Lila Bjorklund helped start the Utah Girls' Village in 1969 to provide a home for abused and troubled girls. The success of the program and the increasing number of troubled youth led Ms. Bjorklund to include boys in 1989, and the name was changed to the Utah Youth Village. Funded by grants and donations, Utah Youth Village currently shelters and teaches more than 300 children a year in four Group Homes and 40 Therapeutic Family Homes located throughout Utah. The children range from three to 18 years old.
Until her recent decline in health, Ms. Bjorklund spent 40 to 50 hours per week, without compensation, working at Utah Youth Village to change the lives of troubled children. Over this time, thousands of children have been served by Utah Youth Village. Ms. Bjorklund and the Village have taught them simple, yet profound, life skills. Because of their experience at the Village, fewer of the graduates have committed crimes, become addicted to drugs, or abused others as they had been abused.
An average of 86% of the children Utah Youth Village serves finish the program and graduate from high school, compared to the norm of 37% in other programs. Those graduating receive a scholarship for college.
Ms. Bjorklund helped introduce the Teaching Family Model, the treatment philosophy used by the Village in all levels of service. The Village is the only organization in Utah certified to use the Teaching Family Model. She was also instrumental in the Village's expansion to serve younger children in Treatment Family homes (foster homes) and troubled families through Families First—an in-home intervention aimed at improving parenting skills.
Beyond the Utah Youth Village, Ms. Bjorklund has been deeply involved in her local and State PTA and has served on numerous community advisory committees. Even now in her wheelchair, Ms. Bjorklund still volunteers and attends each graduation from the Village, giving each child a handmade quilt.