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?

Gene:
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?

Viraj:
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  http://www.uw.org/volunteer/ 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.”

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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.

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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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Kearns High Community School Adding 9th Grade!

Steve Whatcottby Steve Whatcott
Kearns High Community School Director

Beginning August, 2014, 9th grade students in Kearns who have always attended their local junior high schools will now be attending Kearns High Community School. This represents a significant change for not only students and their families, but also for the junior and senior high schools. Both Jefferson Jr. and Kearns Jr. will lose a third of its student body as well as dozens of teachers and other support staff. At the same time, Kearns High will add almost 800 new students, bringing the total student population to nearly 2,400 students. They will be adding over 25 new teachers, plus additional administrators, counselors, and other support staff. The change will require extremely creative use of facilities and resources, including rearranging several teachers’ classrooms and building multiple new portable classrooms.

So why go through all of this hassle to change something that has been functioning for decades? What could possibly prompt all of this disruption? Simply put, students must come first. Specifically, student graduation. With only an average of less than 67% of students receiving their high school diplomas over the past five years, hundreds of students each year are falling through the cracks. For most of these students, the slide begins during their ninth grade year. Course grades count towards high school graduation in ninth grade, even though they are taken at the junior high school. Unfortunately, many students begin digging a hole for themselves by failing multiple classes during freshman year. For some who fail as many as 10-20 quarter credit classes, that hole can get very deep before even setting foot in high school. This year, over two-thirds of incoming sophomores will have at least one F in a core subject; that puts them off-track for graduation and at-risk for dropping out.

The goal in having ninth grade students attend high school is to not only significantly reduce the number of students who fail classes, but also to constantly reinforce the message that all students can succeed and graduate high school being college and career ready. The atmosphere at Kearns High is very welcoming. It also actively promotes high expectations for student achievement. It offers multiple opportunities to connect to the school via athletics, the performing arts, school organizations, and clubs. Students will be served by the same school counselor for four years. The counselor, along with other mentors and school support staff will be able to constantly guide, motivate, and direct students to what they need to be successful, graduate, and prepare for life after college. Most students have chosen to enroll in the Frehsman Academy, a semester class designed to support students’ study skills and help them focus on how to effectively direct their high school education towards college and career readiness. If they meet their goal, more and more ninth grade students will not only survive, but they will really thrive at Kearns High School!

Kearns High School 2013

Kearns Jr. High

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.

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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.