Why Did Taylorsville High Students Wear Summer Clothes in the Middle of Winter? Find out!

By Hollie Link
Student Body Officer, Taylorsville High School

During the last week of November, Taylorsville High School held its annual charity week. This year, our charity of choice was United Way of Salt Lake. As a group of 28 Student Body Officers, we collected over 5,000 dollars in just one week!

We took time during and after school asking for donations and we also carried milk jugs to gather donations while in class. After school, we spent several hours walking around neighborhoods, adventuring door-to-door, to ask for a small donations. When asked about this experience, many of my fellow student body officers reported that just getting a single cent made them feel like they were making a difference.

Besides walking around neighborhoods, Taylorsville SBO’s have a tradition to stand outside of local grocery stores and approach customers about donating. One night during this week-long charity drive, the senior class officers, and other caring students, participated in what has become known as the “Senior Freeze Out.” At this event, the seniors dress in summer attire in the middle of winter, hoping to bring attention to themselves and gather more donations!

IMG_1410To reach our goal of 5,000 dollars, we also held a dating bid. Students who donated the most could win a date with an officer of their choice. The officers love this because it encourages the students to really get involved!

Taylorsville High School officers adore charity week. This year, we really got to know one another and created bonds that will last a lifetime, all while supporting our community! For this reason, we suggest more schools get involved with United Way of Salt Lake and find ways to give back. UWSL is a diverse organization, and because of this, we felt that more people donated to our charity week.

The student body officers at Taylorsville High urge schools and other community organizations to get out there and GIVE, ADVOCATE, or VOLUNTEER with United Way of Salt Lake!

Spending Time at Guadalupe – Volunteer Today!

Michelle for blog postby Michelle Azzaro
Young Leaders Member, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Michelle Azzaro wanted to do more for her community. With the help of UWSL’s volunteer team, she organized a series of volunteer projects at Guadalupe School for her company. She and her colleagues currently volunteer at this UWSL Community School to help kids with their reading and academics.

Hi, my name is Michelle Azzaro and I work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car as a Talent Development Manager. I have worked for Enterprise for seventeen years and love our company commitment to supporting our local communities. One of our founding values is: “We strengthen our communities, one neighborhood at a time.”

image 5Spending time at Guadalupe School fits right into my personal belief that all children should have access to high-quality education, as well as aligns with Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s commitment to our communities. I am so fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to bring different employees within our organization to help with reading and homework. The kids are truly amazing!!

CindyHave you had an opportunity to volunteer at Guadalupe? If not, schedule time right away! There is always room to help with homework: reading, spelling, math (don’t be afraid), and science. If you have not been to the new location, plan a visit. The school is so spacious and offers a lot of different services for entire families. Check it out!

I promise it will be an experience you will not soon forget!!

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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?

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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  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.”


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