Seekhaven Family Crisis & Resource Center will hold its first-ever youth carnival on August 31 to promote its afterschool teen empowerment program, the Moab Youth Council. The free carnival will feature games that promote healthy communication and music from KZMU Radio DJs. There will also be door prizes and free food.

The Moab Youth Council was established by Seekhaven, a Moab nonprofit that assists survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, to empower Moab’s youth community. The council is open to teens ages 14 to 19 and provides guidance on relationships and sex education. The upcoming fall program is spaced out over the course of eight meetings, where teens will learn about and discuss how to make informed decisions about relationships and sexual health through the “Making Proud Choices” curriculum.

For the program, the Moab Youth Council partnered with KZMU, so teens will also have the opportunity to create podcasts about what they’ve learned.

Olivia Holmes, the youth prevention coordinator at Seekhaven, said the “Making Proud Choices” curriculum prioritizes learning about the individual values and beliefs of the teens in the program to help them personally address how they want to approach sex and relationships. She wants to provide a space for teens to learn about how to be responsible and safe with their sexual health—this type of program is important in Utah because there’s a lack of sex education in schools, Holmes said.

“In the state of Utah, the school system’s health education is abstinence-only focused,” Holmes said. “I don’t think for a lot of people that is a reality.”

In Utah, the law mandates that health classes teach abstinence as the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and the law mandates that parents must opt-in for their child to participate in sex education classes. In February 2021, the state rejected a bill that would’ve added teaching consent to the health education curriculum.

This type of program is particularly important in Southeast Utah, which has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state. A study done in 2008 found that pregnancy was a significant contributor to high school dropout rates: only 50% of teen mothers received a high school diploma by the time they were 22.

It’s important to give young people “a space to want to talk about [sex and relationships] and explore their options,” Holmes said. “I think not addressing it creates a lot of issues that we don’t always relate to the lack of education around sexual health.”

The Youth Carnival will take place at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC) from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31, and is free to attend for all ages.

Event Information

What: Moab Youth Carnival

When: Tuesday, August 31 from 6-8 p.m.

Where: The Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC) (111 East 100 North, Moab)