Life Project documentary defies harsh stereotypes of foster care age-outs


“Life Project” a documentary film project by Barry Thornburg (former college videographer)

Life Project is an observational documentary project that follows a young man who has aged out of foster care and works to secure a stable future. It is directed and produced by Barry Thornburg—a former College of Nursing student videographer; he is now working on a masters degree in film at the University of North Texas.

Children and youth that enter the foster care system struggle with the effects of trauma stemming from the abuse, neglect, or abandonment they experienced at home, as well as the trauma of being separated from their families. They fail to thrive when they are not given the resources necessary to cope with the trauma they have experienced. Many people treat foster children as problem children, at fault for their behavior and/or circumstances. However, they rarely do anything to put themselves there and the trauma cultivated from their challenging circumstances often manifest themselves through medical and behavioral symptoms. Too often, adults who interact with these youth and children fail to develop healthy relationships with these youth and children because they don’t know how to handle these medical and behavioral challenges.

However, the adults who have the resources and education on trauma-informed care, are more equipped to develop long-lasting and healing relationships with this population. Most often, the distinguishing factor between foster youth who thrive and those that don’t is a dedicated, responsible adult who mentors the youth throughout his or her development.

Everyone needs guidance and support at the major crossroads of life. Youth who age out of foster care is no exception. This documentary is designed to show what kind of influence mentors can have on youth and young adults as they work to negotiate the decisions made at these crossroads.


Donovan recently turned 18 and aged out of the foster-care system.

Donovan, the film’s primary participant, is confronting many of these major decisions after recently aging out of the foster-care system and facing the responsibilities of adulthood. The audience will intimately observe the intricacies of these decisions and how adults from different parts of his life get involved, for better or for worse.

What makes this film unique is that it draws upon his personal perspective. In addition to observational footage of him (gathered by a film crew), he is also given a camera in which he can record things that he thinks should be included in the film and giving him an opportunity to explain his decisions in his own words. This behind-the-scenes perspective can empower those in a position to mentor with empathy and understanding when interacting with people in Donovan’s shoes.

Whether it is finances, health care, transportation, employment or education choices, Donovan does not have the luxury of a traditional family support structure to guide him every step of the way or catch him when he falls. Social workers, medical professionals, educators and volunteers all have exceptional opportunities to mentor and guide youth and young adults in situations like Donovan’s because of their frequent exposure to them. This documentary will show us how they work with Donovan and how he responds to each.

This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training, and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.

This project has the potential to change perspectives about foster care and especially those that age out. There needs to be greater understanding and education about this vulnerable population.


Barry Thornburg

Because of many substantial donations of equipment, man-hours, and other resources, Thornburg’s production and post-production costs are very low. He is raising $3,000 to cover the remaining portion of his production budget, including transportation expenses, media storage, and obtaining needed equipment.



Click here if you would like to contribute to this Kickstarter project or to watch an introduction to Thornburg’s documentary. 



A New Culture, a New Perspective

Each year, students in their junior year of the nursing program complete their public and global health clinical. Many travel to foreign countries, some stay in Utah Valley, but all get a feel for a new kind of culture and living situation.

This year, students traveled to Ghana, Ecuador, Taiwan, Finland, Czech Republic, and those staying in Utah had unique experiences working with refugees or individuals in at-risk situations. The 12 students involved with the at-risk program spent their time working with communities and people who have lifestyles that are more prone to complications. They went into schools, medical clinics, the Children’s Justice Center, mental health units, and the prison or jail. They administered to the needs of their patients by starting IVs, assisting with dressing changes, and performing all the clinical skills they have previously learned.

Events throughout the term included teaching kids at Heritage School about STDs, helping with fishing day and a dance festival at Dan Peterson School. Another highlight was the prison fireside, an anticipated event by all. To prepare, the students first researched and analyzed data to find out what some of the at-risk health issues are for these populations. They took that evidence to find out how they can facilitate change and learned that music, hope and religion had a huge impact. They used that information to create a special fireside with music and speakers that brought the spirit and touched lives. Testimonies were shared and strengthened through this event, and all look forward to it next year.


Peggy Anderson and Mike Thomas with the nursing students 


We teach them that we are all God’s children and we all need to be provided health care. The students just stepped up to the plate a provided it.” Peggy Anderson



Although many of the students did go through a bit of culture shock at the beginning, they came out with a new perspective and understanding for those they serve. They administered to their needs without judgment, and provided the best care they could.


Forward Thinking Contributions

Beth Luthy is headed to San Antonio Texas where today she will become a fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.  This prestigious award is given to those whose scholarly and forward thinking contributions have led to meaningful improvements to healthcare and the Nurse Practitioner role. Beth received a fellowship last summer with the American Academy of Nursing, and this year with the AANP. She has seen numerous developments during the two and a half years she has been working on the project. To qualify for this award, she focused on two areas: clinical practice and policy making. To show there has been a significant influence in those two areas, she conducted studies all over the state of Utah. As part of her work, she also created initiatives, was involved in massive media campaigns and appeared on television to share her findings. Beth has put in significant time and effort, and has shown her overall talent for forward thinking.

Last year, Beth and Lacy Eden were involved with House Bill 221 which centered around immunization education. They informed parents on the effects and benefits of immunization and encouraged all parents to have their children receive vaccinations for school. She was also appointed to the advisory committee on childhood vaccines and has been working with the committee for a year now.

Beth is not the first fellow to come from BYU. Kent Blad and Sabrina Jarvis have also received this fellowship, the highest in the nurse practitioner realm.  Sabrina was also one of two who sponsored Beth.

Beth has been a member of the association since 2005 and is humbled to receive this nomination. She said, “It’s cool to have people who mentored and taught me, when I was a student in this program, then turn around and nominate me. It was quite an honor.” 

She also received the Fellow of the American Academy of Nurses last October. 


Called to Serve in Korea

Her year consisted of living in the United States, South Korea, and Ghana. Debra Wing was blessed to take a year off working at BYU to spend that time blessing others in Korea. She and her husband were called to serve in South Korea as military relations missionaries. They were especially excited to serve in this calling because they are both retired military personnel.

She had all great things to say about her experience. Through this calling, she and her husband were able to work one on one with many members of the military in South Korea and help them come closer to Christ. They had a variety of assignments during their time there and were involved in implementing different programs to those on the military base. These included the resiliency program, which involved helping families deal with military separation and learning how to stay strong, healthy and active in the church. They worked on reactivating less active members and retaining those recently baptized. They were also involved with the substance abuse program to help those struggling with different addictions and the spouses of those struggling. Much of their time was spent working with these members of the military in a variety of ways. Their days were long but they wanted to spend as much time with the soldiers as they could. Debra and her husband wanted to be sure the soldiers knew they were not just there to teach and preach, but to be a friend. As often as they could, they would spend their lunchtimes at the base to sit and chat with them.

In addition to working with the military, Debra got to use her skills as a nurse to help the missionaries all over Korea. There were elders and sisters with cases of torn toenails, sprained knees, athletes foot, stomach issues, gastroenteritis, skin legions, eyes issues and more. She was the only experienced nurse in any of the Korean missions and so she had a large impact on many missionaries. She also worked at a medical clinic and the American Red Cross where she taught disaster preparedness, emergency evacuation, CPR and advanced first aid and other special programs. Debra and her husband did even more when helping in the community at a local orphanage.

Debra said she saw miracles every day. “It was such a wonderful experience to live the gospel and to be called as a special servant 24 hours a day. Our job was to set an example and work with these people to build their testimonies and strengthen their foundation in the gospel and their families. The spirit you have with you, there is nothing quite like it.”

Only a few weeks after she arrived home from her mission, she traveled to Ghana for the public and global health clinical. They had a great experience there and an excellent group of students to work with. She is grateful for the opportunity she had to serve as a full time missionary and to those who helped her in this journey.


kim helm

Welcoming Kim Helm to the BYU College of Nursing

We would like to welcome Kim Helm as the new dean’s executive assistant. Kim was born in Pleasant Grove, Utah and has lived there all of her life. She studied at Utah Valley University and graduated with a degree in hospitality management. Before BYU, she worked at an orthodontist office for 15 years and engineering office for the last 5 and a half years. Kim grew up close to BYU campus and enjoyed being a part of it by attending many events like education week and athletic games. She loves to do anything outdoors; camping, hiking, and all kinds of traveling. In 2013 she had the opportunity to travel to Europe and spent some time in Spain, Greece, and her favorite, Italy. She also loves Zion National Park.

Kim is an only child and grew up with her mother. Together, they cared for Kim’s great grandfather, great aunt and grandparents before they passed. By being able to care for these people for such a long time, she has a great appreciation for nursing and what nurses do for the people they care for. “They put their whole heart and soul into it and it amazes me what they do. The way the nurses took care of my family, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for them.” She is excited to be a part of the BYU College of Nursing and looks forward to future experiences.

We would like to thank Holly Skelton for her 30 years of service to the BYU College of Nursing; 25 of those years as the dean’s executive assistant.




A Sisterhood Scholarship and Africa

On April 30, 2016, Bethany Lambson, a recent BYU graduate in the College of Nursing spoke at the 81st annual convention of the Utah State Chapter Philanthropic Educational Organization Sisterhood. Lambson received the Ruth S. Clayton Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund, which provides need-based financial assistance for a woman to study nursing, with the goal of attaining a registered nurse degree.  This scholarship blessed Lambson’s life in a variety of ways but especially regarding her trip to Africa.

Well into her nursing program, Bethany was preparing to complete her clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course. However, her circumstance changed when her husband accepted an internship in Uganda. With him in May 2014 for a few months, Bethany petitioned the college of nursing and was granted an independent nursing internship in Africa with her husband.


While there, they lived in the office of Days for Girls and she traveled with her husband to different villages. There she taught menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health, as well as working in different hospitals. One location included a neonatal intensive care unit where she cared for over 60 newborns and new mothers.

At the convention she expressed her gratitude for the P.E.O, and the knowledge and experience she gained from her trip. The experience changed her life and with the assistance from the P.E.O. scholarship, she was truly able to “learn the Healer’s art”.


lab 3

Spring Term Simulation

It is perhaps the highlight of the course’s semester. The students enrolled in Nursing 180 spend a majority of their lectures learning about the history, issues and trends, and the nursing profession as a whole. But yesterday, the students took a field trip to the first floor of the SWKT where they got a look at the new Nursing Learning Center. With their stethoscope in hand, each aspiring nurse observed the patients’ pulse, blood pressure, and vitals. They checked the monitors and got a feel for just how the manikins work. NLC staff member, Kristen Whipple, later demonstrated how to inject a patient and the students listened intently. For most, it was their first hands-on experience with the manikins.

lab 1

Whipple explains the developments of the simulation lab to new students