Making a Promise to Refugee Youth!

by Kevin Niepraschk
Guest Blogger, Promise Refugee Youth Partnership

The education of our children is important. They need support, they need guidance, and they need to know we want them to be the best they can and that they can achieve anything. This can be difficult sometimes, especially when there is a language barrier. In Salt Lake City, we have a strong refugee community, and many of them have never had the opportunity to learn English before coming to America. They are starting their lives over, trying to find a new beginning, which means they need support. We support the families with case management, the parents with job training and English classes, and the children with afterschool programs. But is there more we can do? Absolutely!! There is always more we can do, and so a coalition was born.

“The Promise Refugee Youth partnership is a non-traditional approach to aligning strategies to directly improve academic outcomes for refugee youth and young adults.”

We decided to start a pilot program and the Granite School District helped guide us to Granite Park Junior High. A group of newly arrived refugees, 7th and 8th graders, from five different countries speaking six different languages, were chosen to join this program. This program offers weekly class time together as a group, sharing their struggles in a new country, learning a new language, and lending support both academically and emotionally. The youth are given opportunities to improve their English, play games, and have lessons which help them to assimilate and grow in their new life living in America, while at the same time, holding on to their culture and personal identity. They go on field trips exploring their new home and the opportunities that exist here. The parents meet once a month to talk with one another and to learn of what exists here for them and their families, as well show them support for their children in their education.

PRY Photo (2)Learning a new system can be difficult, and we want our families to have faith in the school system their children are a part of. This, in part, comes through understanding how it works and knowing what is expected of the children and the parents. The kids also take part in an afterschool program with tutors to help them through their studies. In addition to those, each child is matched with a mentor that is involved with them and their parents.

The youth have gone on two field trips so far, one to Goldman Sachs and the other to SpyHop. At Goldman Sachs, the kids learned that no matter your background, you can reach any goal you set. It doesn’t matter where you start, you can still get there. At SpyHop they had the opportunity to work with cameras and computers to create videos/movies and their own music, which describes who they are and where they come from.

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The aim is to ensure our youth have the best chance at success. Our kids all grow and progress at different rates. We want to be there to support and guide them through any challenge that they may come across! We truly can change the odds for these amazing refugee kids and their families!

United Way of Salt Lake Employees Win Again!

stacey-earleby Stacey Earle
Operations Director

If you haven’t picked up Utah Business Magazine’s recent publication, then you might not know that United Way of Salt Lake was recognized as one of Utah Business Magazine’s 2014 Best Companies to Work For.

SECOND YEAR IN A ROW!!

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To say we’re simply excited about this second win would be an understatement. When reading employee comments such as “Every time I am asked where I work, I think with pride of the work we do, and how excited I am to be working at this organization.” We are overwhelmed with joy. Why? It’s one thing to have personal reflections on the work place and how great you think it is, but another to hear it from the staff. The management team strives hard to make UWSL a satisfying place to work, but knows it would not be what it is without our incredible team of employees.

It’s a three step process to be considered for Best Companies to Work For award. First, management completes a survey answering questions about our benefits, compensation, management, organizational culture, employee opportunities, and more. Second, employees complete an anonymous survey answering similar questions to see how our answers measured up. Is our benefit package truly robust? Do we pay fair wages? How do the employees feel about the company culture? The surveys were then scored on a point system by Utah Business Magazine, and the highest-ranking organizations were awarded. United Way of Salt Lake was the only nonprofit awarded among the thirty-five companies recognized!

As UWSL continues to grow and change the odds for children and families, we couldn’t be more confident in our dedicated staff. It’s an honor to share this award with our team because every single person makes United Way of Salt Lake an incredible place to work. Winning the Best Companies to Work For award was truly a fantastic way to wrap-up another remarkable year.

Check out this year’s video!

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Community Schools: A New Way to Tackle Old Problems

Emilia Comaiby Emilia Comai
Community and Advocacy Engagement Coordinator

Last week, United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL) and a few brave partners presented before members of the state legislature at the Education Task Force Committee meeting. UWSL’s Senior Vice President of Collective Impact and Public Policy, Bill Crim, was joined by Granger Elementary School Principal, Amber Clayton, Senior Vice President of Savage Services Corp, Nathan Savage, and Superintendent of Granite School District, Martin Bates. This team of Collective Impact champions presented United Way of Salt Lake’s Community School model — a new way to tackle old problems in education.

Community Schools are like using a smartphone versus a rotary phone. Like a rotary phone, a conventional school does one thing very well: educate kids. However, kids come to school with many challenges that need to be addressed. We are seeing many schools and communities struggling to address these needs. A Community School is like a smartphone, it not only educates, but offers other services (apps) that all work together and share data to support the student and community. This shared effort is referred to as “Collective Impact”.

Our Community Schools are supported not only by partners, but by the business community, other nonprofits, teachers, principals, parents, students, and government, in order to provide every student a chance to succeed. Amber Clayton stated that at Granger Elementary, being a Community School is “changing outcomes for kids by creating support systems for them.”

Granger-63Nathan Savage said, “No single individual or organization can solve complex issues by alone. At the end of the day, you have to think about the kids. What can we do to get these kids to succeed?” His organization invests both money and volunteer time to help at-risk kids graduate from high school. This is one example of the collaborative support that kids receive from the community because they attend a Community School.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser believes that “the focus is not on the school but on the students’ outcomes and making a difference for that student, because every student can learn and progress.” This, in fact, is the cornerstone of the success of a Community School. The focus is always on the student’s needs and academic progress.

DSC_0663If you can join us to GIVE, ADVOCATE, or VOLUNTEER at a community school, join us today! To learn more about Community Schools, read this recent Deseret News article.

Get involved by filling out your information on this page. We need you to become a Community School Champion!

Want to know more? Watch the video below!

Community Schools Video

Afterschool Programming Bridging the Gap at South Kearns Elementary

nate-salazarby Nate Salazar
South Kearns Elementary School Director

South Kearns Elementary is the newest Community School in the Promise Kearns pipeline. Since becoming a Promise Community School, South Kearns Elementary has added numerous strategic supports geared towards helping students gain proficiency in literacy, a major priority for South Kearns. One strategy that was discussed to help meet literacy goals was out-of-school time and afterschool programming. Principal Dr. Julie Lorentzon made her expectations very clear that the program is not going to be glorified babysitting, but rather a strategic program where students receive high-quality tutoring and re-teaching of what they are learning during the school day.

_MG_5635Through the work of United Way’s Director of Elementary Learning, Stephanie Rokich, and Grant Specialist Nancy Major, United Way applied for and was awarded a Federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Grant to add financial capacity to the UWSL Promise Community Schools for the next three years. Because of this grant, South Kearns was able to expand afterschool programming from two days a week for forty-five minutes to every day for two hours. A computer lab is also now open every morning, Monday through Thursday, before school. We also now have a school choir which practices two days a week before school. The CCDF Grant money for the afterschool program enables the school to use its Title 1 funds in different ways to support student learning.

UWSL and South Kearns have also developed a partnership with Kelly Riding at Salt Lake County Youth Services to manage and oversee the operation of the afterschool program. Since Developing this partnership, South Kearns has hired Afterschool Program Coordinator, Talisha Thomas, as well as eight South Kearns teachers to run the academic hour, and three Youth Development Leaders to help with tutoring and enrichment activities for students.

_MG_5667Ms. Thomas said, “Being a part of the afterschool program is a rewarding experience. The program provides opportunities to help children excel in school, reach their potential, increase their confidence in learning, and provide enriched experiences that the children might not otherwise have. I recently asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. One particular child perked right up, with big eyes and said “I want to be like Alexander Fleming, he invented penicillin and changed the world of medicine.” Being surrounded by such caring and supportive staff has made this program possible.”

The South Kearns afterschool program has capacity for sixty students, and within the first week of the application process, we were over capacity with a waiting list. Even though the program is in its inception here at South Kearns, we are already noticing a difference in attitude and behavior of the students enrolled in the program, as well as an increased understanding of the Community School model from the school and the parents. Through this type of understanding, South Kearn’s goals to help students become more proficient in literacy, while enriching the lives of our students, becomes more realistic.

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United Way of Salt Lake Awarded Envision Utah’s 2014 Common Good Award

Deborah Bayleby Deborah Bayle
President and CEO

On Tuesday, November 25, 2014, I was honored to represent United Way of Salt Lake as we were awarded the coveted Common Good Award from Envision Utah. Envision Utah’s mission is to engage people to create and sustain communities that are beautiful, prosperous, healthy, and neighborly for current and future residents.

Envision Utah created the Common Good Awards to recognize people and organizations whose values and actions benefit the community as a whole.

Common Good Award

Envision Utah presented the award to United Way of Salt Lake because, as described on its website, “In recent years, United Way has been transformed into a powerful agent for social change, focused on bringing partners together in new and innovative ways to identify problems and develop lasting solutions.”

United Way of Salt Lake shares the values of Envision Utah because we envision communities where every child:

  • Has the basic skills to start kindergarten
  • Is on grade level in reading, math and science
  • Graduates from high school
  • Goes on to college and completes either a certificate or a degree
  • Has access to health care and a healthy environment
  • Lives in a family that is financially stable

We also envision communities where families can break the cycles of poverty and dependence, and get on the road to self-reliance.

On behalf of our visionary and courageous Board of Directors, our talented and dedicated staff, our partners, who are willing to think and act outside the box, and our investors, who believe in us and in our vision, I was honored to accept the 2014 Common Good Award.

“Putting People First”

zenia-frendtby Zenia Frendt
Leadership Giving Director

United Way of Salt Lake’s Tocqueville Society is comprised of some of the top leaders in our community. Members of this Donor Network give back to their community at the highest levels, and are recognized both locally and nationally for their philanthropy. One of the biggest challenges for this group, however, has been in finding meaningful ways to engage with one another. This is where the Tocqueville Society Leaders Series comes in.

Tocqueville Society Leaders Series makes the most of the incredible community leaders who make up this Donor Network. These events are fun, interesting, and really highlight a member of Tocqueville Society. This month’s event, featuring Mike Weinholtz, is a terrific example of how the Leaders Series events allow Tocqueville Society members to learn from each other.

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Mike Weinholtz is the CEO of CHG Healthcare Services (CHG). CHG was recognized as No. 3 on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For last year, and has been consistently recognized for five years in a row! Of particular interest to any business leader is the question, HOW does a company go from good to great? What is the secret behind CHG’s successful corporate culture that allows it to rank nationally among companies like Google?

In Tocqueville Society’s latest Leaders Series, Mike Weinholtz summed that up in one word, “people.” Mike went on to explain how the people of an organization are its greatest asset. “When you have engaged people who are happy to come to work, it makes for more productive people!” In turn, they will be sure to make the clients happy, and so investing in the valuable human resources of your company will make the entire company prosper. This is what fules CHG’s core value of “putting people first.”

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The Leaders Series breakfast featuring Mike Weinholtz was well attended, and incredibly well-received. We are so fortunate to have such amazing community leaders in our Tocqueville Society! Together, they are a shining example of what it means to LIVE UNITED!

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Find Out Your Options and Learn About Misconceptions – Affordable Care Act

booby Boo Reiser
2-1-1 Project Specialist/Navigator

Who do you know that needs health coverage? As a United Way 2-1-1 Navigator, this is a question I often ask as I discuss the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare or ACA). This question is easy for many to answer, as we all know someone in need of health care. As a Navigator I work in partnership with Take Care Utah, a state wide collaboration with the mission of providing information regarding the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, helping individuals navigate the current health care system. Knowing the benefits of this new law, I often find myself wondering why so many people are hesitant in learning about their options when enrolling for health insurance. In a world dominated by controversial media, formulating a clear idea of the true nature of health care policy can be tremendously difficult.

PhotoIn my experience, providing information is necessary and addressing misconceptions is essential. Recently I met with a woman who had many concerns regarding the ACA. She and her husband have been without health insurance for a number of years, yet she was extremely hesitant in receiving help and enrolling for health coverage. As I listened to her concerns, I realized that many were merely misconceptions. After considering the true nature of the ACA, her anxieties were resolved and we proceeded to help her find affordable health coverage.

This is only one example of how misconceptions can paralyze the decision to seek out health insurance and learn about options provided through the ACA. Experiences similar to this occur on a regular basis and it is the job of Take Care Utah to clarify issues and help those in need find affordable health insurance.

With more than 400,000 individuals still uninsured in the state, the task of Take Care Utah often seems insurmountable. A collective effort is required to support those in the greatest need of help.

So what can you do?

  1. Learn about the issue: Whether it is through the media or other popular resources, read about the ACA and learn for yourself what is going on. As you learn about the issues, consider how this law will impact you and those you know.
  1. Share your story: If you or someone you know has benefited from the ACA, share that story. As you participate in health care related discussions, opportunities will arise to provide a positive perspective regarding the ACA.
  1. Call 2-1-1: If you or someone you know has questions about the ACA, be sure to visit takecareutah.org and call 2-1-1. We will be sure to put you in contact with a Navigator near you to help and answer your questions.

Ultimately, learning about the ACA and finding quality, affordable health insurance is an individual choice, but many need to know that choice can be a benefit for their family.

So again, who do you know who needs health insurance?

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