Founder and CEO RBT/CCW/SSW
Maria Soter has immersed herself in the world of Early Childhood for over 25 years, from the inception of Salt Lake City's first Preschool for Homeless children in 1998 to, more recently, the creation of the Coaching Model and program for Head Start. Maria has always had a passion to serve children and their families, especially where a need is unmet.
Her vision for The Sammy Center became a reality in 2018 when she heard the CEO of a local program speak on behalf of the Early Childhood mental health crisis that was on an uprising. She has made a commitment to herself, the community, and the children of Salt Lake City to give them an added level of support through The Sammy Center.
I care deeply about children, and our community. After graduating from the University of Utah in Family Consumer Studies with emphasis in Psychology and Child Development more than 20 years ago, I have had the opportunity to hold many roles that advocate on behalf of children and families.
However, nothing in my professional experience of serving children and their families would prepare me for the real-life trauma that my own family experienced. In 2006, my second child, Sammy was born, and later that same year, he passed away. His brief time on earth reshaped my life in ways that I could not imagine and only now, 15 years later, have I begun to understand. To be clear, Sammy’s life was a blessing for me and all who knew him. I remain eternally grateful for the time that he spent in my arms. The loss of our son was a great trauma for me, my husband, our only daughter at that time, Theadora and for all of our loved ones.
Trauma and hardship affects us all. Processing adverse experiences is different for everyone, in particular for children. Children who experience stressful situations are equipped with few resources in their young tool-box. They will carry their grief with them from their early childhood into their elementary, adolescent, and adulthood experiences.
Social and emotional needs, along with mental and physical needs require additional classroom accommodations and support. In cases where the social and emotional need is unaddressed, the results are predictable; adverse behaviors, impeded learning, and unsatisfying school experiences and relationships. Research on this topic is vast. However, it is through my professional career, and my lived experience that I have learned, more can-be-done to support our youngest family members with their social and emotional well-being.
The answer is that we, as parents, adults, and educators must see, soothe and create safety for every child.
Therefore, it is with the strong memory of my infant son, a love for all children, and the joy in knowing that there is so much more that we can do together to help, that I founded The Sammy Center.
Tracy has been in the childcare field for over thirty years. As an owner, operating her own family child care business for over sixteen years, and a Head Start and private school teacher for roughly eleven years.
Tracy has a deep passion for the Early Childhood Field and is a strong advocate for children. Her vision is to always take children on adventures where they can investigate new ideas and form their own thoughts and ideas through hands-on and open-ended learning experiences. She believes every child is unique and learns at their own individual time, and everyone deserves to learn through their own learning style, with family as an essential part of learning. Together, we will create opportunities to create a win so that the child and family will achieve their goals and dreams. Tracy is a mother of four adult children and six grandchildren.
Alicia discovered her passion for working with young children 10 years ago. Her dedication and commitment shine through with each conversation she has with preschool-age children and only continue to grow. With her initial education and training beginning with toddlers, she has found a deep commitment to working with preschool-age children and helping them find support with social-emotional skills and life-long success.
Taylor has had a natural affinity for child care and education from a young age. From being a private nanny working with kids of all ages and varying needs and abilities to working in childcare facilities and now The Sammy Center. Her passion for speaking for young children who cannot advocate for themselves seeps into the woodwork of who she is at the core. She is in the process of getting her CDA and plans to continue her education post-graduation in child psychology and education. Her eagerness to help little minds heal from trauma and change our world is very apparent. Taylor's optimistic outlook and love for all things healing and children is a great addition to The Sammy Center.
Teacher Taylor has moved on to become an amazing parent to her first child and baby girl. She will be missed by all. Her imprint on the creation of The Sammy Center will live on for ever and never be forgotten ... We will miss her greatly!!! (2023)
Noelle is a student from the University of Utah studying child psychology and infant and early childhood mental health. They have always been drawn to working with infants and young children and felt they have been able to heal their own inner child through this work. They started at The Sammy Center as an intern and fell in love with the kids, the staff, and the mission of the school.
Gena's event career began while living in Costa Rica, running the annual gala for a non-profit school called the NatureKids Foundation.
In 2013, she moved back to Utah and spent five years with Cactus and Tropicals, working in floral design and large-scale events like Saviour the Summit, Sundance Film Festival, and Artist at the Table. In 2018, she relocated to London, where she graduated from The Event Academy of London, earning honorary recognition for creativity in large-scale events.
I have been passionate about children for as long as I can remember. I joined the Early childhood profession about 50 years ago and have had the pleasure of working with children as a classroom teacher and program administrator over the years. Most recently, I have been working as a teacher educator, mentor, and Child Care Advocate. I am so excited to work with the Sammy Center in helping the Center reach its goals.
I began my career in social work, facilitating parenting classes for at-risk communities in the greater Salt Lake and Park City area. Research has shown that strong parent-child bonding is one of the most important protective factors for decreasing delinquency, substance abuse, child abuse, and negative peer influences on children. Protective factors work to increase safety and emotional well-being, build strong family relationships, and promote healthy social connections. I have been facilitating and teaching positive parenting practices for over 25 years. I am passionate about relationships, especially those between parents and children. One of the best ways to build resiliency in both yourself and your child(ren) is to focus on the 4 Pillars of Wellness, which include Health, Home, Community, and Purpose. I'm looking forward to sharing ways to decrease stress, identify emotions, make healthy connections with your child(ren), and build strong families. My wellness classes will explore these pillars and provide you with knowledge, new skills, home practice exercises, and time to talk with other parents about their experiences with parenting and self-care.
Attorney for D.A.'s office, Juvenile Branch
Blithe Craven's professional career and experience are what drew her to become involved in The Sammy Center and serve on the board. Blithe's background in Criminal Justice dates back to 1998. Since 2018, she has worked for the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office as Senior Deputy District Attorney and supervisor of the Family and Sexual Violence Unit.
She once shared that if she could just keep one child out of the system, she would feel like she had done a good thing. Difficult as it is to have the knowledge and experience of what Blithe sees day-to-day, her commitment to making a difference and serving our community is a gift.
Nature Area Project Manager "Volunteer"
Paul has worked as an educator over the last 10 years. He has had a variety of roles educating young children, including EcoGarden Steward at TreeUtah, a Ski Instructor at Deer Valley, and over 7 years teaching and coaching preschoolers at Head Start. He now coaches' programs across the state to become high-quality preschool programs in his current position at The Children's Center. He has a passion for nature education, realizing the exponential impacts nature has on a young.
Mon - Thu: 8:30 AM - 2:30 PM | Fri: 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Sat & Sun: Closed