KeyBank Closes Its Doors for a Big Day of Volunteering!

allison-tby Allison Temnick
Community Investment Advisor

Many people do not know that KeyBank has a wonderful annual tradition here in Salt Lake called Our Neighbors Make the Difference Day. Each year, it chooses one day to close down all of its branches and send employees out to serve the community. This year, KeyBank decided to make it even bigger than ever with help from United Way of Salt Lake.

Key BankOn Wednesday, May 13, KeyBank branches across Utah closed and the employees participated in a variety of volunteer projects. One of the main projects was at Kearns Junior High, a United Way of Salt Lake Community School. 63 percent of students in Kearns receive free or reduced-price lunch (an indicator of poverty) and the graduation rate in this area is a mere 66 percent. Because Kearns Junior High is a community school, it is now a place where children and their families can receive basic services so that they can succeed in school. Kandace Barber, the principal of Kearns Junior High, says it best: “Kearns Junior High has become a hub of activity for the larger community. People are receiving services and people’s basic needs are being met at the school. None of it would be possible without our partnership with the United Way of Salt Lake. It has made all the difference.”

Key BankKeyBank’s team of volunteers played a role in this process by reading with students and helping them with their homework. KeyBank volunteers also assisted other organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, National Ability Center, Bountiful Community Food Pantry, Utah Food Bank, Camp Kostopulos, Catholic Community Services Food Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club and The Road Home.

Key BankAll in all, 130 KeyBank volunteers participated in ten volunteer projects across six counties. Thank you, KeyBank, for continuing your Neighbors Make A Difference Day tradition with the help of United Way of Salt Lake!

Key Bank

Representative Jim Matheson Visits Kearns Junior High

McLeod, Scottby Scott McLeod                                                                                Sr. Director of Community School Partnerships

Kearns Jr. High has a lot to be proud of. It is a school that continues to improve academically, outperforming many demographically similar schools, and has a thriving United Way Community School effort. Additionally, it was recently named a national School to Watch for all its incredible work and student improvement.

Congressman-Matheson-ASP-ViTo honor these incredible accomplishments, Kearns Jr. was recently visited by none other than U.S. Representative Jim Matheson, which was amazing to say the least! In late May, Rep. Matheson came to Kearns Jr. to congratulate the school and to get a glimpse of the partnership that helps make it happen. His tour included visiting the after school program, the Kids Café food program, the on-sight preschool program, and a conversation about the Community School partnership. It was a wonderful experience for everyone.


During the tour, not only did Rep. Matheson get to learn about the work being done at Kearns Jr., he also got to visit with the students themselves, including the student body officers and the key club. He is clearly a passionate public servant and invested in the future of Utah’s students. Thanks to all of the partners, to Kearns Jr. High and to Representative Matheson for such a great day!


Kearns Junior High Re-designated as a “Schools to Watch” School

Kyle_Priceby Kyle Price                                                                               Kearns Junior High Community School Director

With a school motto of “Success is our only option”, it’s no surprise that Kearns Junior High is changing the odds being recently re-designated as 1 of 10 “Schools to Watch” here in Utah. Schools to Watch:  is part of a national initiative launched by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform that aims to recognize middle schools that are taking an innovative approach to improving student performance. This isn’t just an award, but a responsibility to be a model of best practices for other schools across the state. Criteria for being recognized as a School to Watch include the following (as taken from

Kearns Jr. High 2013They are academically excellent—these schools challenge all students to use their minds well.

They are developmentally responsive—these schools are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence

They are socially equitable—these schools are democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources and supports.

_MG_0261LARGEWeekly student support teams comprised of teachers, counselors, social workers and administration have been implemented to support struggling students and address school wide challenges and issues. Out of these meetings a lot of innovations have been developed, such as the FLEX period which provides students with a weekly grade check and the time to make up missing assignments. Quarterly make up days provide a chance for the students to make up work before the end of the quarter, often with the help of local businesses who offer to come into the school as tutors, and an after school program that aligns with school curriculum and supports the common core, and much more.

DSC_0028By taking an innovative approach to supporting students, being incredibly adaptive and responsive to student needs and taking a hard look at student academic data, Kearns Junior High really is setting themselves apart as a School to Watch, not just here in Utah, but nationally.

Congratulations to Principal Kandace Barber and the Kearns Junior High faculty and staff for continuing their work to LIVE UNITED and change the odds for Kearns students. 


Kearns Junior High Students and Families Get Brainy at Math n’ Science Night!

by Carolyn Giffin
Kearns Jr. High

Kearns Junior High families enjoyed a wonderful evening of food, fun, and lots of learning at the annual Math n’ Science Night on January 22. The math and science teachers “sponsored” booths that were centered on math or science concepts to promote learning and family engagement around these important subjects. Some of the great activities were the Estimation Station, What Comes Next?, Test Your Senses, and Shocking — just to name a few. All of the games proved to be lots of fun, while simultaneously teaching and reinforcing concepts from the school day.

Each person received a punch card listing the activities provided by our teachers and visiting outside agencies. After each person completed a designated number of activities or visits to outside agency booths, the card was punched with a stamp. Once the person received a certain number of punches, he or she qualified for raffle prizes and enjoyed dinner provided by the school!

Some of the outside agencies and other sponsors that so generously donated their time to raise awareness of a variety of causes at Math n’ Science Night were:

  • University of Utah Engineering Department
  • Utah Educational Savings Plan
  • Utah Health Policy Project – Affordable Care Act presentation and information
  • Salt Lake County Library – Book Talk: Ideas for young and old about math and science book ideas
  • Pregnancy Resource Center
  • Homework Helps with the Kearns Junior counselors
  • Career and College Planning with the Kearns Junior counselors

Nearly 340 people attended Math n’ Science Night and were able to learn new ideas and skills, enjoy good food and prizes, and most importantly, create wonderful memories with their families!


Kearns Junior High Students Rally for Attendance Awareness!

rokich-stephanieby Stephanie Rokich
Community Collaborations Director

If you’re an avid reader of United Way of Salt Lake’s blog The Hub, you might have noticed several posts about the importance of students attending school regularly. For an overview of attendance, check out this “Every Day Counts” post by fellow Community Collaborations Director, Chris Ellis. As the title suggests, every day that a student attends school increases that student’s chances of success. Students who miss 10 percent or more of school, whether for excused reasons or not, are much less likely to stay on top of their school work and on track to graduate.

This issue has been of particular importance at Kearns Junior High, as explained by Community School Coordinator Kyle Price in another recent post. At the junior high level, many students are responsible for getting themselves to school. Attendance problems often arise when students don’t get up on time for school, have to take care of a sick sibling, or simply choose not to attend.

Kearns Jr. High put together an attendance awareness plan to both educate students about the impact missed days have on their success at school, and to incentivize students to attend. To educate fellow students about attendance, the school’s Peer Leadership Team created fun posters and hung them around the school. Weekly competitions encouraged students in the same first period classes to join forces and encourage one another to be at school. The classes with full attendance – meaning every student was in their seat, on time – received treats for the whole class. The full classes were also announced to the entire school, and teachers reported this incentive as a HUGE motivator for students.

Additionally, staff members who work one-on-one with students who struggle attending school regularly, picked a set of students to focus on for the month. They worked with the students to set goals and agree upon incentives for their improved attendance, because research shows the importance of rewarding improved attendance as well as perfect attendance. They also called parents to work through their students’ attendance issues with them.

Kearns Students

Attendance Awareness Month was a big collaboration between the principal, teachers, school counselors, attendance staff, afterschool program staff, and many others. Organizing a school-wide attendance awareness month was a lot of work, but the positive results were staggering! Upon comparing data for an entire month from November 2012 when there was no attendance push to 2013 when the most recent Attendance Awareness Month took place:

–          Week 1, 2012: 43 average daily absences (ada)
–          Week 1, 2013: 22 ada
–          Week 2, 2012: 47 ada
–          Week 2, 2013: 34 ada
–          Week 3, 2012 (Thanksgiving week): 75 ada
–          Week 3, 2013: 42 ada
–          Week 4, 2012: 51 ada
–          Week 4, 2013 (Thanksgiving week): 47 ada

Kearns Junior will continue educating students and parents about the importance of good attendance habits by showcasing posters with pictures of Kearns Junior students and blurbs about attendance awareness. The school will also be re-booting attendance awareness month repeatedly throughout the year to help build those habits and keep students in school as much as possible. A future focus will be on Monday and Friday attendance, which data shows are the most missed days of school.

Congrats Kearns Junior students, and thank you Kearns Junior staff, for LIVING UNITED and making Attendance Awareness Month successful!

Literacy Night at Kearns Jr. High School

by Carolyn Giffin
Parent Center Coordinator, Kearns Jr. High

On November 13, the Kearns Jr. High School gymnasium was alive with the sound of laughing, cheering, and lots of chatter about the fun time that was had at the annual Kearns Jr. High School Family Literacy Night! This night has become a school tradition that continues to capture the support of our patrons. Each year, all of our language arts teachers come together and sponsor an activity supporting literacy skills that will hopefully become a part of each family’s daily life.


As each patron arrived, they received a “punch card” that had the names of each activity being presented that evening. After they completed each activity, their card was marked off–with the goal of completing at least twelve out of nineteen activities! Doing so qualified them for a chance at winning prizes as well as a coupon for dinner!

Some of the fun activities were karaoke, making your own bookmark, meeting a local author, or playing “Boggle,” just to name a few.  We had several outside agencies that also sponsored booths such as: Book Talk, with Salt Lake County Library; Flu Shots with Community Nursing Services; Washington Federal Bank, Utah Health Policy Project with information about the Affordable Care Act; College and Career Planning, and UESP Educational Savings Program. The presence of these agencies definitely helped raise awareness for our patrons and the great services that can help individuals and families here at our community school.

There were a record number of 545 attendees that evening! The support was amazing, but even more importantly, the comments made by families and individuals about how much they learned, how much fun they had together, and the memories that were created, was the most satisfying outcome ever!

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Kearns Junior High Turns the LIGHTS ON for Afterschool Programming

rokich-stephanieby Stephanie Rokich
Community Collaborations Director

Recently, Kearns Junior High celebrated the 5th Annual Lights On Afterschool event. This national event, a project of the Afterschool Alliance, aims to draw attention to the power of afterschool programs in helping students achieve and encourage schools to keep the lights on after normal school hours. At Kearns Junior, Salt Lake County Youth Services runs the afterschool program, which serves about 80 students each day. The program offers a tutor lab for students to complete their homework with the help of teachers and aides, group classes to give kids enriching academic support (such as cooking class and chess club), service projects, free dinner, and much more. Salt Lake County, United Way of Salt Lake, and other partners work with the school to align daytime curriculum with the afterschool program to ensure that students are receiving the added supports they need.

Lights On Afterschool was a big hit at Kearns Junior with students, parents, and friends. The Student Body President welcomed everyone to the event, and Principal Kandace Barber thanked all the school’s supporters. Principal Barber also emphasized the importance of students attending school regularly, which is a focus this year at Kearns Junior. She talked about how the afterschool program plays a significant role in keeping kids engaged in school and making sure they are there both during the day and after school.

Following introductions, students in the afterschool program took turns talking about the activities in which they are engaged and why the afterschool program is important to them. One young man talked about the math playground, a fun program that helps kids practice and learn math. A student who participates in Spy Hop talked about projects she has worked on, including film making and creating music. Two young women spoke about the Peer Leadership Team they are a part of, which gives them the chance to do service projects, flex their entrepreneur muscles, and become leaders in the school.

Students concluded the event with a spectacular talent show with singing and dancing while onlookers enjoyed a free dinner and light bulb-shaped cookies.

Thank you, Kearns Jr. High for LIVING UNITED,
engaging kids, and helping change the odds!

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