Monday, 06 March 2017 18:09

Emerging leaders work together to improve their communities

WLI: Graduates and instructors from the Fall 2016 Westside Leadership Institute cohort give presentations and pose for photos at the University of Utah at their graduation program.  Photos by David Ricketts||| WLI: Graduates and instructors from the Fall 2016 Westside Leadership Institute cohort give presentations and pose for photos at the University of Utah at their graduation program. Photos by David Ricketts||| |||

By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson

The keynote speaker at the Fall 2016 Westside Leadership Institute (WLI) graduation told an inspirational story of how hard work and determination helped his family achieve the “American Dream.” His family emigrated from Somalia in the late ‘80s, and became the first black family to live in their affluent neighborhood in Cache County.

Mohamed “Mo” Abdullahi told WLI graduates and their families and how he, his mother and brother came to Logan, Utah in 1989 to join his father who was studying at Utah State University. Their early days in the U.S. were challenging. His father was a full-time student and worked full-time to support the nine people living in their two-bedroom apartment.

That hard work paid off when Abdullahi’s family bought their first home in Logan. Eventually, after his father became the Director of Environmental Engineering at Logan City, they moved to a more affluent neighborhood.

Abdullahi’s message was especially relevant to this class of fourteen graduates, because most of them are immigrants and New Americans wanting to create better lives for themselves and their communities.

Since 2004, the WLI has offered community leadership training, in both Spanish and English, to almost 400 west side residents who work on projects that make a positive difference in their community. Past projects include Mestizo Institute of Culture and Art, Projecto Autismo (an autism awareness non-profit), West View Media, The People’s Market (now the 9th West Farmer’s Market), and the Jordan River Community Initiative, to name a few.

Many graduates of the WLI have gone on to become more civically involved, to run for political office, to start up their own non-profit organizations, and some have even returned to help teach WLI classes.

Three projects came out of the Fall 2016 cohort. One group of students focused on mental health and depression, particularly in the Latino community. They learned that suicides are among the leading causes of death among young Hispanics. They held focus groups to answer questions with the ultimate goal of preventing suicide and its impact on society.

Another project involved providing job skills training for new refugees. They developed a pathway to employment for new arrivals aimed at boosting their employability and helping them to get their first job in the United States.

Another group of students started the WAVES Project – an e-journal containing a collection of true-life stories. The authors come from diverse backgrounds and hope to demonstrate the resilience of many New Americans who struggle to adapt to life in the U.S.

Graduates of the WLI learn about project management and leadership, and can even earn U of U credit for completing the 12-week course. The WLI operates as a partnership between local nonprofit NeighborWorks Salt Lake, University Neighborhood Partners, U of U Center for Public Policy and Administration, the U. Gender Studies Program and Salt Lake Education Foundation.

To find out more about upcoming WLI courses offered in the spring and fall, visit the Westside Leadership Institute page on Facebook.

WLI Impact Map

 

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