White House Recognizes Guadalupe School – Because of YOU!

Danielleby Danielle Lankford
Guadalupe School Communications Specialist 

The 2015-2016 school years is going to be amazing for Guadalupe School – we can just feel it. There’s something special about celebrating fifty years of empowering lifelong learners on Salt Lake City’s west side. And there’s some good karma coming with it.

We are so proud to announce that this year Guadalupe School was chosen by the White House Initiative on Hispanic Education as one of 230 “Bright Spots” in Latino education around the nation. As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, this initiative recognized agencies doing exemplary work offering early education, K-12 education and STEM education, as well as adult education to Hispanic populations. As you can imagine, Guadalupe School fit right in to the criteria, and we were truly honored to be recognized among those who share our passion for education.

But the honor doesn’t really belong with us – it belongs with you, our community supporters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 1.28.55 PMIt is because of generous donors, community partners, and collective impact work, that we can send counselors into the homes of infants to help their parents create a home environment that nurtures cognitive development, and continues nurturing their development in a school environment in Toddler Beginnings and Preschool. It is because of community partnerships, like those with United Way of Salt Lake, that our Kindergarten through 6th grade students have access to enrichment activities that spark interests that carry them into future careers. It is because of our community volunteers who spend their free time teaching their first language to immigrants that our parents and adult community members are able to learn the culture and language of their new home, find more gainful employment to provide for their families, and find the joy in learning at any age.

This White House recognition and all that we have been able to accomplish over the last fifty years has been because of you.

No matter how big or small the donation, how much time you could carve from a busy day to volunteer, or how you have lent your support to United Way of Salt Lake and Guadalupe School; together, little by little, we’ve made a big difference.

Thank you all for LIVING UNITED, and congratulations – you deserve it!

Guadalupe School

It Takes A Village, But We All Are Ready and Willing!!

sean_sby Sean Strickland
Community School Director, Woodrow Wilson Elementary 

As a child, parent teacher conferences were my most stressful time of the year. The feeling of dread that surrounded report cards, talking to cute girls, or failing tests could not come close to that of a one-on-one conversation between the two entities that could decide my rewards and punishments. I had to quickly figure out how many weeks of classroom brownie points it would take to convince a teacher to give a positive review rather than the one that was probably more accurate. As a Community School Director at Woodrow Wilson, it took me no time at all to see that the amount of challenges and obstacles I faced regarding Parent Teacher Conferences were minuscule compared to what our families here experience, even things as simple as trying to have a conversation about their children with a teacher.


Parent teacher conferences, or SEP (student education plan), happen twice a year for the entire Granite School District. They are an excellent opportunity for parents to be updated on student performance, behavior, and to collectively set goals on what the student can achieve by years end. This is the model for any school in the district or state. What makes Woodrow Wilson and South Salt Lake schools different are the barriers that most families face. Many of our families live within a few miles, but due to busy streets, walking to school is dangerous. In order to make sure we could get as many families as possible, Promise South Salt Lake generously organized their own city van as well as got a Granite School District bus to provide transportation for any of our families.

Woodrow Wilson, just as many other schools in South Salt Lake, is extremely diverse when it comes to languages spoken by families. I cannot begin to imagine the level of frustration some parents feel when they come into their child’s school, excited to hear about the great things they have accomplished, and are completely unable to communicate with anyone in the building. With over twenty-five languages and dialects, it requires a substantial amount of planning and coordination with partners to get enough translators so that families are able to have their voice heard about their child’s education.


The five non-English languages that are spoken by the most families at Woodrow are: Spanish, Somali, Nepali, Swahili, and Arabic. For schools that do not have a Community School Director, this would be a major challenge for the administration or social worker to track down and schedule enough interpreters to be affective. However, all of the Community School Directors from the South Salt Lake Pipeline met to make a plan, find partners that would supply translators, and coordinate schedules to help one another. Without this teamwork and collaboration, I really feel our SEP night would not have been as successful as it was. We were able to use translators from Granite School District, the Latinos in Action program from Cottonwood High School, students in language programs from the University of Utah, as well as members of the Khadija Mosque community. What took a lot of work was all made worthwhile when seeing the smile on a parents face as they were able to communicate with their child’s teacher.

One of the major advantages of being a United Way Community School is that we are able to have so many amazing partners that have the health and well-being of our students as their main priority. During both SEP nights, the hallways were lined with different community partners giving out services and information to anyone that would stop by their tables. Promise South Salt Lake was advertising new after school programs to offer to students like a guitar class or the “earn a bike program.” Utah Health Policy Project and Midtown Clinic were helping navigate families through the tricky and complicated forms to get health insurance. Not only are the able to communicate the nuances of Medicare and Medicaid, but they are able to do it in both English and Spanish. Although there were many tears and frightened faces, the flu shots given for free by Community Nursing Services should help to give us healthy kids in classrooms all winter long. The newest partner that took advantage of the large family turnout was the Mobile Food Pantry, which is being supported through an amazing partnership with the Granite Foundation. Over one hundred and twenty families were given a box of pantry staples and a schedule of future Mobile Food Pantry dates.

The amount of support we receive from the community for the purpose of ensuring our students are able to be happy, healthy, and ready to learn is truly humbling.

Woodrow Wilson

Even though there are a few extra hours that can feel chaotic, at the end of the night we made something special happen together as a community.

Not many schools in the country can say that they have outside organizations, city entities, nonprofits, and school personnel all come together for the benefit of the students and their families. As a Community School Director, my main goal is to close the achievement gap by making school and services available to everyone.

I truly feel that having a community come together with this shared goal is the best chance we have to give these kids the future they so rightly deserve.

September is Attendance Awareness Month!

Carmela Castanedaby Carmela Castaneda
Community School Director

Attendance is the most critical part of supporting a student. The success of a student is highly dependent on whether a student shows up to class every day. The Atlantic wrote on an article about “The Economic Cost of Growing Truancy”, which states that “it doesn’t matter how good a school is if students don’t show up to class”.

In 2012, about 7.5 million students were chronically absent from schools nationwide. And, the consequences of truancy aren’t limited to a few missed lessons. There is a litany of long-term side effects that affect not just the children, but also their communities and the nation’s economic health as a whole.

Girls at Granite Park Jr. High

Girls at Granite Park Jr. High

Granite Park Junior High believes in this statement, and the culture of prioritizing attendance makes all the difference for students. Granite Park doesn’t have only one single month dedicated to attendance awareness, but instead they have a strong culture and policy in place to help work toward making sure every student shows up to class.

Kim Heppler, the Attendance Dean, emphasizes that attendance awareness is an ongoing matter that happens every day through school culture and communication with parents and students.

Granite Park stresses attendance every day of the year. We have the toughest tardy policy in the Granite School District, which results in us having the lowest tardies for the year in the district for the last eight years. We communicate with parents through the whole process and express the many reasons why lateness is important and does not just affect their child when they are late. Continued lateness results in after-school detention and making up the missed time.

Our attendance policy in regards to absences is also watched carefully. Ten years ago we only had seven out of 10 kids attending daily. The last seven years, our daily average attendance is above 91 percent for the year. Again, we accomplish this through great communication with parents. Students have seven days and then our attendance tracker sends a letter home letting parents know their child is missing too much. If the issue hasn’t been resolved, at 14 days the parent and student are required to attend a pre-court meeting. Granite Park is involved with parents and students all through the attendance process.

Granite Park Jr. High

We have a strong belief that everyday attendance is important to our students’ success.

Attendance makes all the difference in ensuring a student is academically successful. Granite Park believes that attendance awareness month and ongoing strategies, policies, and incentives throughout the school year support students in attending class on-time and every day.

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

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.

Roosevelt Elementary Brings the BBQ to The Community!

meredith_mby Meredith Muller
Roosevelt Elementary Community School Director

On Wednesday, May 13th, Roosevelt Elementary hosted its first of what we hope to be many family barbecues at Valley Center Park. With over 650 people in attendance, this inaugural event was a huge success!

As a Community School, Roosevelt serves as a hub for services and resources for our students and their families. Ideally, families are able to easily and frequently visit the school to utilize these resources, attend events, and get to know our teachers and staff. However, with the majority of Roosevelt’s families living miles away from the school and not having access to transportation, getting parents to the school has not been the easiest thing to do. We have hosted events at Roosevelt in the past, such as parent-teacher conferences, family nights, and celebrations with great success. But, we wanted to find a way to take the burden of traveling to our school off our families so we could foster the community we knew existed. We wanted to meet our families where they were—literally!

RooseveltThis is what made our barbecue so special. As all of us with family and friends across the country know, investing in those long-distance relationships must be more intentional than the relationships we have with those who live next door. Roosevelt wanted its families to know how much their engagement and shared ownership in their children’s education is appreciated. For the first time, instead of parents and students returning to the school for an event, Roosevelt traveled to them.

RooseveltAnd there was more that made this event truly significant: we had more than just teachers in attendance. We had the families (and pets!) of our teachers and staff, but we also had representation from so many of the Collective Impact partners that make Roosevelt a successful community school. We had employees of the City of South Salt Lake, the International Rescue Committee, Granite School District, and more. Roosevelt’s Coach Ken of Playworks, a national organization committed to increasing positive behavior through play, hosted games and activities—including some improvised four square using just the sidewalk cracks as boundaries. Some of our students who attend the afterschool program at Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center, run by the Asian Association of Utah, finished soccer practice in the park then came to eat with us as well.

RooseveltThis barbecue was more than dinner; it was a true representation of the passion we all share for our students and families to be healthy and successful.

5 Things I Learned at Lincoln Elementary School’s Cultural Night

Amanda Matthewsby Amanda Matthews
Lincoln Elementary Community School Director

I am genuinely, incredibly inspired by the community at Lincoln Elementary. On March 19th Lincoln hosted its first annual Cultural Celebration Family Night, with dances, poetry, and food representing the variety of cultures of our students. The compassion and community that was displayed highlighted, for me, five lessons that deepened my commitment to and passion for our Community School efforts.

1. Students are dedicated.

For two weeks prior to the event, students volunteered to learn and repeatedly practice new cultural dances, a different one for each grade level. We were fortunate enough to have the connection to Cottonwood High School, where we were able to reach out to students and ask them to allow us to film instructional videos for various cultural dances that could in turn be taught to our elementary students. While we weren’t able to have every culture at our school represented through dance, we were able to showcase Native American, Mexican, Utahn, Burmese, East African, Middle Eastern, and Nepali cultures. The enthusiasm and effort that students put into their performances was incredible!

IMG_69502. Communities turn out.

We were thrilled to have over 500 people attend our event, a huge number for our school! Additionally, a group of high school girls from the Hser Ner Moo Community Center came out and gave a wonderful performance of a Sundanese dance. It was great to see so many people come together.


3. Tamales go a long way to building community.

We all know that food is a great way to build connections and cross boundaries. One special piece of our Cultural Night was the variety of food that was available to families that reflected their own culture. There were tamales, African sambosas, and Middle Eastern dolmas; all of which caused excitement among the students. Students were able to see food at school that they have seen their parents prepare at home.

IMG_72464. Original student poems speak of life, friends, and homes.

Another aspect to our Cultural Night was the announcement of the winners of the student poetry contest. Many of our students participated in the contest and wrote about their own personal culture and families. First place went to a very talented second grade girl, who wrote about her life both in Nepal and here in the United States. We have some talented poets at our school!

IMG_68515. Dance brings people together.

The final performance of the night was our Native American closing ceremony dance, led by 6th grade students and their teacher. Slowly, they moved from the stage into the seating area and grabbed hands of audience members until almost the entire auditorium was on their feet, dancing together. It was an incredible feeling of community that even weeks later, still brings a smile to my face. It reminds me that, together, as a community, we will create bright futures for students.