Brighton High's Lady Bengals — the newly crowned 5A girls basketball champions — were honored Thursday. Feb. 26, 2015 at Utah's Capitol Hill.

They were invited to Capitol Hill by Utah Sen. Brian Shiozowa,R-Cottonwood Heights, and Rep. Marie Poulson, R-Cottonwood Heights. In addition, the students were congratuated on the win by Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, among others. 

The team and the school also received an official citation from the lawmakers. "The Utah State Legislature recognizes and congratulates the Brighton High School Lady Bengals Basketball Team on their outstanding achievement," reads the citation. "We honor those hardworking athletes and extend best wishes for their continued success." 

The state-title win on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 was the first for the Brighton High’s girls basketball program since 2004. The team won 49-40 against last year’s top 5A team, the Fremont Silverwolves. 

In conversations with reporters immediately following the championship game, Brighton Coach Jim Gresh joked that his navy-blue sweater may have been the team’s good luck charm during the 5A tournament held at Salt Lake Community College

"My wife said stop wearing that sweater. … She may have to wash it tonight," Gresh told the Deseret News

Perhaps the sweater helped a little bit — but the Bengals' defense and rebounding are being touted as the big reasons the team bested the reigning champs.  The final-round game was a battle from beginning to end — but the Bengals pulled away in the last quarter to claim the trophy.

Additional honors were announced this week for ome members of the Brighton squad. As voted by news reporters at the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, McCall Christensen was named the 5A Most Valuable Player and Dani Barton and Lindsey Johnson earned enough votes to be named to the All-Tournament Team.  In the championship game, Christensen, Barton and Johnson scored in double-digits.

See Canyons District's Facebook page for a photo album of the celebration following the title win.
After 31 years of coaching soccer at Alta High, winning 13 state championships and receiving a once-in-a-lifetime recognition as the National Federation of State High School Associations’ 2014 National Coach of the Year for boys soccer, Lee Mitchell’s heart is on the field. And it will likely stay there until it stops beating. 

“As long as I’m enjoying it, as long as Alta is happy with what I do — when those two things end then it’s probably time to hang it up,” says Mitchell, who officially retired last year, but still coaches the boys and girls soccer teams at Alta. “It’s something I’ll take a year at a time.”

Mitchell started coaching boys soccer at Alta as soon as the sport became sanctioned in 1983. When girls soccer was sanctioned in 1989, he took that team, too, and never looked back. He teaches his athletes to have fun on the field, to be united and strong, and to aim high.

“Our goal is always to win state,” Mitchell says. “I don’t know if there is any secret. We try to make sure the kids realize it is a team sport and for us to be successful we have to be united in what we do, and I’ll be doing the same thing, and we help each other work toward that common goal.”

His technique has worked so far. The boys’ squad has won the state trophy five times and the girls’ team has won the state championship a whopping eight times. Mitchell gives his athletes and assistant coaches the credit — but he’s receiving accolades with a national award.  He was recognized by the National Federation of State High School Associations as one of the top 10 boys soccer coaches in the country.

Mitchell was selected along with nine other coaches of boys’ sports to receive the prestigious recognition — something that surprised and shocked Mitchell.

After all of his years on the field, Mitchell says hard work and helpful assistant coaches are the secret to his success, but there is magic in the sport that can’t be summoned by good coaching alone. Mitchell credits soccer for having a life-changing effect on his students that sometimes can’t be achieved in any other way.

“I think sports is a great avenue for a lot of kids to achieve and get the things they want in life,” Mitchell says. “There have been kids that I don’t think would have made it through high school without sports, without soccer. I think sports is a very important part of our culture.”

Mile after grueling mile, the major reason Kandi Rasmussen pushes herself toward a personal best is never far from her mind: His name is Tyler Robinson — the Brighton High student whose courageous battle with cancer inspired the rock group Imagine Dragons to immortalize him with the song "It's Time."

Rasmussen, a Brighton hall monitor, is running the 2015 Boston Marathon, as well as a handful of other races, to honor Tyler’s memory — and raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Every penny of the money raised on her races, she says, will go directly to cancer research. “It’s so nice to have a reason to run,” says Rasmussen, who has worked in public schools for 28 years. “And I like to run with hope.” 

Rasmussen met Robinson in 2013, the year he died. Robinson, whose family has since started the Tyler Robinson Foundation to financially aid families whose children are being treated for cancer, was undergoing chemotherapy. “Tyler was a remarkable young man,” she said, glancing of a photo she keeps of him at the school. “He was one of those people who would be the first to give you a smile.”

Rasmussen, whose brother also died of cancer, is a proud, three-year member of the Huntsman Hometown Heroes, a group of running enthusiasts who parlay their races into fund-raisers for cancer research. In exchange for their donation-raising efforts, the institute guarantees spots in various races. Running is her way of giving back, she says. While she can’t treat patients as a physician, she says, “I am a runner.  So I can run — and I can make a difference.”

At the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon, at which she qualified to run in the April 20 Boston Marathon, she says she started to feel a little sluggish in the 23rd mile.  At that moment, she said, the first notes of Imagine Dragons’ "Radioactive" started to play in her headphones. “It was like Tyler was sending me his songs,” she says. To prepare for the upcoming races, she runs nearly every weekday, mostly for 5 to 6 miles, with much longer runs on the weekends. 

“I feel really proud to have gotten into Boston, and I’m excited to run it — but I am running for a purpose,” she said. “I like to think that I’m running with the angels.”

Click here to contribute to Rasmussen's races.
A recent shopping trip for Jordan Valley School's Transition Academy served as a step forward in the students' efforts to become productive participants in the community. The shopping excursion, sponsored by America First Credit Union, not only resulted in new footwear, but also assisted the students as they put into practice independent-living and financial-literacy skills.

Teacher Carrie Taylor said the 18- to 22-year-old students spend their days learning to transition to the next stage of their lives. To aid in that process, from Monday to Friday, the students, accompanied by teachers and aides, leave the well-known hallways of Jordan Valley, CSD’s school for students with severe disabilities, to go on planned adventures to various venues. Using public transportation, they make trips to libraries, museums, and grocery stores. They also work weekly in the Canyons Technical Education Center's greenhouse.

One the challenges has been that many of the CTA students didn’t have proper footwear for inclement-weather days, Taylor said. Either the students suffered cold feet during the activity, she said, or their shoes remained soggy after they returned to the school. The footwear problem was solved, though, when America First, one of Canyons District’s community partners, stepped up to sponsor a shopping trip.

“The weather is so unpredictable — you just never know what we’re going to run into,” Taylor said. “To have good shoes that we can keep at the school is going to be absolutely fantastic. This has been so exciting for the students.”

Robin Collett, CSD’s Director of Special Education called the learning activity, which resulted in hand-picked footwear for the students, “a complete success.”

At Target, students found the shoe department and were able to select for themselves a pair of boots or sturdy shoes. Flashing grins, they combed through the footwear, looking for their sizes and favorite colors. Once all the students had chosen a pair, they made their way to the front of the store to make their purchases.

Most of the CTA students had never before used a credit or debit card, however. With a little help from teachers and aides, each student was able to approach a cashier, present the item they sought to purchase, and complete the shopping transaction with the pre-paid Visa cards provided by AFCU.

“Thanks to America First Credit Union, the students didn’t just get the gift of a new pair of boots,” said Collett. “Through this experience they were given a chance to learn some vital financial literacy and independent-living skills. We can’t thank America First Credit Union enough for helping us to help our students in this way.”
The Canyons Board of Education is weighing a proposal to revise the elementary school schedule next school year to provide teachers with the tools they need to help ensure success for every student.

The proposal comes from an Elementary Schedule Task Force that included teachers from all 29 CSD schools. The Task Force met four times in December and January to gather information, problem-solve, and collaborate to develop a schedule that fully supports elementary school communities throughout the District and ensures our youngest students are on track to becoming college- and career-ready. The task force took input from their colleagues at each school as well.

The option recommended by the Task Force would free up teachers during the day for collaboration time, which helps teachers work together to ensure each student succeeds. It also would restore early-out Fridays. The proposal calls for trained specialists to provide curriculum-based instruction in such areas as physical education, arts and music while teachers meet to plan and collaborate. The option would cost an estimated $865,000. The proposal also provides each school with flexibility in how to best schedule collaboration time.

The Task Force presented proposals to the Board of Education in a special Jan. 28 public Study Session. There, the Task Force recommended the Board adopt the schedule contained in Option 2, which his supported by 87 percent of elementary teachers to best meet needs of students and teachers. The Board continued its discussions in its Feb. 3, 2015 Board Meeting. The Board will discuss the proposal in two more readings before taking action. The next scheduled discussion is Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in the 7:30 p.m. Business Meeting. The public is invited to attend.

The proposed schedule would refine efforts put in place this school year to improve education for students. The 2014-2015 elementary school schedule was adjusted as part of the 2014-2015 teachers contract approved by the Canyons Education Association and ratified by the Canyons Board of Education. The schedule eliminated early-out Fridays to improve teacher planning and instruction, but it had unintended consequences for parents and teachers. The Task Force’s recommendations aim to address issues that have arisen with the schedule.  

The proposed schedule and Task Force documents can be found on BoardDocs by clicking on the "Meetings" tab, then "2015," and the Jan. 28, 2015 Agenda.

Questions or comments on the Task Force's recommendation? E-mail your Board Member or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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