transfer guards Aaron Dotson from LSU and Glen Dean from Eastern Washington University. Both started at their previous schools and are expected to be significant upgrades from this year’s starters.

Contrary to what pessimists believe, Utes basketball (Voices of Utah) could be on the upswing. With fall just around the corner, the roster will be set soon and practice will begin. With a healthy Foster and some transfer players coming in, the team could kick into gear. Returning players will bring experience and wisdom and Krystkowiak has every reason to feel upbeat.

“We are looking forward to next season and get everybody together to prove how good this team really can be,” said redshirt transfer guard Aaron Dotson.