Midway, Labor Day, and “Fair” Play

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The town of Midway, Utah, celebrated Swiss Days over Labor Day weekend this year. The girls at LEA joined in the festivities on Friday morning with a ride on the Heber Valley Historic Railroad’s Movie Train. The train, which is over 100 years old and has been featured in several movies and television shows, wound through scenic valleys and past beautiful lakes. At one point, the train was boarded by train robbers and at another, a cowgirl named “Crazy Ani” joined to serenade everyone. A spontaneous “Gangnam Style” dance party broke out in the isles with some of our girls and other passengers joining in. The conductor even allowed the girls to hook up their iPods to the train speakers so they could listen to their own music as we passed through the beautiful countryside.

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Though they enjoyed some freshly popped popcorn on the train, the girls finished the ride with a picnic at the station. The ride home was a chance to rest and get ready for the afternoon at the arcade, where the girls played for a few hours before heading home once more.

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Labor Day started with a special breakfast in pajamas of homemade buttermilk pancakes, fresh berries, scrambled eggs, bacon, and juice. After getting ready for the day, we headed out to see the Natural History Museum of Utah’s exhibit Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters and explore the rest of the vast museum.

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Later in the day, we headed up Millcreek Canyon to have a bonfire, cook tinfoil dinners, play guitars and cards, relax by the stream, sing, and chat. The weather was perfect and we capped off the evening by making s’mores.

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Recently, kind parents of a recent graduate donated a karaoke machine to the house. We spent some of our free time on Thursday enjoying that and playing Just Dance on the Wii. Friday, we enjoyed a visit to the Utah State Fair. (Check out a funny commercial for it featuring Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro here.)

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It’s been a busy summer at La Europa, and we are happy to be back in school. Look for more fun happenings in the future!

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Mountains, Musicians, Museums, Musicals, Movies, and More!

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Monday morning came early. The girls were out of school for the week, yet they were dressed and ready to hit the vans by 8 am. Their destination: Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Water bottles in hand, they made the steep, 1.5 mile climb rising in elevation over 1,000 feet to the mouth of the caves. They were met by a park ranger who gave them a guided tour of the caverns, pointing out geological features and answering questions. They saw all kinds of colors and formations, and even experienced a moment of total darkness when the ranger turned out the lights to show them what early explorers would have encountered. After winding through the different rooms in the caves, they exited and made the trip back down the mountain.

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That evening, after some group therapy and dinner, the girls headed out once more, this time to the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, an outdoor amphitheater in West Valley City. Asante African Performing Arts, a group made up of youths from Africa adopted into Utah homes, put on a fantastic concert with drumming and cultural dancing, tinged with elements of hip hop and jazz.

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Tuesday morning was special at LEA. We received a visit from Ryan Innes, a local musician recently returned from being on the fourth season of NBC’s television show, The Voice. The show, a singing competition similar to American Idol, takes contestants into a blind audition, where four musical celebrity judges have their backs to the singer. As the contestant sings, judges can choose to turn around, signifying that they would like to work with the competing artist. Some people never get a single chair to turn around. Some people get one or two. Ryan had a very exciting audition, available to watch here, where all four judges (Adam Levine from Maroon 5, Usher, Shakira, and Blake Shelton) turned around and fought over working with him. He spoke with the girls about his musical career, his experience of being on The Voice, and what has happened to his career since that time. He answered their questions and even performed several songs for them, both originals and cover tunes. It was an educational and entertaining morning.

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That evening, the girls started working on their entries for the third-annual LEA chalk art festival. They sketched out their ideas and started roughing them out using chalk pastilles and regular sidewalk chalk. Final judging took place on Thursday, after the girls had some more time to work on their pieces. Awards for categories such as best group piece, best individual piece, most therapeutic piece, best use use of space and most original idea were given that evening.

IMG_4672 Wednesday morning, we headed off campus again to The Leonardo, Utah’s museum for science, technology and art. They were hosting a traveling Australian exhibit titled 101 Inventions That Changed The World, featuring an incredible multi-screen production with surround sound and incredible graphics. We also toured other rooms in the museum with hands-on activities related to the exhibit and explored some of the other exhibits from green screen technology to digital painting to environmental projects and more.

That evening, the girls attended a production of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at Bountiful’s Centerpoint Legacy Theater. The next morning was a little more low-key, as the girls continued our chalk art festival, sat in the sunshine, and played music. That evening, we set up a fourteen-foot inflatable cinema screen outside with a projector, sound system, and movie theater popcorn machine. We rented the recently released movie, 42 – The Jackie Robinson Story, and waited for it to get dark. Sadly, sunset also brought a thunderstorm, so the girls moved inside and projected the movie on the wall instead. Due to the storm delay, they finished the movie in the morning.

We enjoyed a full week this past week, and look forward to a few more days off of school coming up in a few days.

July 3rd, 4th, and 5th at LEA

It was busy and fun at La Europa over this past holiday! Here are a few of the highlights:

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On the evening of Wednesday, July 3rd, our girls on levels four, five, and six were able to attend a concert at The Canyons ski resort. The concert featured the music of a local soul band, fronted by a member of La Europa’s staff. The remainder of the girls had a relaxing evening at the residence.

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On Thursday, July 4th, some girls went on an optional morning hike to Donut Falls, which is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. After a beautiful scenic adventure, the hiking girls joined the rest of the community for a matinee of Despicable Me 2, which had just opened. After enjoying a barbecue, we all headed over to Spring Mobile Ballpark to watch The Salt Lake Bees take on the Tacoma Raniers and watch the fireworks after the game.

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We started off Friday morning with a graduation of one of our wonderful girls. She was well-loved, so it was an emotional, yet happy time. Later in the day, the girls went to the pool and came back to get ready for our final activity that evening.

Our final activity was to attend the Hale Center Theater’s production of Ragtime on Friday night. The Emmy-winning musical tells the story of turn-of-the-century America through the eyes of several groups of people. It is infused with European, ethnic, gospel and ragtime influences, and includes historical figures like Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington and Emma Goldman. You can watch highlights of the performance here. The production was powerful, and the girls really enjoyed it.

A Red Carpet Rendezvous

Last week, some of the most glamourous, up-and-coming celebrities assembled in Salt Lake City, Utah for the second annual Europie Awards. Film makers, screen writers, post-production teams, actresses, directors, and producers converged on the Sugar Space Studio for the Arts, flanked by paparazzi and dressed to the nines.

Incredibly, these talented young women had taken three short films from inception to completion over the course of one week, relying solely on the resources they had available to them and their imaginations.

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They started the week with a visit from Damian Dayton, a film professional, who visited La Europa to instruct them in the art of creating a movie. Afterwards, they viewed some short film examples and were assigned to one of three film crews. Each crew was given instructions and a few perimeters, and then unleashed their creativity as they scripted, scheduled, and storyboarded their original ideas.

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Throughout the week, the girls’ group therapy focused on issues they encountered. With therapists’ guidance, they explored topics such as conflict resolution, group dynamics, and assertive communication, and then were were able to put skills into practice with their crews.
After they had finished filming and editing, the girls helped create decorations and made different types of artisan popcorn to be enjoyed at the film festival.
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On the day of the screening, the glamorous girls were chauffeured to Sugar Space in a classic car. After dodging the paparazzi, posing on the red carpet for pictures, and getting past a tough security guard, they were welcomed by the music of a fabulous live band,The Number Ones.
The MC welcomed the crowd, introduced the judges, and the lights dimmed. The films ranged from mockumentaries to horror films, each with a treatment theme. As the judges conferred, girls danced to the music of the band, chatted, and snacked on the refreshments.
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The films each received several awards, but in the end, Crew #3’s film, The Admit, took the coveted Europie for Best Overall Film. A few other girls received awards for their special contributions throughout the week, including peer-nominated awards for exemplarily leadership and teamwork. After more dancing, we wrapped up this year’s party.
We are proud of our celebrities and their accomplishments over the course of a week!

Spring Break at LEA

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Spring Break was a busy time for the girls who remained at La Europa. We got a little taste of history by watching Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln, at the theater and tested our bowling skills at Bonwood Bowl. The girls participated in groups and therapy as usual, and it was fun to have some low-key activities to unwind.

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One of the highlights of the break occurred when we were visited by four musicians who call themselves This is Your Band. The seasoned group has performed all over the nation and on television and radio, marketing themselves as a “karaoke band”. With over one thousand songs at their disposal, the men could play any song the girls selected. The words for each tune were then projected on a screen and the girls could follow along as they fronted the band.

That afternoon, we took the girls to the Utah Humane Society to socialize with the animals. They played with rodents, rabbits, dogs, and cats and easily bonded with them. It was fun to observe the girls being so nurturing and loving, and many of them wanted to stay longer.

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Our final morning of the break was a surprise to the girls. They knew that they were going to play a game and how to dress, but they weren’t sure what to expect. The director of the Wheeler Farm was kind enough to let us set up an Amazing Race on their property, and when the girls arrived, we split them into teams. We explained the rules for things such as the “fast forward pass”, “detours”, “road blocks”, “u-turns”, and other tasks they would need to complete as they located each clue and location along the route. They also learned about the prizes at stake (movie passes to use with their mentors and “Euros” to use at the LEA store). To start the race, each team received a logic puzzle to solve. Once they completed it successfully, they received their first clue. As they raced from location to location with staff, they worked to complete challenges, solve clues, and use strategies. It took about an hour and a half of running around, and the girls were tired and happy after completing the course. We were proud of all their efforts, and each team received prizes for participating, varying by their order of race completion. They took further advantage of the beautiful weather by playing outside with water balloons, bubbles, and more outdoor games later in the day.

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While we missed our girls who returned home for the break, we had a blast together on campus. We look forward to more fun later this month!

 

March Activity Highlights

March has been eventful at La Europa. We’ve welcomed some wonderful new girls, celebrated a graduation, and participated in several fun activities. Here are a few highlights:

Girl Rising: The girls celebrated International Women’s Day by attending a special screening of the documentary Girl Rising, described as an “innovative new feature film about the power of education to change a girl – and the world… The film spotlights unforgettable girls like Sokha, an orphan who rises from the dumps of Cambodia to become a star student and accomplished dancer; Suma, who composes music to help her endure forced servitude in Nepal and today crusades to free others; and Ruksana, an Indian ‘pavement-dweller’ whose father sacrifices his own basic needs for his daughter’s dreams.” Watching the movie opened a really our eyes and a positive dialogue. It had a powerful impact on the girls, who discussed each story and their own educational privileges on the return trip to LEA.

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Jump On It: Even though we’ve visited the large trampoline venue before, the girls always enjoy the chance to run, flip, bounce, and climb. We especially enjoyed having the expansive facility entirely to ourselves this time. Girls used the rope swings to fly from perches and land on the bouncy surfaces below. They flipped from trampoline to trampoline and got extra air to dunk balls into basketball hoops. Several girls scaled the climbing wall only to let go and fall into the cushioning pit of foam below. They slid down slides, climbed ropes, and did a lot of laughing. The time seemed to pass too quickly, but the exercise and the free reign were a lot of fun while they lasted.

 

Mummies of the World: Today marked our second visit to The Leonardo. The interactive museum brings together the best of science, art, and technology and often hosts fascinating exhibits. Currently, they are hosting the traveling Mummies of the World exhibit which started with the discovery of “an incredible collection of 20 human mummies and many precious artifacts… in a forgotten storage basement in a German museum….The mummies, which once belonged to artist Gabriel von Max (1840-1915), had never been researched and most had no documentation explaining who they were, where they were from or why they were collected…. Started in 2004, the German Mummy Project is the largest mummy research project in the world” (-excerpt from the exhibition’s learning guide). The exhibit contained artifacts, intentionally mummified humans and animals, and also naturally preserved mummies from Egypt, Asia, South America, and Europe. It presented scientific, historic, and cultural information in interactive, fascinating, and respectful displays. The girls enjoyed their visit and we all learned quite a bit in the process.