Lost Boys' education aided by trust funds

Deseret Morning News/January 15, 2008

One wants to be a doctor. Two want to go into business. Another wants to be a lawyer, and one wants to create video games.

These young men and young women exiled from the Fundamentalist LDS Church may be able to realize those dreams, thanks to a series of checks being cut by the court-appointed special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan Trust.

"The trust committed to paying $50,000 a year for education purposes to people in the community," Bruce Wisan said Monday.

The UEP Trust paid out $24,500 for a semester's worth of tuition for 16 kids. It's through a fund set up as part of a lawsuit settlement with the so-called "Lost Boys," a group of young men who were kicked out of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

"One of the plaintiffs said he didn't want to take all of the money for himself," said Shannon Price, the director of the Diversity Foundation, which helps the Lost Boys. "He wanted it for the benefit of everybody who was exiled."

In 2004, six young men sued the FLDS Church, then-leader Warren Jeffs and the UEP Trust, claiming their were kicked out of their community and separated from their families. The UEP Trust settled its part of the lawsuit last year, creating an education fund and designating property in the polygamous border town of Hildale.

Jeffs, 52, is serving prison time for rape as an accomplice. He was convicted last year of performing a child bride marriage.

Nonprofit groups and social service agencies have been trying to help what is estimated to be hundreds of teenagers who have either been kicked out or run away from the FLDS communities. Some left because of the community's strict religious codes. Others were ousted for committing some kind of "sin."

Out on the streets and on their own, some have turned to drugs and alcohol and gotten into trouble with the law. Recently, the HOPE Organization was able to persuade Washington County prosecutors to help Lost Boys who show up in court by striking plea deals that get the kids to complete their GEDs or go to Job Corps.

"These kids have almost a failure mentality if you're kicked out," Price said. "For these kids to really take a test and know they can succeed - I've seen their self-esteem rise immensely from being able to pass that GED test."

A 20-year-old man who was exiled from the FLDS communities three years ago received a check for college is grateful.

"Coming from a community where most of the people don't even have an eighth grade education, this opportunity is direly needed," the man, who asked not to be identified, said in an e-mail to the Deseret Morning News. "It's a wonderful freedom for us to get an education and become successful."

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