From left to right: Xander Johnson, Kerri Kirk, Amanda Dalton, and Phoenix Kirk at a teen night. [Kristl Johnson]

Kristl Johnson fondly remembers community nights when she was growing up in La Sal, 30 miles outside of Moab: young people would get together at least once a week in church-facilitated events to play games and hang out with each other. Those events have fallen off since and Johnson, who is now raising her kids in the community, said she wanted to bring them back. 

“La Sal is a really great place to live, but it’s small,” Johnson said, adding: “but not everybody knows everybody, as small as it is.” 

Not all the teens in the La Sal community hang out or even know each other, Johnson said, because La Sal doesn’t have a high school: kids go to Grand County High School in Moab or Monticello High School in Monticello, and some in the community are homeschooled. The Grand County students have to drive to school; the Monticello students take a bus. 

“It was sad that the kids are missing out—they’re missing out on fun, teen activities that build the ability to talk to and interact with people,” Johnson said. “So I was like, well, the community center is here, and I can do this. So I put out the word on Facebook to all the parents.” 

Last fall, she started hosting “La Sal Community Teen Nights,” every Thursday at 7 p.m. at the La Sal Community Center. Nights are open to any kids ages 12-18. 

A few weeks ago on Facebook, Johnson posted a flyer detailing the themes of each night from January to March—themes include games, like volleyball and dodgeball, but also events that feature adult speakers, like “Adulting 101,” which took place last week. To create the “adulting” night, Johnson made a survey that she sent out to adults in the community, asking what the hard parts of being an adult are, and the details too—questions such as ‘how much laundry do you do in a week?’ Attendees also learned the basics of applying for jobs: what job applications look like and how to fill out a W4. 

The follow-up, “Adulting 102,” on Feb. 2, will go over budgeting and writing checks. Johnson has other “adulting” nights planned: “menu planning,” on Feb. 16, “budget shopping” on Feb. 23, and “meal preparation” on March 9. 

“It’s basic information for a lot of adults, but not every 18-year-old who steps into the world knows these things,” Johnson said. “It’s all the stuff I learned in high school in Home Economics, but they don’t really teach that anymore.” 

A few other themes include “Cowboy Poetry”—which featured poetry by Darrell Holden—on Jan. 26; “party planning” on March 2; and “party night” on March 16. 

“I’m just a mom who wants to have fun with the kids,” Johnson said. “I don’t treat the kids like kids—I treat them like people, because they are.”