Women and Education

By Agnes Chiao

Senior Director of Neighborhood Initiatives and Innovation

Recently, UWSL’s Women’s Philanthropic Network attended a presentation by Susan Madsen from Utah Valley University. Her research, Utah Women and Education Project (http://www.uvu.edu/wep/), explored why more young women around the state are not attending and graduating college. Through her research, that included approximately 245 participants, she found that only 20% believed they could use their degrees to teach their children and/or be positive examples to them.

I have the amazing opportunity to work with many incredibly talented and inspiring women – all with varying education experiences and backgrounds. Mayor Cherie Wood from South Salt Lake is one of these exceptional women and her story reminded me of the research that we heard from Susan Madsen. Mayor Wood’s story of triumph against many odds and her determination to succeed was recently captured by Yahoo Shine in this brief video.

Mayor Wood started working for South Salt Lake as a cashier when she was 19. “When positions would open, I’d apply for them,” she says. “Then I realized I got to a point where I needed to go back to school if I wanted to continue to move up.” She earned her bachelors degree from The University of Phoenix at night, raising her kids and working for the city during the day. When she decided to run for Mayor of South Salt Lake, Wood shares, “My opposition was saying that I should be home with my kids. So, I wrote a letter to all the women voters in South Salt Lake and said, ‘You know, I’ve always been a working mom, and because of my situation I will always have to be a working mom, and my kids are my number one priority. … But I know that I can prioritize my daily schedule and still be a really effective mayor’.”

Mayor Wood has a clear idea of what she wants to accomplish as Mayor and how to revitalize South Salt Lake. The partnerships here are forged in the belief that communities can and will transform and that we all must do whatever it takes to get there. It truly is an honor to work with Mayor Wood and all the partners in the City of South Salt Lake.

(photo courtesy of Deseret News)

A Utah Food Empire Grown From Beans

By Jennifer W. Sanchez
Community Collaborations Director

Jorge Fierro dropped out of college in Mexico to head to el norte because he wanted something more. He had no idea he’d later become a strong supporter of United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL) and its annual Day of Caring. Each year more than 3,000 people participate in UWSL’s Day of caring by volunteering in dozens of community-service projects.

Fierro has been in Utah for 26 years, and he’s elated to be a part of the community. “I always had a fascination to come to the United States,” said Fierro, the second eldest of eight children and the son of a rancher and small business owner. Fierro entered the United States as an undocumented worker. He worked as a sheepherder, dishwasher and bus boy. In June 1985, Fierro moved to Utah alone. He stayed at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake then at the Road Home Men’s Shelter for a month. Fierro worked at temporary jobs, from construction to roofing, to make ends meets. He later lived at St. Mary’s Home for Men, a Catholic Community Services of Utah program.

Fierro said he enjoyed living in Salt Lake City, but he missed Mexican food and was “disgusted” by the refried beans in a can. “I thought, maybe I can sell beans to these gringos,” he said. In 1997, Fierro started selling frijoles de la olla (pinto beans) at the city’s Farmer’s Market. A year later, he opened Rico Market and eventually started catering. In 2000, he started selling Rico Mexican food products in stores. “I never thought I would sell beans for a living,” he joked.

When he started catering UWSL events more than 10 years ago, Fierro recognized that several of the community agencies that helped him were funded by UWSL to provide services. Since then, he’s been a UWSL investor by providing food and space. He specifically gives because he loves the work of the UWSL Women’s Philanthropic Network (WPN), a group that invests in immigrant and refugee integration in Utah.
“I realize how important the philosophy of United Way is for people like myself,” he said. “It’s something I can do to help a group of women that’s helping my people.”

UWSL Board Member Nominated to Serve on National Women’s Leadership Council


By: April Harrison
Women’s Philanthropic Network Director

I am thrilled to announce that Paula Green Johnson, a member of our Board of Directors and the current chair of our Women’s Philanthropic Network, has recently been nominated to serve on United Way Worldwide’s prestigious National Women’s Leadership Council (NWLC).  The NWLC purpose is to provide volunteer leadership to a national movement of 120 local United Way’s who mobilize the power of women to advance the common good in our communities.  With nearly 50,000 members nationwide, raising $120 million annually, United Way Women’s Leadership Council is a powerhouse of women’s philanthropy.   The NWLC provides support by providing a national strategy to advance resource development, leadership, and advocacy.  They do this through technical support to local United Way Women’s Leadership Councils, a speakers bureau, and national events.

Paula will bring her extensive experience with community organizations as well as her leadership of our United Way of Salt Lake Women’s Philanthropic Network to help advance the important work of the NWLC. I have been privileged to work side by side with Paula the last year and a half and I look forward to supporting her in this national role. Congratulations Paula!

Immigrant and Refuge Integration

By: April Harrison
Women’s Philanthropic Network Director

Immigrant and Refugee Integration: Medical Costs are a Concern for Refugee Families.

I recently was on a tour with a few WPN members of our Welcome Center, Hser Ner Moo and I heard the following story from the Outreach Specialist, Kendrick LaFleur.  Hser Ner Moo is a community center that is located at the South Parc apartment complex located South Salt Lake. Kendrick works with the many refugee families who live in the complex by assisting in job search, accessing English learning opportunities, ensuring that basic needs are being met, and he often is involved in helping the families’ access health care.

One night a family called him when one of the family members, a young Nepali woman named Man Maya, was suffering from a severe migraine.  Although this young woman was in serious pain, had been losing fluids, and was unable to sleep for days, she refused to go to the hospital because her Medicaid eligibility had expired.  (Adult refugee newcomers are given access to Medicaid, but typically only for a limited time – usually about 8 months.) Man Maya knew that her family could not afford the costs that her condition would accrue; thus, she suffered the pain feeling there were no other options. This poor young woman experienced migraines frequently, and had previously been prescribed a series of medicines to help manage the pain.

When Kendrick arrived at her bedside, all the lights were on, there were several adults carrying on loud conversations in her room, and there were children playing noisily up and down the stairs.  The first thing he did to simply educate the family that many migraine sufferers find that light and sound exacerbates their symptoms. He encouraged them to turn off all the lights in her room and that the family members should hold whispered conversations downstairs. Also, encouraging the children to settle down and find quiet activities to occupy themselves so that no unnecessary noises were made.

After reviewing the young woman’s labeled medicines and working with a reliable interpreter they discovered that she had not been following her prescriptions correctly.  She had been taking a daily medication meant to prevent migraines only after a migraine had begun to start, and she had been taking an acute pain reliever daily to prevent migraines.  Once they contacted a pharmacist to confirm that the labeled instructions were correct, and through the interpreter he was able to correct Man Maya’s medication use. Only minor adjustments were needed.

When Kendrick returned the following morning, he learned that Man Maya was able to sleep for the first time in days and that she was beginning to keep her fluids.  By the following week, she was back at work.

Kendrick has helped many individuals and families at the Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center who have had to deal medical issues such as strokes, heart attacks, seizures, child birth, scabies, severe flu, strep throat, broken arms, and dental pain.

I am so glad that we have an Outreach Specialist like Kendrick who is working with refugee families on a daily basis. He is helping these individuals and families integrate into our community.

Thank You Legislators for Listening


By: Karima Shaver
Company Relations, Biotron Laboratories
Women’s Philanthropic Network

“Attending the Legislative Breakfast last Thursday was enlightening. At times I feel the challenges of having my views represented on the state level.  After listening to the thoughtful questions posed by members of the United Way and Women’s Philanthropic Network, I was encouraged by the level of engagement offered by the panel and I appreciated that my concerns regarding our state budget, air quality, and immigration reform were shared by those present. Likewise, I feel a progressive voice that calls upon the citizens of Utah to take responsibility for our community (such as a higher gas tax, as suggested by Senator Romero to reduce driving) is key to shifting our attitudes as a culture. We must realize that each decision we make affects us all.  I was glad to have this opportunity to hear from our state representatives and I look forward to more opportunities for legislative dialog.”

Find your voice. Get informed. February 24 join UWSL for Day on the Hill.