Guadalupe School Opens Doors at New Rose Park Location

by Elysia Alvarado Yuen
Development Assistant, Guadalupe School

It’s been an exciting time for Guadalupe School, a United Way of Salt Lake Community School. On August 28, 2014 after nearly 15 years of planning, fundraising, and building, we finally opened our doors with an official ribbon cutting ceremony at the Janet Q. Lawson Campus. Community leaders spoke about the impact of education on the community and afterwards refreshments and tours were given to all in attendance. With this new building, we are now able to extend our reach, increase the number of students served, and centralize staff and programs.


Guadalupe SchoolWithout the support of various community leaders, Guadalupe School would have never been able to grow from a small group of immigrants learning English in a café, to a brand new school with five programs which starting the educational outreach at birth.

It has been, and continues to be, the collective effort of our supporters and partners that allows Guadalupe School to continue its mission to teach economically disadvantaged children and non-English speaking adults, the vision and skills needed to live productive, rewarding lives. We are so grateful for everyone who has, and continues to support our mission, and we look forward to serving many more students in this new and beautiful building!

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Savage Changes the Odds and Volunteers Over 200 Hours!

Tim Harrisonby Tim Harrison
Senior Community Investment Advisor

This last spring and summer, Savage Companies fulfilled a pledge to send more than a dozen volunteers per week from its staff to tutor 9th graders who are recovering lost academic credit that they needed in order to graduate high school. Savage employees helped address a common problem among at-risk populations: that many 9th grade junior high students don’t realize how crucial grades are for highschool graduation. They get off track and stay behind, especially in math.

Fast forward through fourth quarter and the “summer session;” we can now attribute some remarkable results to these stellar Savage volunteers. The kids have regained lost academic credits and many kids are right back on track to graduate, which will completely alter their educational (and professional) careers. This will help our community in the long run—that’s Collective Impact at work! Listen to Jermaine Coston, a Savage Volunteer and Granite Park alum, about the experience:

“In just a few weeks, I began to see significant changes in the students. Not just in their academics, but also in their confidence. Knowing that someone was there for them made a huge impact.
By the end of the summer, the students were talking about their futures and careers. Even the students who were still not quite up to par were now more motivated and confident. Having someone there working with them one-on-one and encouraging them made a huge difference. Thank you for this rewarding experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again!”

—Jermaine Coston , Savage

Thanks to all the Savage donors, advocates, and volunteers! This community is lucky to have your ongoing support. We’ll see you on Day of Caring!

Check out this awesome infographic detailing the difference Savage made for these kids!



How Collective Impact Can Change the Odds – A Personal Story

rokich-stephanieby Stephanie Rokich
Director of Elementary Learning

Here at United Way of Salt Lake, we know that no organization alone can solve complex community problems. We talk a lot about how we work as a backbone organization to bring together partners, organizations, cities, schools, and others to provide cross-sector supports and common agenda. This type of work truly helps to create community-level change. I want to tell you a story that demonstrates why we here at United Way of Salt Lake are so invested in making Collective Impact work in our Promise Partnerships.

I mentored a teenage girl, Maria, for three years. Like many of the kids at the schools where UWSL works, Maria faced a mountain of barriers to her success. She grew up in a single parent home, and her older sister had gotten pregnant at 17 and dropped out of high school. She had spent a few years in Mexico and, as a result, wasn’t on grade-level with English. She was chronically absent from school, and her mom feared that she was involved with drugs.

The barriers were numerous, but I had high hopes for Maria. She was a kind, funny girl who loved dogs and always told me thank you when we hung out. As anyone who has volunteered to mentor a child may agree, I had big aspirations for Maria. I tried to get her on-track in school by helping with homework and encouraging her to attend every day. I got to know her interests, which included animals and science, and tailored activities around those interests. I emphasized that school was the key to making her dreams come true. In one word, I was a bit naive.

Near the three-year mark of our friendship, I could feel the end coming. I would call Maria to schedule an activity, and her phone would be disconnected. I would go to pick her up, and she wouldn’t be there. I realized that Maria was now a 16-year-old young woman, and hanging out with her mentor, who was 10 years older, wasn’t exactly “cool” anymore. I wasn’t upset because I understood where she was coming from, but I was worried about her. Maria always said she did well at school, but the story from her mom was different. She also told me that she occasionally went to parties with 21-year-olds, a revelation that was hard for me to hear. My big dreams for helping her succeed in life had been flattened by harsh reality.

A few months after we officially “closed” our mentoring relationship, I called Maria‘s mom to see how Maria was doing. The news wasn’t good. Maria had been kicked out of one high school for being chronically absent and then essentially dropped out of school at 16. I was completely heartbroken. How had this happened, largely under my watch? I couldn’t believe it.

Maria‘s seemingly hopeless story gets to the heart of why Collective Impact is such a powerful and necessary way to help kids. One program alone, no matter how great it is, is rarely enough to turn a kid’s life around when they grow up in the complicated world of poverty. Complicated issues require an “all-in” approach. For an example of that, here’s another brief story.

Although my experience with Maria didn’t end the way I wanted it to, I was determined to recommit myself to another young person who wanted a mentor. For the past year, I have mentored Pramila. Pramila’s story isn’t that different from Maria’s, except that Pramila and her family are refugees from Nepal. They live in poverty, just like Maria. Pramila was behind in English, having just arrived in the U.S. about four years ago. Even with a heap of barriers, Pramila and her family are doing well, and she is thriving in school. The key difference is Collective Impact.


Pramila and her family receive and take part in targeted, high-quality supports. A local refugee resettlement agency helped her parents and older brother find jobs. Her mom takes free English classes at a nearby school so that she can learn how to navigate various systems, as well as support her children academically. Pramila and her sister attend an afterschool program through the Asian Association of Utah, which combines academics and enriching activities. Her school has a lot of targeted interventions for English Language Learners, and she is involved in college-prep classes like AVID. She has a mentor (me!) through Big Brothers Big Sisters. The family’s basic needs are met with various wraparound services. In essence, Pramila and her family have the entire community’s support to ensure that she and her siblings graduate from high school, obtain a post-secondary degree, and become self-sustaining adults. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to navigate a new country and school system without Collective Impact and dozens of community partners helping along the way. This is Collective Impact at its best. Our hope at United Way of Salt Lake is that ALL kids, regardless of their circumstances, are successful!

For me, I want to make sure that kids like Maria, who didn’t have the supports she needed to be successful, don’t fall through the cracks!

Keep Kids Learning Over the Summer!

rokich-stephanieby Stephanie Rokich
Director of Elementary Learning

Ever wonder what kids learn in the summer? The National Summer Learning Association has put together an interactive map of dozens of summer learning day programs and activities gong on across the country, all summer long. Check it out to find a dozen programs going on in our Promise Partnerships!

Summer Learning

United Way of Salt Lake Promise Partnerships know the importance of summer learning to keep kids on track in school. Otherwise, kids are susceptible to summer learning loss, commonly called the “summer slide”. With little or no access to educational programs or books during the summer, low-income kids often fall behind their peers during the summer and return to school in the fall at a lower academic level than when they left the previous year.

Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day recognized to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning for our nation’s youth in helping close the achievement gap and support healthy development in communities all across the country.

The vision of the National Summer Learning Association is for every child to be safe, healthy, and engaged in learning during the summer. To realize that vision, the organization’s mission is to connect and equip schools, providers, communities, and families to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s youth to help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.

Facts about Summer Learning from the National Summer Learning Association

  • All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).
  • Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
  • Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).
  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).


What does it mean to LIVE UNITED?

matt_q_headshotMatt Quigley
Administrative Assistant

To answer this question, I have to look back at how I got to United Way of Salt Lake.

I first heard of United Way of Salt Lake while I worked in development at Pioneer Theatre Company. My initial understanding of what UWSL did fell into the old “Community Chest” model of philanthropy; primarily, seeing donor-directed gifts moving through United Way to the theatre. When I started to look for a new job, however, I discovered United Way of Salt Lake is much more than a funnel for funds. UWSL’s shift to a Collective Impact strategy was a turning point for how the organization truly helps to change the odds for kids and families in our community. From my initial tip-toes into UWSL, to launching myself into our recent (and very successful!) internal campaign, seeing what UWSL is doing in our community excites me and ties much of my understanding of how the world works together.

I studied history at the University of Utah for five years, focusing on 20th century America. What interests me most about history is the way that much of the social, economic, and political change that happens in this world, starts and is largely driven at a local, community-based level. I believe that much of the social ill in the world can and must be addressed within our communities. Secondly, I believe that education is a primary driving force for that change.

It is no wonder why UWSL appealed to me as an organization dedicated to changing the odds in our community. What it means to me to LIVE UNITED is not only to be united with the people in my community, but to an idea that we must unite our time, resources, and commitments to make lasting changes. I have seen how a diverse and unified approach can lead to amazing results in communities, and I believe that is what we are doing here in our own backyards at United Way of Salt Lake.

The Effects of Our Efforts

Tim Coray
Granger Elementary Community School Director

United Way of Salt Lake recently hosted the Summer Institute at Granite School District. Summer Institute is an opportunity for schools and principals to come together to learn more about Promise Partnerships and Community School Work. This year, the featured speaker was Steve Ventura, former superintendent, principal and teacher, and nationally recognized thought leader on school transformation.

“The most powerful variable in school improvement is instructional leadership.” Steve Ventura began this year’s Summer Institute at Granite School District offices with this finding. On June 18 and 19, Community School Directors and Principals engaged in conversations and action planning for the upcoming school year. Steve Ventura, a California-based consultant with a background in teaching and administrating schools, facilitated this training focused on contemporary leadership and school improvement strategies.

In my previous career as a teacher, I knew there were many variables in my classroom: attendance, engagement, parent and co-worker collaboration, preparation (both mine and my students’), and on and on. During my first years in the profession, I used to fret over those factors equally and constantly. Surely, each had the ability to impact my students’ success, and I thought I ought to be able to improve them. However, with time and research, I learned the effect of each of those considerations was neither equal nor within my control. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned during that time was to concentrate my labor on endeavors with which I could affect the greatest change and to limit the sleep I lost over the others.

I recall that experience because the lesson I learned in my own classroom as a teacher was validated during the Summer Institute training. Steve Ventura empowered us with the research and tools to make decisions about where we put our greatest effort based on effect size and desired outcomes. In one exercise, Community School Directors and administration teams listed the programs and initiatives in place in our schools with the goal of analyzing the degree of implementation and the impact each had on students’ achievement. Completing this exercise through the lens of both teachers and administrators allowed us to identify areas of success as well as target programs in need of reconsideration or improved focus. In addition to refining school leaders’ efforts, this practice highlighted the excellent opportunities afforded Community Schools and reminded us that we have a common goal of changing the odds for our students.


Reflecting on the Institute, Granger Principal Amber Clayton agreed. “The difference between this professional development and others is that all our training reminds school leadership of the importance of focusing our energy on areas that affect student achievement the most; however, Steve Ventura gave us the inspiration and tools to do so.”

The key word throughout our Summer Institute was leadership. A program or initiative is the most successful when aligned with the greater goals of the school and implemented with fidelity. Those variables are in the hands of a school’s leadership.


amy_worthingtonAmy Worthington
Volunteer Events and Training Coordinator

On June 19, more than 125 attorneys, staff, family members, and clients from Holland and Hart LLP celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Salt Lake City office with a day of service at Kearns Junior High Community School.

Starting this fall, all 9th grade students and teachers from Kearns Junior High will be moved to Kearns High School. This major transition created a great need for helping hands to offer assistance to the staff and faculty of Kearns Junior.

Volunteers completed 16 different projects, including the tasks of painting, landscaping, cleaning lockers, auditorium chairs, and windows, organizing drama costumes and donated clothing, refurbishing two long-jump pits, assembling registration packets, moving musical instruments and furniture to new classrooms, and helping prepare rooms for the fall when students come back to school.

The 500+ hours of work and various donations given by the volunteers of Holland and Hart made a significant impact at Kearns Junior High. The overwhelming to do list of tasks that needed to be completed prior to school starting in the fall was significantly lessened thanks to their generosity.

This service project was chosen by Holland and Hart in response to Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Year of Service in Utah” challenge, which asked citizens of Utah to volunteer an additional 20 hours of service in their communities. We encourage each of you to do your part to heed the call from Governor Herbert! Show how you LIVE UNITED by signing up to participate in service projects in our community. Visit for a variety of available opportunities.


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