Independence Day Weekend and Family Days

Thursday, July 3rd

Traditionally, Independence Day is celebrated with the explosive energy of fireworks on July fourth. This year, the students at La Europa got to experience a bit of that energy on the day before the celebrations through a visit from Shaun Parry.


Shaun is a veteran performer based out of New York City. His career encompasses work as a singer, dancer, actor, and choreographer on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in national and international Broadway tours, the Metropolitan Opera, the National Ballroom Championships, MTV, cruise ships, and more. He has taught, performed, choreographed, directed, and lectured at numerous studios, colleges, and universities worldwide.  Among many more honors, Shaun is also the President and Founder of Promethean Spark International, an incredible nonprofit organization whose mission is “Teaching life skills through training in the performing arts to impoverished youth worldwide; breaking the cycle of poverty by inspiring change from within.”


In his lecture and workshop at La Europa, Shaun used this methodology to help our students uncover their personal power in the same way he helps youth all over the world. He spent time connecting with each of them and describing the type of work that he does. He talked with them about their choice to give 100% of themselves, not only through the work they would do together, but through life in general. He also established individual and group accountability and all of the students agreed to participate fully.


After the initial discussion, Shaun turned on music and taught some choreography, focusing on noticing and observing details, on reaching beyond limitations, and on following instructions. The kids responded well and were invested as a group throughout their time together. Afterwards, they processed the experience in a circle and discussed the lessons they learned. The positive energy and connection in the room was palpable, and Shaun stayed afterwards for a while to talk with the students and answer questions.

The afternoon was a little more low-key, and the students went to the theater to see Disney’s Maleficent. That evening, they had the choice to go to the rec center to swim.

Friday, July 4th


We started Independence Day with a beautiful hike up to the Bell Canyon reservoir in Sandy. The weather was perfect and the view was incredible. We played in the water, took pictures, and enjoyed the sun on our skin before heading back to the residence.


After a barbecue lunch, the kids brought their A-games to an epic water baseball square-off between the Lunas and the Stellas. The pitched, hit, stole bases, and slid into home on a field with kiddie pools, hoses, and slip-and-slides. We had a great time and were able to make some fun memories.


We cooled off with some ice cream before doing hygiene for the evening’s activities: a Real Salt Lake soccer game and a Salt Lake Bees baseball game, with the students choosing their attendance preference. After enjoying the games, each group of students watched the fireworks display that the venues provided and came home for some well-earned sleep.

Parent Days

Thanks to all of our families who came out to Utah for our most recent parent seminar! As usual, we capped off the weekend with a fantastic Creation-themed fine arts festival at the Sugar Space Studio for the Arts. Highlights from the festival included a hip hop dance choreographed by Ali Monsen (who will be leaving to pursue a career as a television news anchor shortly), a professional commercial filmed by our film class, original songs by several students, footage from our week-long student film festival, beautiful renditions of cover songs, a stop-motion film by the photography class, and the traditional closing slideshow. Also, special thanks to our fashion design and 3-D design classes for the displays in the gallery. Footage from the festival will be posted shortly on the family web site.

We have a few more days off of school next week and several fun things planned! Stay tuned for more updates soon.


Memorial Day at LEA


We always have a great time when school is dismissed for a holiday, and Monday was no exception. We started the day by visiting the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake and were greeted by eagles, pelicans, toucans, vultures, condors, cranes, swans, parrots, and every other bird you might imagine. The kids were particularly impressed with a peacock displaying his beautiful tail feathers and several families of ducks with newborn ducklings, all of which were roaming freely in the aviary.


Afterwards, we headed to Liberty Park for picnic lunches and play. We got wet, played on the playground, relaxed, and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. It was a beautiful day to be outside.


After returning home and showering, we prepared for the evening’s activities – a visit from actors of the Salty Dinner Theater company. We decorated the tables for some fine dining and dressed in our best formal 1920’s attire, in harmony with the musical “Mafia Murder Mystery” we were about to witness.


After the actors and technical crew set up, the actors escorted the students to their seats and mingled with them, dropping clues about characters and motives. With funny dialogue and revamped versions of popular and musical theater songs, the actors unfolded the plot, involving the kids in the action in creative and hilarious ways as they ate dinner. The students had the chance to make accusations at the end of the night and “punish” the culprit(s) with consequences of their choosing. Afterwards, we danced and mingled some more with the actors.


We are looking forward to another week off of school this coming week… more details to come!

Spring Break at LEA

We’ve had such a great time at La Europa over the past week! Here are some of our adventures:


Monday, April 14th

The week started with a live version of the board game CLUE. The kids had a list of suspects, weapons, and rooms and were divided into three teams. Each team started in a different location (the house, the school, and the CERTS offices). They had to discover the identity of suspects by making inquiries, find “weapons” (like a jump rope or plastic bowling pin) stashed in random places, and locate rooms by posted (but hidden) signs. As they raced to eliminate options, they drew closer to the solution that was located in a manilla envelope. Each team that came up with the correct conclusion received a prize and the first team to return received an extra incentive.


That evening, the kids who indicated that they wanted to participate in a seder for the first night of Passover were treated to a beautiful dinner prepared by Sam, our cook, and Sheila, our marketing director. The rest of the kids headed over to the Energy Solutions Arena to watch a Utah Jazz vs. LA Lakers basketball game.

IMG_0665Tuesday, April 15th

We spent most of Tuesday at Boondocks Food and Fun in Draper. We enjoyed unlimited go karts, bumper boats, batting cages, mini golf, arcade games and simulators, lazar tag, and a pizza/pasta/ice cream buffet. They were even kind enough to cook the gluten free kosher for Passover pasta we brought for our students observing the holiday! We had a great time!


Wednesday, April 16th

On Wednesday, the kids piled into vans and headed over to Wheeler Historic Farm. Once there, we divided into five teams and explained the rules for the day’s Amazing Race, patterned after the television reality show. The kids raced to find locations and clues, perform silly stunts, and avoid being detoured by opposing teams. All team members received prizes based on their speed in getting to the final destination.

That evening, after some free time and group therapy, everyone was able to enjoy Muppets Most Wanted in a local theater.


Thursday, April 17th

Thursday was a full and busy day. We started by visiting the new Living Planet Aquarium where we saw penguins, petted sting rays, and walked through tunnels with sharks swimming overhead. After the aquarium, we had picnic sack lunches and jumped, flipped, dodged, and bounced around at the WAIRhouse Trampoline Park.


That evening, we took advantage of the beautiful weather by watching an outdoor movie   in the back yard of LEA on a giant inflatable screen and stereo system. As the night turned a bit cooler, we enjoyed a bonfire and s’mores as the feature played.

DSC01174Friday, April 18th – Sunday, April 20th

Friday was a more relaxed day and students enjoyed some free time in the morning and a hike to Ensign Peak in the afternoon with our rec therapist, Nikki.

On Easter Sunday, the kids colored Easter Eggs and had had a hunt around the property for other plastic easter eggs and candy.

10173719_586056313164_3383040972546595874_nWe missed our students who with their families over this week and we’re glad to they’ve returned safely. More fun activities to come!

Musicals and Motivation

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More fun times at La Europa and in the community! Here’s what we’ve done with our recent days off of school:

Friday, February 28th

Our students always enjoy giving service at the Humane Society and request that we go as often as possible. We started off the day there socializing with the animals and getting lots of love from them.

In the evening, we got the wonderful opportunity to see the national touring company of Bring It On, The Musical at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City. With Tony nominations for Best Musical and Best Choreography, the show was full of great music, incredible gymnastic displays, and a plot our students enjoyed. Here’s a sample of one song from the musical, performed at the 2013 Tony Awards:


Thursday, March 13th

We had an amazing visit in the morning from a friend of Trilby, Robbi, Aaron, and Sheila. Jill Nugent is a licensed substance abuse counselor and board certified interventionist, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Jill shared her powerful story of overcoming abuse, addiction, toxic relationships, and other chaotic life circumstances. She was very honest with the kids about her journey, and it was inspiring to hear about the complete shift in her life as she decided to work the steps of recovery.

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Friday, March 14th

On Friday, we experienced a backstage tour of the highest-attended community theater in the country, the Hale Center Theater in West Valley City. Besides showing the kids around, our tour guide, Melanie, taught them experientially about the most important thing an actor can have (control), audience etiquette, theater games, props, and more. Our students had question after question and had a great time as they learned.

That afternoon, we returned to the Hale to watch a moving performance of Les Misérables. Even though the Hale is a smaller theater in the round, the cast and crew were able to portray this musical in a way that honored it’s sweeping scope. We had a wonderful time!

Valentines, Visitors, and Various Vacation Viewings: February at LEA

Here’s what we’ve been up to!

Valentine’s Cards and Treats

Glitter, colorful paper, gel pens, and glue sticks littered the tables on Valentine’s Day as our students “Heart Attacked” the house with valentines for their peers. They snacked on red velvet Chex party mix as they worked. The result was a beautiful collage on the windows comprised of meaningful, encouraging personalized observations.

Lindsey Wells, Mary Kay consultant, skin care demonstration

Lindsey spent some time educating us on some self care. She taught us about our skin and shared some products so we could experience a little pampering. For those who were interested, she also provided little bags with samples for us to keep.


Midway Ice Castles and Frozen

You may have already seen the Midway Ice Castles without knowing what you were seeing. They have been featured prominantly in some recently viral videos, including covers of “Let it Go” by Alex Boye and The Piano Guys. These videos were released after our visit, but the effect of the massive castles made entirely of ice was still awe-inspiring. After touring the castles, the kids also got to take pictures with an ice princess. After returning to the residence for dinner, we went to the theater and watched the movie Frozen.

This is Your Band

The nationally-acclaimed four-piece karaoke band, This is Your Band, returned to La Europa to play some music with the kids. With hundreds and hundreds of songs under thier belts and teleprompters with song lyrics, the band transformed our students into rock stars for a day.


Lindsay and Lexie Kite, Beauty Redefined

Internationally-published twin sisters, Lexie and Lindsay Kite, brought their PhD research on media literacy and self-objectification to La Europa over the break. Their non-profit organization, Beauty Redefined, has articles republished in The Huffington Post, is being promoted by musicans Tegan and Sara, received a shout-out from Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls”, and more. The sisters presented ways to recognize harmful media messages and research-driven strategies to counteract them.

It’s amazing how quickly February has passed. Stay tuned for more fun activities in March!

The Foreigner and a Fine Arts Festival

We’ve enjoyed some fun things at LEA over the past month!

Several students chose to attend the Hale Center Theatre’s production of The Foreigner, a hilarous comedy about an introvert who pretends to not speak English in order to avoid conversation at a hotel. When he overhears a plot involving the KKK, he attempts to maintain his cover while thwarting their efforts. Here are some highlights:

We also loved having our LEA families here this past weekend. As always, the students participated in our Fine Arts Festival. The theme of this FAF was Courage, and we enjoyed dance, music, jokes, student films, and slideshows in addition to our gallery of art, fashion design, and ceramics. We loved seeing everyone and encourage LEA families to check out the family website for footage.



The advent of the Utah Education Association conference always means a few days off of school for students in the state. We made good use of the time at La Europa. Here are some highlights:

  • Heather Anderson came to share her powerful story of drug resistance with everyone. After her brother died of a drug overdose, Heather became an outspoken advocate for prevention of drug and underage alcohol use. She told our students that after her brother’s death, she wanted to go after all of the drug suppliers and put them in jail. She realized, however, that more people would rise up to fulfill the demand for drugs. In order to make a difference, she would need to address the rising generation on the prevention side. After winning the Miss Utah crown, she went on to place as a finalist in the Miss USA pageant, with the goal of using her title to get into schools to share her message. With the use of fatal vision goggles, statistics, a lot of student participation, and a passionate voice, she taught some powerful lessons. Several students remarked afterwards that her story really impacted them and that they had an increased commitment to staying sober.


  • To take advantage of this fun time of year, we visited Cornbelly’s Corn Maze. The students bounced on a giant jumping pillow, visited a haunted house, and explored several of the other themed attractions available. We also enjoyed a reserved pavilion and firepit for lunch, where we made s’mores and relaxed.


  • With Halloween right around the corner, we visited some local thrift shops and harnessed our creativity to pull together some fun costumes for the celebration. We also had the chance to dip caramel apples and enjoy a movie together.

We are looking forward to more adventures with our ropes course experience this Friday. Stay tuned!