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Davis Journal

Principal has touched the lives of many troubled youth

May 13, 2021 11:32AM ● By Becky Ginos

Principal Blake Daniels takes a turn during an archery class with his students at Renaissance Academy. Courtesy photo

KAYSVILLE—Blake Daniels has had an impact on hundreds of kids’ lives over the last 37 years. Whether as a teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor for troubled youth, his influence has changed the way education is delivered. Daniels is currently the principal of Renaissance Academy and will be retiring at the end of June.

“I was going to be a mental health counselor,” he said. “I got my teaching certificate but still wanted to be a counselor so I became a school counselor.”

Daniels started in the Tooele District in 1983 and moved to the Davis School District at Central Davis Jr. High in 1989 where he was a counselor, an Administrative Intern, then Assistant Principal.

“I saw a need so I started an after school program from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. for kids who needed additional help,” he said. “Then they would return to the day program after we built them up so they could survive during the day in bigger classes.”

Daniels was instrumental in developing a comprehensive guidance model of school counselors. “Then it moved to a substantiated program with multiple counselors in the junior highs and high schools,” he said. “Now there’s an average of three in junior highs and elementaries and four to five in the high schools.”

About 11 years ago, the district started using a program to help troubled youth, said Daniels. “It was research based. It started out with kids who had committed safe school violations in the district. Things like drugs, weapons, etc.”

He became director over all youth in care in the district. That included children in foster care or juveniles in custody. “We petitioned the district and state to create our own school and that’s how Renaissance Academy began. I oversee 150 kids throughout the school district as a mentor and educator to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. We bring them here for a semester then send them back to regular school.”

The kids participate in service learning, said Daniels. “They go serve at the Ogden soup kitchen and make baby blankets that we take to Primary Children’s and now Ogden Regional Hospital. They go present them – it’s a big deal for them. They also go to assisted living centers and play games with the seniors.”

It’s a way for them to get out of themselves and realize that other people have problems and needs too, he said. “It helps them break out of their habits that have caused them problems.”

Renaissance serves about 500 kids in any given year, said Daniels. “We give them the life skills they need then send them back to school. It’s not permanent. It’s fluid. They don’t have a choice they’re assigned here.”

The school has an archery program and a 3D printer and engraver. “It’s fun for the kids,” he said. “Archery helps them with mindfulness to focus on that instead of focus that (anger) outward. These kids do better with hands on things.”

During his career Daniels also coached football, girls basketball and girls softball. “I prefer to coach girls over boys,” he said. “They listen better and they don’t smell as bad.”

Daniels said he’s had kids come back and tell him what an impact he had on their life. “One of girls from the basketball team who is now in her 40s reached out and told me she’s gone through a nasty divorce. She said, ‘I thought, coach Daniels doesn’t think I’m trash.’ It’s the only thing that got her through. You don’t think you’ve made an impact but when you realize you got them through a hard time that’s what makes you get up in the morning.”

It’s been a good career, he said. “But after 37 years it’s time to let somebody else take over. I’ve been going to school for 56 years it’s time I graduated.”