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Life & Work with Amanda Ree Hughes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Ree Hughes.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I grew up in a rural Utah town and am an alumna of Southern Utah University with a degree in Theatre and Special Education. I then went on to obtain my Masters of Fine Arts in Arts Administration and Management from the University of Alabama.

Over the years, I have worked in various aspects of administrative leadership before returning to Utah to find my second home at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake 11 years ago. Most recently, I served for two years as a consultant for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, serving Clubs across the Pacific and Southwest regions. Along with my position as the CEO, I am a Club parent, and the mission is very dear to my heart.

Our Clubs have been building their impact for over 50 years. In 1967, the first Boys Clubs in Utah were established in Murray and Sugarhouse as independent corporations. The two organizations were among the first in the country to include girl Club members. In 2015, a historic merger of the two Boys & Girls Club organizations resulted in one of Utah’s largest youth development agencies.

Last year, our seven locations in Salt Lake, Tooele, and Carbon Counties enrolled nearly 4,230 youth and teens and served 1,200 each day in after-school and summer programs.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented enormous challenges for our organization, but we didn’t slow down. Our team worked to safely reopen our Clubhouse doors with increased health and safety measures to continue providing critical services to kids and families.

In addition to operating as Child Care centers for essential workers and first responders, we held virtual activities for youth who could not attend the Club in person. Between March and June 2020, we provided 30,784 meals to combat food insecurity, connected with 842 youth through daily virtual activities and conducted 282 virtual academic programs to help kids stay on track in school.

However, our youths’ needs continue to rise as they return to school amidst another pandemic surge. They need advanced academic remediation, emotional support, and other services to exercise their resilience and overcome the challenges of this difficult time. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to provide this and will continue to adapt our services to meet their needs.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake. We have seven Club sites across Salt Lake, Carbon, and Tooele Counties. We serve thousands of youth each year. We provide quality afterschool programs in safe, fun, supportive environments under the direction of trained youth development professionals. We provide enrichment activities to help youth become their best selves and provide parents with career flexibility during afterschool hours because they know their kids are safe with us.

Our mission is to inspire and empower youth to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens Our Clubs provide youth with access to STEM, homework help and tutoring, summer learning loss prevention, engagement in the arts, physical activities, and much more. Our Youth Development Programs are conducted in safe and supportive environments, led by trusted adult mentors, inspire feelings of emotional safety, and advance success. These programs help youth leverage their potential to create opportunities that overcome cycles of inequity.

Additionally, access to affordable afterschool and summer programs provides parents and caregivers with career flexibility. By providing youth with career and educational mentorship, preventive health risk programming, and academic support, we contribute to significant community savings by preventing costly health care expenditures, public assistance programs, and criminal justice system involvement and incarceration.

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Growing up in a small town three hours away from the big city, the access to live theatre and other performances was extremely limited. However, my parents always tried to provide opportunities for me and my siblings to experience new things.

I remember being around 10 years old when we made the trip to Salt Lake City to see the Broadway touring production of the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” with Debbie Reynolds at the Capitol Theater. It was thrilling, with the lights, the music, the story… all set in the gorgeous and historic theatre in the heart of Salt Lake. During the standing ovation, I started to cry. I was so moved by the experience and I couldn’t describe it or understand why I was crying.

It was that moment that I fell in love with theatre which became a pivotal part of my journey into adulthood, college, and even in my current position. I realize that there are so many kids and teens who may not have the same opportunities to experience moments that shape their lives and their perspectives on the world. Through our work at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake, we strive to give our youth in Club those kinds of unique experiences so they can see a vision of what’s possible.

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Image Credit:
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake

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