25 Years at Lincoln Elementary – Renate Brunsvik Changes The Odds!

Amanda Matthewsby Amanda Matthews
Lincoln Elementary United Way Community School Director

Approximately 55 percent of students at Lincoln Elementary in South Salt Lake are English Language Learners (ELLs). Renate Brunsvik, Lincoln’s ELL Instructor, is a vital part of the Lincoln community. I sat down with Renate to get her perspective on our students and the work that is happening to support them.

Lincoln Elm ELL Instructor, Renate Brunsvik (left) and ELL Paraprofessional, Pare Kaderi (right)

Lincoln Elm ELL Instructor, Renate Brunsvik (left) and ELL Paraprofessional, Pare Kaderi (right)

  1. How long have you been at Lincoln?
    1. 25 years
  1. What do you love most about working here?
    1. The students and their diversity and their backgrounds.
  1. Tell me about the students here at Lincoln.
    1. The students I work with come from all over the world and speak almost 30 different languages. Their parents want to be supportive but usually don’t speak English. However, we love what they add to the school and bring such cultural diversity. Families are quick to come in and help their kids in math. The students that I work with are usually very eager to learn and want so much to fit in. I see them becoming Americanized, they love soccer and pizza. One thing I have noticed is that it takes a while for students to integrate and they often hang out with students from their same culture. One thing I would wish for them is that it was easier for them to feel like a complete part of the school. But that just takes time as they learn English.
    2. I love hearing the parents and children talk about what they miss about their home countries. Our Arabic families talk about palm trees, and wonderful fruits, the Burmese talk about the greenness of the jungle, their gardens, and the fishing, which they still love to do here. The Nepali Families talk about holidays and special foods, however, many Nepali families only remember being in refugee camps. Many parents were well educated back home, however, here they work as sweepers or cooks. They are looking at America as a way for their children to succeed educationally as they had before they came here. We notice that parents all value education because they made sure that even in the refugee camps there were schools set up.
    3. Also, I just love the colorful clothes, the food, the different holidays and celebrations.
  1. We recently had training as a school around supporting ELL students through co-teaching in the classroom. What was your biggest take away?
    1. ELL students need access to grade-level academic material for all subjects, and I’m hoping that as we keep them in the classroom more, we will see them grow. They understand science and math, they just don’t understand the English that goes along with it.
  1. If you could ask our community to help support our students, what would you like to see?
    1. Read with them every night and help them with homework. It’s wonderful when families new to this country have one friend that comes over and supports them in understanding American culture and the education system. I would also like to see all our refugee parents be able to get jobs.
Lincoln Elem students with backpacks from Stuff the Bus

Lincoln Elem students with backpacks from Stuff the Bus

The Case for VTO!

alison-cundiffby Alison Cundiff
Corporate Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

What is VTO?

VTO stands for “Volunteer Time Off” and refers to companies that provide a certain number of hours each year for employees to volunteer, outside of company sponsored days of service. According to the 2014 CECP report, 60 percent of 261 of the world’s largest companies offer VTO as a benefit to their employees. Doing this can be an excellent way to attract and retain excellent talent, as well as have positive social impact on the community.

PEGUS ResearchAttract: This year marks the first year in which the Millennial Generation becomes the majority of the US workforce, according to the PEW Research Center. Offering VTO to your employees can distinguish your company from others and help you recruit engaged, ambitious, and committed people. Having a flexible and generous VTO policy is a good way to attract millennials, who are more likely to expect their companies to provide this benefit and twice more likely to recommend their company to a friend as a result.

Retain: Once you’ve got the best employees, a VTO policy is a great way to help you keep them. Reports show that giving your employees opportunities as part of their jobs to volunteer builds loyalty to your company, making them proud to work for a place with such a strong community mindset.

Social Impact: Corporations play a critical role for the nonprofit sector in the areas of volunteering and giving. Companies have resources that nonprofits do not. Companies that offer VTO have a greater proportion of their employees volunteering in the community than those who do not. Providing VTO allows employees to become invested in a program that needs volunteers on an ongoing basis rather than just one-time, drop-in events. These are often tutoring or mentoring programs which have the greatest potential for large-scale, long-term community change. An added bonus is that these companies are viewed as a strong force for good in their own communities.

VTO Best Practices:

  • Create a plan that outlines the vision and ideal impact of your program
  • Design a program around employee’s skills, corporate assets, and your company’s core competencies. Consider going above and beyond the norm (8 hours a year) and offer 4-8 hours a month
  • Secure support from the top down to ensure maximum buy in
  • Cultivate long-term community partnerships with high-quality organizations that can help you achieve your vision
  • Integrate volunteering in to employee recruitment, orientation, supporting materials, and team-building and social activities at work
  • Collect data to measure impact
  • Communicate with employees to report on and share experiences of impact

savage blog pic 2To find out more about how United Way of Salt Lake can help establish or strengthen your employee volunteer program, visit our website at http://www.uw.org/volunteer/ or contact Alison Cundiff at alison@uw.org.

Sources: http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/volunteeringiscsr/2013/11/26/the-why-behind-employee-volunteer-time-off/




Data, Screening, and Outreach – How the ELN is Working to Better Help Kids!

chris-ellisby Chris Ellis
Partnership Director, Early Learning Outcomes

The Early Learning Network (ELN) is focused on two outcomes for all children in our community: 1) increasing the number of children who are demonstrating age-appropriate development, and 2) entering kindergarten ready to learn.

This group has developed, scaled, and aligned numerous strategies that have supported these main objectives. One issue, however, that has impeded the group’s ability to increase age-appropriate development rates in Utah, is the lack of baseline data that is representative of a given area. The group has implemented known interventions that have proven results, but has yearned to know about the impact of these strategies. In the past, it had been difficult to collect and store data from developmental screeners, so that the group can have access to this important information. Recently, however, through the group’s Collective Impact work and a partnership with the Department of Health, we have been able to collect and better understand the data from a specific developmental screener, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). With this data, the group is developing a strategy to more effectively address the needs of screened children and increase the number of children who receive the screener.

PreK-MG_4893-150dpiSo, what is the ASQ? The ASQ is a developmental and social-emotional screener that monitors a child’s growth in five domains. This screener emphasizes the parent-child connection and relies on a parent’s knowledge of their child’s development. The ELN will use the data from the ASQ to better understand the development of children in the five domains in our communities, and develop and tailor strategies to support the needs indicated by the scores. The group will also conduct outreach to providers and pediatricians who are not currently screening children to share with them the importance of tracking a child’s growth through these screeners.

To further this work, the group is developing a community assessment to share with providers, pediatricians, and other organizations who work directly with young children. The intent of this assessment is to gain knowledge about the current processes behind ASQ administration, learn how providers are connecting children to services based on their scores, and increase the number of organizations that are screening children with the ASQ.

PreschoolThis is exciting progress for the ELN and it would not be possible without the vital Collective Impact partnerships that drive our shared work. Thank you to all of the partners who have, and will contribute to this project, that will ultimately allow us to better serve all children in our community.

Joining the United Way of Salt Lake Team!

asiaby Asia Rikard
Community Investment Advisor

It has been five weeks since I joined the United Way of Salt Lake team as a Community Investment Advisor. I’d like to introduce myself and share with you what drew me to the great work United Way of Salt Lake is doing in our community.

I grew up in a small rural town in Oregon where advanced and equal educational opportunities were not often accessible due to location and resources. Through my schooling, I was fortunate enough to have positive mentors, both inside the classroom and in the community, that encouraged me to pursue further education and identify my potential. In college I began to recognize the influence those mentors had on my progression and wanted to find a way to contribute to the same development for others.

Here is a fun photo of me from my college graduation!

Here is a fun photo of me from my college graduation!

Why do I love working for United of Salt Lake? I am passionate about creating lasting changes and developing opportunities for all to improve. United Way of Salt Lake fulfills that desire 100% by making a promise to change the odds for children and their families and giving them the chance to succeed in school and in life.

It is a privilege to be a part of an organization that is bringing so many people and partners together to accomplish this goal. As I was once a receipt of similar efforts, I now am able to spread that message and invite others to invest in lives, in our community and invest in change.

Get involved and mentor or tutor someone in your community.

Get involved and mentor or tutor someone in your community.

Day of Action Provides 1,200 Books for Refugee Family Night!

Lindsey Edwardsby Lindsey Edwards

On June 20 United Way of Salt Lake hosted a Day of Action event where more than 170 volunteers of all ages spent the morning assembling literacy kits, sorting books, and enjoying literacy-related activities. refugee

Volunteers donated and sorted more than 1,200 books. All of the books were then donated to refugee families at the Refugee Family Night held at Woodrow Wilson Elementary Community School, just recently on August 12.

Woodrow Wilson

Day of Action was a fun morning of service which provided books to families who need them. The kids were so excited during the Refugee Night event to pick out new books to take home. It was a great opportunity to combine volunteerism with meeting the needs of the refugee community.

Thank you, volunteers, for LIVING UNITED!


On Being a Fundraiser

Megan Richardsby Megan Richards
Community Investment Advisor

When people ask me what I do, the easiest answer is “I’m a fundraiser.”

This elicits varied responses with one of the most common being “good for you — but I could never do that.” When people try to envision themselves as fundraisers they simply think of how uncomfortable they feel asking colleagues for money, but I want to expand that view.

As a fundraiser, I get to see the best side of people. I get to see when people are generous, caring, and concerned — not only about those close to them but also our community at large. And this is not uncommon in my work. According to the 2014 World Giving Index, a comprehensive study of Gallup polls conducted each year by the Charities Aid Foundation, the United States ranks in the top ten nations in the world for citizens donating money, and we are first in the world of donations, volunteering, and helping a stranger are considered in unison (1). And I get to be a fundraiser here!
If people are going to give, then I as a fundraiser want to make sure their money is going to make a measurable difference. At United Way of Salt Lake we take our promise to change the odds for children and families very seriously. Every day we work with local schools, business, governments, and other nonprofits to align resources and bring services to where they are needed most. Best of all, we are seeing results and sharing them with those who donated to make change possible (2).

Parsons volunteer 1
So the next time your boss or your employees ask you to run a United Way charitable giving campaign and you feel a moment of panic thinking of asking your colleagues for donations, step back and remember this: we are a charitable nation. People – our friends, family, and colleagues – want to give and want to make a difference in their community!

Let’s open pathways for them to be part of something bigger and to make meaningful change. Let’s make it possible for everyone to LIVE UNITED.

Savage LIVE UNITED Volunteers

ˡ Charities Aid Foundation. (2014). World Giving Index 2014. Retrieved from https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/publications/2014-publications/world-giving-index-2014.
2 Promise Partnership Regional Council (2015). The promise of partnership: Aligning action for results. Retrieved from http://www.uw.org/our-work/reports-pdfs/2014-promise-partnership-brochure-vfmr.pdf

Utah Business Week and UWSL Teach High School Students to Give Back

stephanie-rokichby Stephanie Rokich
Community Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

Each summer, more than 100 high school students, mostly incoming juniors and seniors, head up to Logan for Utah Business Week (UBW). UBW is run by the Foundation for Private Enterprise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing Utah’s high school students for the business world.

According to UBW’s website: UBW is a week-long program held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Students learn from top business professionals about the key aspects of business. They compete against other teams in a business simulation, create a product, radio commercial and logo. UBW isn’t all about business however. There are dances, live entertainment, games, skits and much more.


This year, United Way of Salt Lake joined UBW to teach students about giving back. About 130 students learned about nonprofits, ways to give back to their communities now and in their careers, and the work that UWSL does to help every student succeed. They also did an exercise to brainstorm a cause they care about, a plan of action to work on that cause, and a timeline to execute their plan.

After the presentation, the students joined UWSL’s annual Stuff the Bus program by packing 1,000 backpacks full of new school supplies for Granger Elementary students. Granger Elementary is a UWSL Community School with 80 percent of students living in poverty. By providing each student with a new backpack and school supplies, they with arrive at school this year with the tools they need to be successful.

IMG_20150807_103751_816 (1)

Thank you Utah Business Week, and Peggy Larsen from Workers Compensation Fund, for LIVING UNITED! 

If you would like to participate in Stuff the Bus, we need volunteers to count and sort school supplies for 8,000 students August 31 – September 4. Please contact Stephanie at volunteercenter@uw.org or 801-746-2566.