American Express Brings “Uncontrollable Excitement” to Granger Elementary!

Dennis Huynhby Dennis Huynh
Community Investment Advisor

As 130 students in the Granger Elementary afterschool program finished up their activities, they headed into the cafeteria to wrap up the evening. What was a quiet room just moments prior, started buzzing with uncontrollable excitement. When the students entered the cafeteria, they could see mounds of gifts awaiting them……….DSC_0511

On December 16, a group of 19 volunteers from American Express went to Granger Elementary to help students in the afterschool program learn how different cultures celebrate the holiday season. The volunteers rotated with the children between three groups where they decorated cookies, created beaded necklaces, and learned about Chanukah by playing the dreidel game.

DSC_0429At Granger Elementary Community School, a United Way of Salt Lake Neighborhood Center, 81 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The holiday season is especially rough for the kids and their families. Some of these students, when asked what they wanted for Christmas, replied with socks, pillows, blankets, and other clothing. Not the usual toys and games that you would see being requested by elementary students. One student even asked for shoes and a blanket for his parents.

DSC_0469These volunteers took time out of their busy days to help these students learn about different holiday traditions and had a lot of fun doing so. And, they saved the best for last. American Express had generously purchased gifts for all of the students! The amount of joy on the students’ faces was immeasurable. Thank you so much American Express for being such a bright light during the holidays and for showing everyone how to LIVE UNITED.

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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.


“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?

IMG_3471 IMG_2127


Hard Questions for GE Healthcare!

Megan Richardsby Megan Richards
Community Investment Advisor

When working with community-engaged companies like GE Healthcare, you are bound to meet some truly amazing individuals. I met two such individuals, Viraj Shah and Gene Buhler, through GE Healthcare’s Day of Caring project at Kearns High School.

Viraj Shah is a Project Manager for GE Healthcare. During Day of Caring, Viraj coordinated all the indoor projects that happened at Kearns High, from a morning assembly for over 400 students, to individual curricula for 20 classes throughout the day. Gene Buhler is the Human Resource Manager and he worked directly with students all day helping them explore physics concepts through catapult experiments.

I recently had a chance to talk to both Viraj and Gene about their experience during Day of Caring and their motivations for giving back.

Q: Why did you want to be a part of Day of Caring?

Viraj: Kearns currently has a 68 percent graduation rate (compared to 81 percent statewide), and GE wants to see a long-lasting impact. By working with the students in the classrooms and sharing about our education and career paths, we can help create a vision for these students and help them to see their future after high school and going on to higher education.   

Q: Do any particular stories from Day of Caring stand out in your memory?

I was helping students build catapults for a physics experiment. There was one particular girl who created one of the most successful catapults. She was very good at examining problems and trying new solutions. Every time it worked, her eyes would light up and she would get so excited. I got to see her “aha” moment. At the end of class she expressed her desire to learn more about engineering. That’s the thing about giving back – it gives more to you than you probably give. It’s a powerful thing.

Q: What words of encouragement would you give to others interested in getting involved in their communities?

Those who could not be involved in Day of Caring should consider visiting a community school to see what you can do on a smaller level.
GE Healthcare highlights the importance of encouraging girls to participate in science, math, and higher education. If we can encourage these girls early in their education, we can impact their futures.

If you did not have a chance to volunteer during Day of Caring or would like to get involved in classroom or holiday volunteer opportunities, please visit to learn more and sign up.

Thank you Viraj, Gene, and the entire GE Healthcare community for donating your time, resources, and voices to help change the odds for local youth!

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5 New Ways that the Afterschool Program is Expanding at Woodrow Wilson Elementary!

5O46neo1gEm1BAtABNcgFnaUmdccWYW1mCS4HKH9ND0,5Y_P4dgHcSNajuNxqKAttR8vAcc-2aeLceHX31aA5Ecby Lindsey Edwards
Woodrow Wilson Community School Director

Currently the afterschool program at Woodrow Wilson Elementary serves 100 of the 740 students. The afterschool curriculum is aligned with classroom instruction. We partner with the city of South Salt Lake, and other community-based organizations, to provide intentional, high-quality programming for all of the student-participants.

After careful consideration and thought-sharing between Principal Jadee Talbot and our partners, we will now be able to double the size of the afterschool program! It is only by aligning partnerships around school goals that this expansion is made possible. The expansion will include:

  • Mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters with Latinos in Action students
  • Grade-level teachers will tutor students who need additional support through Land Trust monies
  • Two bus routes/times in order to accommodate more students
  • A STEM program that focuses on science, technology, and math with students from Westminster College
  • A new Choir group

When asked to share his thoughts on the afterschool expansion, Principal Jadee Talbot said, “It is very impressive to see all of these different groups reaching out and trying to meet the needs of our students. The focus on academics is a critical role that the amazing efforts of all of these folks play.”


We are looking forward to changing the odds
for more kids in our school and community!

Granite Park Jr. High Parent Night

Carmela Castanedaby Carmela Castaneda
Granite Park Jr. High Community School Director

On Wednesday October 1, Granite Park Jr. High’s faculty and staff hosted the second annual Parent Night. Everyone worked incredibly hard to put on a special and meaningful night for the parents and families of Granite Park. Parent night is a great opportunity for the school and community partners to come together to support Granite Park and the larger community.

Parent Night is a great opportunity for students and their families to learn more about  our school, community partners, and services offered. They can find out about how to stay engaged and support student academic success. It was exciting to see so many parents and families of Granite Park excited to learn more about their student’s school and community!

This year, the night offered booths for information from community partners, workshops on Grade Book and Student Success, and over 50 families received flu shots from the Say BOO to the Flu clinic. Latinos in Action students also stayed the night to offer babysitting for the parents. The event wrapped up with dinner and every family receiving a hygiene kit!

The highlight of Parent Night was knowing that parents and families received access to needed resources. It was amazing to see students rise to the occasion while also serving, leading, and teaching! What an incredibly successful night it was, with so many community partners coming together to help change the odds for kids and families!

Granite Park Jr. High

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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