To The Batcave, Robin!

james-brownby James Brown
Community Investment Advisor

For more than 30 years, Sorenson BioScience has specialized in making quality scientific research products used in scientific labs across the globe. More recently, however, they’re making a difference in our community — and in a big way, too!

This year’s campaign marked Sorenson’s first time participating and partnering with United Way of Salt Lake for its charitable giving. Though they may be rookies, ask any of Sorenson’s 220 employees, and they will be able to tell you what it means to LIVE UNITED. Chris Ek, an EHS and Lean Technician at Sorenson BioScience said, “We had a great time and the phrases ‘do it for the kids’ and ‘help someone in greater need than yourself’ were heard frequently and truly heartfelt by the group. We look forward to continuing our campaign throughout the year and have plans to promote future volunteer opportunities.”

To spice things up, Sorenson’s management team agreed to a challenge given them by Sorenson employees. The challenge was simple — the member of the management team who raised the most pledges in their name would have to dress up in a costume of the employee’s collective choice and wear that costume throughout the work day on Halloween — even if important meetings were on the docket. The lucky winners of that competition were none other than, Sorenson BioScience’s C.E.O West Price, and his trusty side-kick, Bill Brown.IMG_0529

A Batman and Robin themed costume seems very appropriate for this company. Even though employees aren’t out in the streets fighting crime in Salt Lake City, their support for United Way of Salt Lake, and their enthusiasm for the campaign, makes them superheroes in our book.

Thank you Sorenson BioScience for giving your employees the power to help change the odds! Thank you for being great examples of what it means to LIVE UNITED.

“Oh, The Places They’ll Go!” — College Application Week at Cottonwood and Kearns High Schools

megan-oSteve Whatcottby Megan Olsen, Cottonwood High Community School Director
and Steve Whatcott, Kearns High Community School Director

Had you entered Cottonwood or Kearns High School sometime between November 10 – 21, you would have found yourself visually overwhelmed with logos, banners, posters, pennants, and surrounded by faculty proudly donning t-shirts, jackets, and other apparel from schools like Dixie State University, Snow College, and UCLA. Walking toward the staircase in Kearns’ main hallway, your eyes would have been drawn to the words of Dr. Seuss plastered on each stair: “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

At Cottonwood and Kearns, college was in the air because both high schools were participating in a statewide initiative called “College Application Week,” led by the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and implemented by Granite School District. Realizing that many students come from homes where there is neither a tradition nor an expectation of going to college, leaders at USHE envisioned an event where students would receive step-by-step assistance through the college application process.

At Cottonwood and Kearns, seniors were brought to school computer labs, where they filled out applications with the help of counselors, teachers, and community volunteers. Between the two schools, more than 700 seniors applied to local colleges, and more than 1200 applications were submitted!!


As the cost of applying to most Utah schools ranges from $25-$50 and paying the fees can be prohibitive to many students. Generous community support enabled large numbers of high school seniors to apply. Many colleges and universities provide assistance for low-income students. In addition, generous donations from the Granite Education Foundation and United Way of Salt Lake assisted students who would not otherwise be able to apply.

The purpose of this event is not only to aid seniors in applying to college, but also to create a college-going culture for all students. Events leading up to College Application Week included parent education nights, school-wide college fairs, and student informational meetings. During the week, schools hosted special guests such as the Lt. Governor, the Commissioner of Higher Education, as well as scholarship directors and presidential ambassadors from the University of Utah. All of these speakers communicated to students that where there is a will, there is a way — and there are ample resources to assist them in paying for and succeeding in college, no matter what their current circumstance.

At Cottonwood and Kearns, College Application Week was a big success for the seniors who applied, as well as for juniors, sophomores, and freshmen who all heard the “I can go to college” message loud and clear!

At the conclusion of the event at Cottonwood, one student approached the counselor who led the project and said “I knew people who weren’t going to apply to college, and because of you, they changed their minds.” Her thoughts echo that of hundreds of other students who, having now submitted their applications, must take the baton and run with it.

Oh, where will they go from here?

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Dan Heath Inspires Promise Partners!

andrea-coxby Andrea Cox
Director of Destination Graduation

Last week, United Way of Salt Lake partners gathered to hear Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, Switch, discuss the components needed to effect large scale social change. Partners also heard updates about ongoing Collective Impact work and had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on topics such as Behavioral Health for Students and Families, Elementary Literacy, Kindergarten Readiness through Pre-School, and Closing Utah’s Skills Gap.

Dan Heath presented on several key ideas including: “rider vs. the elephant,” change is difficult but not impossible, and to expect to fail – but fail forward. He explains that when you’re contemplating change, the “elephant” is the passion and emotion that bring people to the table — it is the motivator to push through the “weeds” of the process. Likewise, the “rider” provides that process and direction. Both are necessary for change!

_MG_8181“It was a really great presentation for me because I’ve been trying to implement a lot of the strategies he discusses,” said Chris Ellis, United Way Director of Early Learning, “and I attempted to demonstrate that in my breakout session afterwards.”

“A lot of participants in my breakout session brought up Dan Heath in our discussion about Elementary Literacy, which was really cool to hear,” said Stephanie Rokich, Director of Elementary Learning.


During the “Closing the Skills Gap” breakout session, Karen Gunn from Salt Lake Community College, talked about how timely and useful the presentation with Dan Heath was, as members of her own staff have been implementing his suggested strategies for change over the past three years. The discussion turned to how the individuals in the room could work together to make sure all “opportunity youth,” ages 15-25 who are unemployed and/or not enrolled in some sort of certificate or degree program, could be identified and supported towards enrollment and job placement. This conversation is a vital piece to supporting the Governor’s 66% by 2020 goal and we look forward to continuing to shape the path in partnership with Salt Lake Community College and others.


The fourth breakout session on Behavioral Health for Students and Families brought professionals into the room to discuss family stability and how to “motivate the elephant” toward large scale access to vital resources. “The event was a nice springboard for this discussion and I’m excited moving forward,” said Caroline Moreno, Director of Health and Income.

We look forward to continuing to bring government agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and schools together to continue this important work and “motivate the elephant” to long-lasting, widespread change.

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Exciting News: Daniels Fund Announces $5 Million Investment in UWSL

jerilyn-stoweby Jerilyn Stowe
VP of Marketing and Communications

Today, United Way of Salt Lake held its annual Funders Summit event, where our community’s foremost philanthropists and leaders came together to talk about how Collective Impact work is changing the odds for kids and families in our community. This year, we were excited to share a big announcement!

Daniels Fund announced a $5 million investment in United Way of Salt Lake to bolster support and expansion of community schools and Collective Impact work. Kristin Todd, Senior Vice President of Daniels Fund, took a few moments to speak about why Daniels Fund believes in the work that UWSL is doing.

IMG_8226“The more we have learned about United Way of Salt Lake’s intentional Collective Impact work at community schools, we have been increasingly impressed with the meaningful work they are doing to truly change lives and communities. We are thrilled to be part of this incredible effort and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting even further engaged”.

IMG_8233-1This incredible investment from the Daniels Fund will have a major impact on the neighborhoods and schools where we work. Specifically, $5 million will help boost student outcomes by supporting academic programs and services at United Way of Salt Lake community schools and provide funding to expand programs and develop additional community schools.

IMG_8148We are grateful to Daniels Fund for its commitment to our community, for LIVING UNITED, and helping UWSL continue to do such important work in our neighborhoods and communities.



Following KeyBank’s Lead: 9 Ways Your Company Can Create a Successful UWSL Campaign!

temnickby Allison Temnick
Community Investment Advisor

When many employees think of United Way of Salt Lake, they think of t-shirts, chili cook-offs, and fun company events. It can be easy for the average employee to forget how much planning goes on behind the scenes of every successful campaign. To help companies be successful, United Way of Salt Lake has made a list of “best practices,” or steps that we have identified that result in great campaigns. This year, one company in particular – KeyBank – did an exceptional job of taking those suggestions and running with them. Here are just a few examples of how KeyBank incorporated “best practices” into this year’s campaign:

Jill Pam Comm Champion Award 1

  • Connect with your United Way of Salt Lake representative – KeyBank’s employee campaign manager, Pam Lechner, met with me more than a month before its campaign kicked-off. That gave us plenty of time to plan fun, engaging campaign activities for the employees.
  • Involve leadership – The District Manager of KeyBank, Jill Taylor, has been a United Way supporter for years. She spoke at the beginning of one of our employee kick-off presentations and shared why she is passionate about United Way of Salt Lake. A message from the top is always extremely helpful!
  • Recruit a planning committee – Pam identified a group of KeyBank employees who are passionate about LIVING UNITED so that they could help her with the planning process. This team shared ideas and resources in order to come up with creative campaign events, like the KeyBank employee carnival!
  • Schedule employee meetings – This year, United Way employees had the opportunity to present to nearly every KeyBank employee in the state. Managers from various locations made time for us to share stories about our work in the community and how we are changing the odds for kids and families.
  • Offer incentives – KeyBank leadership got on board with this idea, and offered to personally wash cars for the first two branches to get 100% participation in the United Way campaign. As you can imagine, those two branches filled out their pledge forms pretty quickly!
  • Encourage Neighborhood Center site visits – The KeyBank committee was invited to visit a United Way of Salt Lake Neighborhood Center, Central Park (the Police Athletic League Boxing Center in South Salt Lake). At this site visit, KeyBank employees got to meet some of the children, tour an incredible facility, and see the difference that we can make when we all LIVE UNITED!
  • Make a corporate contribution – Each year, KeyBank also gives a corporate gift to United Way of Salt Lake. Employees are motivated to give when they realize the company is “practicing what they preach” and setting a good example from a corporate level.
  • Have fun! In addition to everything else, the KeyBank committee planned and hosted a carnival for all KeyBank employees and their families. This fundraiser included a ring toss, face painting, and a cake walk – as well as food and other fun activities.
  • LIVE UNITED – In addition to all of these best practices, KeyBank has decided to involve United Way of Salt Lake in their annual spring volunteering event, Neighbors Make the Difference Day. Our volunteer team is already involved in the planning process for the May event. We can’t wait to see what the final result will be when over 100 KeyBank employees step out into the community to make a difference together!

Thank you, KeyBank, for being a great example of what it means to LIVE UNITED!

TvT and Keytoon Jill Elizabeth head to head Elizabeth and Jill and REFPhotos of KeyBank’s fun campaign events!

Harvard Business School Learns About Collective Impact from UWSL!

by Ann Lombard
Harvard Business School Research Associate

Professor Allen Grossman and I had the pleasure of visiting United Way of Salt Lake to observe Collective Impact in action. Our interest in this approach to community change stems from HBS’ U.S. Competitiveness Project, a multi-year, research-led effort to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States.

Leaders from all parts of our society agree that a high-functioning public education system is critical for providing the needed workers for America’s future competitiveness. The particular focus of the project that brought us to UWSL, is the role the business community can play to improve public education.

Our research led us to three ways that the business community can most effectively partner with education leaders to bring about deep and lasting change in public education:

  • Laying the policy foundations for education
  • Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
  • Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

As an approach to reinventing the local education ecosystem, we are particularly excited about the transformational potential of Collective Impact and visited Salt Lake City to learn more about the work going on there.

DSCN1586We were not disappointed! We saw the product of United Way of Salt Lake’s data-driven, aligned community Promise Partnerships. We learned how educators work with multiple stakeholders to identify student needs that fall outside of what a school traditionally provides, but that can impact students’ ability to learn – adequate dental and vision care, for example. We heard from multiple stakeholders about how these efforts are helping school leaders achieve their mission of improving outcomes for students.

While we can not capture in this short blog post all that we learned from our visit, we were most excited to observe, first-hand, Collective Impact work implemented so effectively. We left more confident than ever of Collective Impact’s potential for community change and deeply appreciated the essential role of United Way of Salt Lake as the backbone organization.

Thank you for your gracious hosting of our visit and for the work you are doing to change the lives of people in your community!


What Can a New Pair of Glasses Do?

by Jamie Ferdinand
Granite School District Head Nurse

United Way of Salt Lake works in community schools to align programs and resources so that kids and families have the tools they need to be successful. A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. This year, through UWSL’s Promise Partnerships, a vision clinic was held at several community schools, allowing students to both have their vision tested, as well as have their new glasses delivered to the school – which has never happened before.

PreschoolIn Roosevelt Elementary’s sixth grade classes, each student is expected to pass a math facts test. Students have an opportunity each week to take this test, and one student, Jonathan, had failed his test every week since the beginning of the school year.

Imagine taking the same test each week for two months and failing again and again! The day he received his reading glasses though, Jonathan passed – with a perfect score.

Jonathan had been struggling with his eye sight for a long time. But going through all of the steps to get glasses – from the doctor’s appointment, to finding the right glasses, to picking them up, to paying for them – are often insurmountable barriers to families whose parents work multiple jobs, don’t have vision insurance, or don’t have accessible transportation. There are kids walking around in all our Promise schools who simply cannot see.

Jonathan - Vision Clinic

Jonathan and his new glasses!

The academic repercussions of not being able to see in school are obvious. Over 20% of school-aged children in this country have problems seeing.[i] Low-income kids have it even harder: according to one study, “Title 1 students are two to three times more likely than non-Title 1 students to have undetected or untreated vision problems.”[ii] But, follow up medical eye care after a failed vision screening increases a student’s chances of succeeding in both math and English in school.[iii]

Schools have screened students for vision problems for a long time. But, until now, we didn’t have any place nearby to send those kids who needed glasses. This year, thanks to Promise Partner Utah Partners for Health’s (UPFH) new mobile vision clinic, we can get on-site vision appointments for the students who failed their screenings. Glasses are ordered and delivered directly to the schools for free, so there are no transportation, cost, or time barriers.

In Jonathan’s case, he was so excited to be able to go to the optometrist while at school that he skipped recess to go to the clinic. “Before I got my glasses,” he says, “I couldn’t see the board even though I sit close up. Now that I have them, I can see way better. When I didn’t have my glasses, I could never see things that my mom was showing me, but now I can see everything.  And things aren’t blurry anymore. I don’t have to go close up to the book to read it. The ground doesn’t go up and down anymore at recess either.”

Congratulations, Jonathan, and to all the other
Promise students who got glasses through UPFH’s mobile vision clinic!

[1] Ethan et al. (2010) “Implementing and Evaluating a School-Based Program to Improve Childhood Vision.” Journal of School Health, 80(7): 340-345. Basch, Charles (2011) “Vision and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth.” Journal of School Health, 81(10): 593-598. Zaba, Joel (2011) “Children’s Vision Care in the 21st Century and its Impact on Education, Literacy, Social Issues and the Workplace: A Call to Action. Journal of Behavioral

Optometry, 22(2): 22-39.

[1] Johnson, R.A.; Blair, R.; Zaba, J. (2000). “The Visual Screening of Title 1 Reading Students.”

Journal of Behavioral Ophthalmology, 4 (1): 3-6. Quoted in Glewwe, P, et al, The Impact of Providing Vision Screening and Free Eyeglasses on Academic Outcomes: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Title 1 Elementary Schools, September 2014.

[1] Barbot, O., et. Al., “Is Failed Vision Screening A Risk Factor for Poor Academic Achievement?”