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Sugar House Journal

Youthlinc provides international service opportunities for Utah teens

Jan 03, 2022 16h15 ● By Anagha Rao

Youthlinc is a nonprofit organization in Sugar House that aims to create lifelong humanitarians. (Photo courtesy Youthlinc)

Youthlinc is a nonprofit organization in Sugar House that creates lifelong humanitarians by empowering youth to lead a life filled with service to others. 

Youthlinc started in 1999 by Judy Zone. Zone was a high school teacher who saw that a lot of people really wanted to serve, so she set up the first service year trip to Kenya. Since 2002, they have been partnering with different service organizations and programs throughout Utah. 

Youthlinc’s signature program is the Youthlinc Service Year. The Service Year program is a nine-month program that provides high school and college students the opportunity to go on a two-week international humanitarian service trip. 

Currently, the Youthlinc program takes humanitarians to nine countries: Cambodia, Fiji, Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, Thailand and Vietnam. Trips range from $2,900-$4,000 depending on the site. “You are going there to serve. Ninety-five percent of our trip is active service, ” says Taylor Ostmark Beidler, the operations director for Youthlinc. Students spend the majority of their trip working hands-on to make the communities better and make a difference. 

“The transformation of kids as they go through the service year program is huge. Our program pushes people from wherever they are on their humanitarian journey,” Beidler said. 

One of the most meaningful parts of the trip is the culture. Youthlinc volunteers usually prepare a song, dance, or musical number that reflects our culture, and the visitor country will do the same. In this way, they get to connect with the local community and bridge the gap between the volunteers and their culture. 

Before their international capstone trip, humanitarians must complete 50 hours of service in their local community. Throughout the school year, students and mentors will work together to plan education, healthcare, and social well-being community projects. Throughout the year, students will have monthly meetings to plan service projects for their humanitarian trip. Depending on the needs of the country, students may learn how to sew so they can teach women, prepare English and STEM lessons, and even focus on preventing drug or alcohol use.  

In addition to serving the international community, Youthlinc also works to change lives in Utah. The Youthlinc Real Life is a peer mentoring program where high school and college volunteers from Utah provide homework help and run after-school activities for refugee and immigrant teens in Utah. Volunteers teach financial literacy, English language and communication, STEM and nutrition, and college and career readiness skills. 

“Volunteers will provide extra academic support to the struggling population and allow them to become better acquainted with the volunteers and form a community between the mentors and mentees,” said Beidler. 

In 2005, Youthlinc started their Young Humanitarian Award, Utah’s largest service-based scholarship for youth. One outstanding high school student and one outstanding college student will each receive a $5,000 college scholarship. One high school student and one college student will each receive a $3,000 college scholarship. 

“We want to empower the next generation of leaders and humanitarians to continue to lead a life of service and make a difference in the community,” Beidler said.

To participate in the Youthlinc Service Year, visit