University Neighborhood Partners is one of the sponsors of this education-themed issue. When I first looked at the description of the house serving as an office for University Neighborhood Partners, I was taken aback. I knew this house. It was Steve’s house.
Steve was a boy I grew up with. We went to grade school together when I moved to Glendale at age eight. We played little league baseball together. We graduated from the same high school. I lost touch of Steve after high school. A few years ago I learned Steve had died in 2004 after killing his ex-wife and turning a gun on himself.
For a while Steve and I were good friends. I used to hang out at his house. His dad worked as a gardener and raised plants for the International Peace Gardens in greenhouses behind the home. Steve was an only child, adopted by a couple that were old enough to be his grandparents. Looking back now, it must have been challenging for all of them.
On the same little league team as Steve and I was Al. We went to the same junior high and high school. Al went to college at Dixie State and then Weber State. Al was drafted by the San Diego Chargers and ended up playing in a Super Bowl.
The Jordan Park little league closed down before I aged out of it and both Steve and I played baseball in the Glendale little league the last two years. Jimmy was a pitching ace on another team. It was a guaranteed strike out if you faced him at bat. He was pretty good at basketball too. After an impressive high school run, he became the star point guard at the University of Utah.
Another of our teammates was also a great pitcher. Not as good as Jimmy. He also led a different life than Jimmy. Richie has spent most of his life behind bars. He got into a group fight at a party and two people died. Since Richie was one of the last people seen kicking the victims, he got charged and convicted of murder. He was released from prison a few years ago.
All of us were west side boys. We went to the same schools but we wound up with very different lives. What do you think made the difference? For me, it was the guidance provided by Upward Bound which helped me define my post secondary education.
As our economy and the future of the next generation becomes more reliant on education, programs like Upward Bound and organizations like UNP become more critical for the success of the neighborhoods they serve. Everyone has potential and we know education and guidance lead to better outcomes. With continued educational initiatives specific to west side students, hopefully we’ll see more successful outcomes like Al and Jimmy than the tragedies of Richie and Steve.
Nigel Swaby is a Fairpark resident and serves as Chair of the River District Chamber of Commerce.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Department of Education, only 34 percent of high school students in Utah fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA forms, making Utah second last in the nation for FAFSA completion.
Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting financial aid for college, says a statement by the Department of Education. Completing the FAFSA can help you to qualify for other scholarships and grants. A NerdWallet financial analysis report showed that nationally $2.3 billion in free federal grant money was left unclaimed during the 2016-2017 school year.
“We have a lot of students who don’t realize it’s there so they use their credit card and it’s like ‘no, don’t use your credit card,’” said Cristi Easton, Financial Aid Director at Salt Lake City Community College. She said that her department is doing something to remedy the problem of unclaimed money.
“This year we worked with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, UHEAA, who does FAFSA nights for high schools all over the state, and we had the biggest increase in FAFSA completion for the 2017-2018 school year than any school in the United States,” she said.
“I think they did 72 FAFSA nights last year and this year we did at least that many, ” Easton said, adding that members of the SLCC Office of Financial Aid go to local high schools to assist students with their FAFSA applications and introduce other options for funding.
The Promise Grant
One such option for students at SLCC is The Promise Grant, which is open to Utah residents only and is for those students who are eligible for a Pell Grant but still need additional funds for what the Pell Grant won’t cover, Easton said. “It came about after President Obama’s discussion about free community college.”
The Promise Grant is entirely needs-based and income-dependent. To qualify for Promise, students must first be receiving a Pell Grant, be a full-time student taking over 12 credit hours, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and have attempted less than 90 credit hours in the past. An average of 700 students received $800,000 from the Promise Grant last year, with the average award per student being around $1,100, according to the SLCC Office of Financial Aid.
Another option for covering the cost of college at SLCC is the Partnerships for Accessing College Education or PACE Scholarship, which offers full-tuition assistance to students for up to a two-year associate’s degree. PACE, founded in 2011, started as a partnership between SLCC and Zions Bank, said Monica Gomez-Rogerson, PACE Scholarship Coordinator at the college.
PACE is funded completely by businesses and private donors. Students are accepted into PACE in the 9th grade and asked to meet certain requirements in order to receive the scholarship at the end of those four years. There are four participating high schools in the PACE Scholarship program, including West, East, Highland, and Cottonwood high schools, said Gomez-Rogerson.
PACE Scholarship eligibility requirements include being a first-generation college student, maintaining a 2.5 GPA, having 90 percent attendance, taking enrichment math classes and having taken a concurrent enrollment or Advanced Placement class.
“If they meet all those requirements and they graduate with a high school diploma, they receive their scholarships, their two-year tuition and student fees scholarships,” Gomez-Rogerson said, adding that 68 percent of students from the four area participating high schools go on to SLCC and that around $257,000 is awarded to PACE students annually.
The PACE Scholarship seeks to serve students who not only have low incomes but who are also first-generation college students.
After acceptance into SLCC, she said that PACE students are put into a small cohort yet again. “The advantage for them is that they’re in a smaller group of students. All SLCC students have access to advisers, but these guys have special advisers that work specifically with these students.”
SLCC student Jasmin Topete, a freshman studying social work, is a recipient of the PACE Scholarship.
“I don’t have to worry about what if that happens or what if this happens… It’s awesome to focus on my education, to focus on my career and to not have to worry.”
She said that making it through the PACE program in high school was not easy. “It’s a lot of advanced classes and intense work, so it was difficult. There were times when I didn’t want to do it, but my adviser definitely helped me a lot. She was always there,” Topete said.
Topete said that she chose to major in social work after working at the YWCA. “Seeing what the kids went through, it really motivated me to want to do something.” She also said that her parents are especially proud of her as she is a first-generation college student.
“The PACE scholarship makes my dream of going to college a reality,” said Topete.
USU Freshmen Resident Merit Scholarship
Another scholarship to utilize the $2.3 billion national in financial aid money that went unclaimed last year is Utah State University’s Freshman Resident Merit Scholarship. USU Admissions Representative Naomi Jimenez, said that prospective USU students are given an index score which is based on a combination of their GPA, ACT, and SAT scores and that the index chart is available on the school’s website. Students can look up their index scores to see which scholarship they qualify for based on their scores and then apply.
Students need an index score of 122-125 for the Merit Scholarship, which is available only to Utah residents. It covers 45 percent of the resident tuition rate for that year.
USU junior Shanelle Horman said she looked up her index score on USU’s website and received a Freshmen Resident Merit Scholarship in the fall of 2014. “My ACT score was 26 and my GPA was 3.96. I got a $2,200 one-time scholarship,” Horman said.
Horman said that she “fell in love” with the education courses she took in high school and that she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She said she plans to graduate from USU in May of 2018 with a degree in elementary education.
Our CASA Lounges
There may be other resources for students who want to get assistance filling out the FAFSA, or who are looking for scholarships or college access programs. Several schools in the Salt Lake City School District have spaces called Our CASA lounges. “Our CASA (Communities Aspiring, Succeeding, and Achieving) lounges are community rooms where parents and students can access resources to advance their education,” said Paul Kuttner, Education Pathways Partnership Manager at University Neighborhood Partners through the University of Utah, one of the sponsors of Our CASA.
Other sponsors of Our CASA lounges include the Salt Lake City School District, Google Fiber, A Capital City Education, and AT&T. Kuttner said a student from West High School came up with the name “Our CASA” and that the students liked that the name bridged two languages and that the lounges could feel like home.
At the Our CASA lounges, students, parents, and members of the community have access to computers, AmeriCorps mentors, workshops, adult education classes, and other events.
Our CASA lounges opened early this year at Backman Elementary School, West High School, the Glendale Mountain View Community Learning Center, and the Salt Lake Center for Science Education. Kuttner said the plan for them is still developing and that each Our CASA space varies from site to site.
“So it’s not going to be the same at an elementary school vs. a middle school, because they need different things. Each school develops its own space.West High School’s space is mostly used for college access programs and at Backman Elementary, the space is mostly used for family engagement activities, like parent meetings,“ Kuttner said.
There are plans to open up Our CASA lounges at Northwest Middle School and at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center later this month.
It’s 2017, and abstinence-only education still carries the day in Utah. That needs to change.
In 1988, reacting to the AIDS outbreak, Sen. Frances Farley (D-Salt Lake City) introduced abstinence into Utah’s sex education curriculum. It has since been modified to abstinence-only, which now comprises 23 percent of sex education in the United States (up from only 2 percent in 1988).
In the meantime, Salt Lake County has seen a dramatic upswing in sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates. The Beehive State’s most populous county went from having 201 gonorrhea cases in 2010 to 1,028 cases in 2015. Lynn Beltran, the Salt Lake County Health Department’s STD and HIV epidemiology supervisor, told the Deseret News in 2016 that comprehensive sex education is necessary to combat the changing culture around sex.
During the past two legislative sessions, Rep. Brian King has introduced bills attempting to modernize the curriculum. His 2016 bill, H.B. 246 (Reproductive Health Amendments), died in the House Education Committee on a 2-11 vote.
In 2017, King proposed H.B. 215 (Reproductive Health Education and Services Amendments). The bill would have given parents the option to choose between abstinence-only instruction, a more comprehensive lesson ranging from reproductive health and “healthy relationships” to abstinence, or nothing at all. The bill also contained provisions for instructing students about sexual assault and how to react and respond to it. Despite an endorsement from the Utah Medical Association, H.B. 215 met the same fate as its predecessor. Legislators were reluctant to upend the status quo, but Rep. Bruce Cutler (R-Murray) floated the idea of creating a commission to investigate possible reforms.
The latest proposal to modify Utah sex education comes from Rep. Justin Fawson (R-North Ogden), who is drafting a bill for internet-based lessons to take the place of classroom instruction. Parents would have the option to weigh in under Fawson’s proposal as well.
A recently-published report in the Journal of Adolescent Health argues that abstinence-only instruction does not succeed in preventing young people from having sex. “In both domestic and global contexts, [abstinence-only sex education] has not resulted in delays in sexual intercourse or the adoption of more protective sexual behaviors. The emphasis on [abstinence-only sex education] approaches has harmed other public health efforts, such as family planning programs and HIV prevention efforts, domestically and globally,” researchers wrote. “Governments in the United States and elsewhere should support medically accurate, evidence-based, and scientifically justified approaches to sexuality education for young people. [Abstinence-only sex education] as a basis for health policy and programs should be abandoned.”
A number of organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the Institute of Medicine, the American School Health Association and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, have spoken in favor of comprehensive sex education.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We are continually failing our youth by not adequately educating them about sex. Whatever happens during the upcoming legislative session, the conversation needs to continue. If we want to get serious about reducing STD rates, it is necessary to make sex education reality-based, not steeped in Victorian-era morality.
You may have noticed a house on 900 West on the south end of Jordan Park with a University of Utah flag and a big U on a marquee, and wondered, “Is this a satellite campus for U of U students, or some kind of recruitment office?”
The house serves as headquarters for a special department of the University of Utah called University Neighborhood Partners. UNP has been facilitating partnerships between the U of U campus and Salt Lake City’s west side for over 15 years.
In response to the low enrollment of west side residents from the 84104 and 84116 zip codes at the state’s flagship university, U of U President Bernie Machen created a west side initiative in 2001, and appointed Irene Fisher to develop it.
However, the initiative was not simply a recruitment effort. After conducting extensive interviews with over 250 west side residents and U of U faculty, Fisher laid the groundwork for an organization that would bring together campus and community resources in mutually beneficial partnership work – work that aimed to address barriers to higher education for west side residents.
In a 2011 UNP publication called Community Voices, Fisher described how she and Machen “envisioned a future in which more and more west side youth would pursue higher education.” They also envisioned campus-community partners working together to address social issues – in the areas of employment, housing and health – that impact these neighborhoods.
UNP’s partnership model is based on mutual benefit and respect. Glendale resident and current UNP Advisory Board co-chair Kate Rubalcava said, “In the past, institutions of higher education often utilized the west side as a source of research but not as partners. Through UNP's involvement this has shifted. I see reciprocal learning, action, and benefit as our communities are treated as experts and partners.”
In 2003, UNP established a physical presence on the west side in a house donated by Salt Lake City at 1060 S. 900 W. The house serves primarily as office and meeting space. In 2012, UNP acquired another building at 1575 W. 1700 S. called the Hartland Partnership Center, which allowed the partnership work to expand considerably.
Today, over 70 UNP partnerships are working to create pathways to higher education, to increase community capacity, to support resident leadership, and to engage faculty and students in “community engaged scholarship.”
The network of partnerships is so vast, that it is difficult to wrap your head around the scope of influence UNP is having on the west side and at the U of U.
Take for example, the Westside Leadership Institute, a partnership between U of U faculty and local nonprofit Neighborworks Salt Lake, which supports west side residents in civic action to create positive change. Leadership training is taught in both English and Spanish. Since 2004, nearly 450 residents have graduated from the institute and many have gone on to do meaningful work in the community.
A few of the many graduates of the WLI include: State Representative Sandra Hollins, SLC School Board Representative Tiffany Sandberg, KRCL Radio Talk Show Host Billy Palmer, Chicana artist and Mestizo Institute of Art and Culture Founder Ruby Chacon, and Latino Behavioral Health Services Founder Jaqueline Gomez-Arias. Even this newspaper has benefited from participation in the WLI.
Another partnership that supports resident-led initiatives is the Westside Studio, which connects students from the College of Architecture + Planning with west side organizations and residents to focus on urban planning issues, such as addressing “problem” motels on North Temple or gathering input for the future of the 9 Line trail.
Other partnerships focus on improving educational outcomes in west side schools and empowering parents to become stronger advocates for their children’s education.
Scholarship funds and other resources also exist through UNP for our residents to have better access to higher education.
UNP Executive Director Sarah Munro said, “UNP’s goal, in all of our work, is reciprocal benefit – where everyone involved in the work, no matter what their background, is able to achieve their goals more effectively by working together. What’s really unique is the process of sharing different perspectives around the table, and coming up with better ideas and solutions as a result.”
ITALICS: For more information about UNP, visit their website at https://partners.utah.edu.
Charlotte Fife-Jepperson served as a Westside Community Ambassador for UNP in 2002 and co-chair of UNP’s Advisory Board for the past six years. West View Media has benefitted from several partnerships through UNP since 2011.
According to UNP:
In 2016, U of U enrollment and graduation rates from west side neighborhoods had more than tripled since UNP began work in 2003. In 2002 there were 30 U of U graduates. In 2016, there were 102 graduates.
In 2004 there were 7 partnerships located in 12 locations. Currently there are 70 partnerships in 30 locations, with more planned.
The following story was reported by The Utah Investigative Journalism Project in partnership with West View Media.
Michael Clára, a former Salt Lake City School board member who used to represent the west side’s Precinct 2, will tell you and anyone that will listen that the east/west educational divide in Salt Lake City is a problem wrapped up in issues of wealth and income, language and race and lots of other issues people don’t often like to talk about.
He also will admit that his combative insistence on talking about these issues probably cost him his board seat, with his aggressive style rubbing voters wrong in the last election. The issues remain, however. Clára points to a time, when on the board, that he happened to visit two elementary schools – one on the west side and one on the east side and in both trips caught teachers reading the same book to their students. At the east-side school the teacher was leading a discussion about character and plot points to a group of third graders, on the west side the teacher and her students were talking about how they liked the color of the dress that the book’s character was wearing. Clára was struck by the realization that different teachers and students could be literally on the same page on different sides of town but nowhere near the same educational level.
“Most teachers will easily admit that it is night and day when you look at it from an occupational perspective,” Clara says. “When you go to the east side it’s a breeze, you go to the west side and it’s a whole different life.”
Education leaders are hoping recent reforms will help slow the cross-town flight of educators, but teacher turnover is a major issue west-side community leaders have long struggled with, and it’s easy to see why. Greater hurdles of poverty and language barriers tend to push teachers out more frequently to cushier gigs on the east side.
The Utah Investigative Journalism Project analyzed the base salaries (not counting benefits) provided to elementary school teachers in the Salt Lake School District during the 2016-2017 school year. The data shows that elementary school teachers on the west side averaged $57,840 in salary compared to $64,437 for teachers on the east side.
District teachers all work on the same salary schedule, receiving increased compensation over time based on the number of years they’ve been on the job. The data does show some teachers on the west side with salaries above $70,000, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The east side draws, and keeps, experienced educators to teach in communities where fewer students struggle with English as a second language, and where the neighborhoods are richer. (Based on 2015 federal income data from the Salt Lake School District site, 87 percent of west side schools were low income.)
The data also shows how many more inexperienced teachers there are on the west side. For the 2016-2017 year the base salary for an elementary teacher was $39,954. Over all the west side, for teachers who taught the whole school year, 27.7 percent had salaries below $50,000 a year, compared to 12.8 percent of east-side elementary school teachers—nearly double the number of teachers with little to moderate experience.
On the high-end of the scale, 67.7 percent of east-side teachers made over $60,000 a year, compared to just 37.6 percent of west-side teachers.
The distribution of inexperienced teachers also hits some west-side schools harder than others. Backman Elementary, for example, had nearly one-third of its salaried teachers making under $45,000, meaning they were likely still fresh out of college.
The data shows an interesting picture, although an incomplete one. The numbers crunched, for example, only look at salaried teachers and does not include support staff like teacher coaches and paraprofessional teacher’s aides, many of whom work on the west side.
Elizabeth Tabish has taught group piano at Glendale Middle School through the Youth Enrichment Foundation for the past 13 years and says she’s found it incredibly rewarding but challenging. Tabish said she’s paid as a music teacher but also acts as a counselor and a mother, with those duties usually taking priority over sheet music.
While Tabish is proud to call the west side home, she also understands why teachers leave to go to the east side. Over the years she’s seen students tell teachers to shut up, ignore them, hurl things at them. “I’ve broken up hundreds of fights – boys, girls, parents,” Tabish said.
She believes that the greatest factor leading to teacher burnout comes from a lack of parental involvement. Whether parents are too busy working multiple jobs, or don’t understand how or why they should get involved in their child’s education, or they’re simply neglectful, it affects the students who, in turn, act out in class.
“It’s really hard dealing with discipline when you have a hard time getting hold of parents,” said Tabish.
For Heather Bennett, President of the Salt Lake City School Board the divide really isn’t about east versus west, it’s really a matter of Title 1 schools versus non-Title 1 schools. The distinction refers to schools that qualify for special federal funds based on low-income populations. She points out it’s not something unique to Utah’s capital but is an issue all across the country.
“Nationwide it’s harder to keep teachers for the long term in Title 1 schools, especially with the mandates of federal and state governments across the country that attempt to punish kids, punish schools and punish teachers for lower performance on standardized tests,” Bennett says. “It just exhausts teachers.”
Despite the clear demand that west side students need more experienced and qualified teachers, it’s not so easy for a school district to simply push more money into those positions. Agreements with teachers’ unions give educators agency to move to new positions and schools after they’ve cleared a three-year provisional period. That mobility is a strong advantage for the teacher’s union.
Michael Harman is a Utah representative for the National Education Association, and a west-sider himself who understands the challenges of teacher retention. But he said that the union has to be careful about negotiating for different salaries for different schools.
“We have to be careful not to have teachers competing against each other, because we represent all teachers,” Harman says. He says that teachers might be open to a discussion about different pay for more challenging educational environments, but there hasn’t been a strong desire among members on the subject. He says teachers are more interested in funding efforts like capping classroom sizes in Title 1 schools.
Harman looks to the Our Schools Now proposal, a ballot initiative to increase taxes to raise more than $700 million in education funding, as a means of keeping west side teachers in place by reducing classroom sizes and easing the difficulty of their work environment.
Tiffany Sandberg, School Board member for the west side’s Precinct 1, says union negotiations always mean approaching pay in terms of across-the-board compensation that doesn’t favor teachers on one side of I-15 over another. Though she also concedes compensation is not everything.
“There has to be merit behind it, we can’t just say ‘if you come to the west side we’re going to pay you more,’” Sandberg says. “It could just mean we’re attracting teachers that just want to be making more.”
Despite the challenge, educators have a lot to be excited about in recent reforms that they hope will in the near future translate into more teachers sticking around on the west side.
In the 2017 legislative session Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, passed House Bill 212, into law, granting teachers in high-poverty schools the ability to gain a $5,000 salary bonus for helping students meet key academic goals.
“Some teachers are really good at helping students grow,” Winder says of the educators he wanted to help out.
At the local district level Sandberg is also optimistic about popular west-side programs.
“One of the things I’ve been pushing for in helping to retain experienced teachers and just helping our students’ lives be much better is expanding our early childhood education,” Sandberg says. She points to the “Parents as Teachers” program that helps teach parents how to become teachers for their children as early as six months old, to not only help “foster a love of education” but also get parents more involved in their child’s education early on.
Bennett likewise points out that under the new tenure of District Superintendent Alexa Cunningham the district has succeeded in getting more vice principals hired for Title 1 schools.
Indeed, analysis of 2016-2017 compensation showed 18 administrators at east side schools that averaged $90,409 in salary compared to 26 administrators for west side schools that averaged $91,971 in salary.
Bennett also notes that the Salt Lake City School District was the only school district in the state to gain legislative funding for a special grant to hire mentors for its new teachers.
“This last year the grant ended, but for the coming year we were able to fund it ourselves,” Bennett says. Nevertheless, there are always more needs, and especially with early childhood services Bennett and Sandberg hope more funding could be found to help such crucial interventions in children’s lives.
But both also believe in and are inspired by the passion of their principals and educators.
Bennett points to Backman Elementary, a school in Rose Park with a high index of challenges, but also one with dance classes and innovative special-education programming, a family-engagement coordinator and a stellar principal, among other advantages.
Backman’s principal Heather Newell has a “fabulous team,” Bennett says, but even still she’s had to hire 50 teachers in the space of four years. As shocking as that is, Bennett says it’s also about getting the right teachers to fill the classrooms.
“You don’t necessarily want to keep everyone that comes around just to say ‘our retention stats are good,’” Bennett says.
“I would defy anyone to go into that school and not see that it’s a wonderful place and that good things are happening there,” Bennett says.
For Tabish, teaching west side students, challenges and all, is her passion.
“I wholeheartedly love my students the same way I love my own children. I can say that without any hesitation and my students know this,” said Tabish.
Amy Oliver is a resident of Rose Park, working at a PR firm downtown – but she is also a NASA Ambassador, taking the general public throughout the Solar System with her presentations about NASA’s projects in space. NASA Ambassadors receive special training from NASA and the mission’s headquarters in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
“My interest in science began with Cassini,” Oliver said, and after her father gave her a stack of colorful NASA material. When Cassini the spacecraft finished its work after decades around Saturn in October of 2017, Amy led a public gathering watching the event.
Ms. Oliver has been selected as a Utah Ambassador for the OSIRIS-REx mission, a spacecraft on its way to the tiny asteroid Bennu later this summer. After taking time to synchronize their movements, OSIRIS-Rex will take samples of Bennu’s surface, and eventually launch its capsule full of asteroid particles towards Earth, for a soft landing in Utah during 2023 near Dugway. The spacecraft will then “park” itself near Earth, in orbit around the Sun, for future use.
For those who are curious, OSIRIS-Rex means: O for Origins, SI for Spectral Interpretation, RI for Resource Identification, S for Security (possible deflection), and Rex for Regolith explorer, or the gathering of surface rocks, dirt, and dust.
“People living in Utah may just have the opportunity to see the OSIRIS-Rex capsule parachuting down through the sky as it returns home. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than knowing that samples and data collected from this important NASA mission will end up in our own backyard,” she added.
“Our state is such a key player in this mission,” said Ms. Oliver and I want every person in Utah to be excited, and especially young girls who are interested in science and space. Science is a world of possibilities.”
“The reason these (NASA Ambassador) programs exist is about generating excitement in the community from within the community,” Amy told West View, “We are not science professionals. I used to work at Clark Planetarium, but I am not a scientist. I’m a Public Relations professional. My role with this OSIRIS-Rex program is to make it digestible – connecting the community to something they understand about science and wanting to be part of it too. This program does not exist without the people of the United States of America!”
Ms. Oliver is doing her first OSIRIS-Rex presentation in January, with more to follow over the next five years. Ms. Oliver gives explicit credit to her experience as NASA Ambassador in gaining her current job, and praises NASA for augmenting her work at Clark Planetarium.
Youth programs are an important part of any community. It’s not just a place to put the kids when they have nothing to do after school. It’s a space where they can interact, learn, and grow from their peers. Two programs that I have had the honor of being a part of are Mestizo Arts and Activism and Youth Voices.
Mestizo Arts and Activism (MAA) is a youth program that helps high school students utilize art as a means to advocate for social change within their communities. Meeting at Jackson Elementary, MAA strives to connect youth to higher educational pathways. With ten years underneath its belt, MAA has helped many students see their communities through a critical lense. MAA strives to combine the unique experiences that youth have with the untold histories and stories that have shaped their own realities. In this there is empowerment. When youth know their roots and the political implications that it plays in their lives, they can create deeper, more meaningful change in their communities.
Youth Voices is a program at the Hartland Youth Center in Glendale. It is a space where high school youth can raise their voices and be heard, where they can come together and discuss their experiences in school, community, and culture. Currently in its second year, participants in Youth Voices have been spending time discussing the ways in which language, power, and access to education impacts them as individuals as well as the Glendale community at large. Now that the program is heading into the spring semester, the students are brainstorming and preparing a creative project to be carried out before the end of the school year.
Mestizo Arts and Activism and Youth Voices are both supported partnerships through University Neighborhood Partners. Both programs are committed to west side youth and are places of self-discovery and empowerment. For these programs, there is more than meets the eye. If you take a peek you will find that it is a safe space where youth can actively share their thoughts and opinions on what they experience in their own environments, namely Glendale and Rose Park and all the neighborhoods in between.
Being a part of these programs, I’ve not only seen the youth grow but I have also seen my own personal growth. I feel that I have grown up a lot with the students. Every year that I continue to mentor and do community work, I have an increased understanding of this type of work and realize how much it is needed. There is value in giving youth a space where they can vocalize their opinions about their community. It is valuable for youth to articulate their experiences through the arts.
In the coming months, it is the hopes of facilitators in both MAA and Youth Voices to come together and have conversations of what they see happening on the west side. The different locations of these programs give an opportunity to connect west-side neighborhoods – Rose Park and Glendale. Having youth talk and discuss their experiences with each other and learn side by side leads to growth and trust. This can lead to positive change. If you know who your neighbors are, there is no need for prejudice or fear. With those out of the way, there is more room for understanding and love.
Siosaia Langi is a Glendale resident, graduated last May from the University of Utah with a degree in Sociology & Ethnic Studies. He currently works as a facilitator for Youth Voices, which is supported by UNP.
My name is Kepa Maumau. I am Tongan. I was raised in Glendale, and I feel a connection to this community. I find it fitting to share my reality in ITALICIZE The West View. I hope my words speak to people everywhere regardless of where they're from, their race, nationality, age or gender. I am contributing to ITALICIZE The West View in hopes of improving lives in my community and wherever these words may land.
I've spent nearly a decade behind bars, but my education continues. This is where I discovered that education is more than what we learn in a classroom. It took a 55-year prison sentence for my old self to die and to give birth to a new me, a new awareness. I know others in my community do not need to experience 55 years in prison to learn the lessons I learned. It only takes an open heart and mind towards what I have to share.
To kids everywhere: make the most of the opportunities given to you through school, and just as important, do not join gangs. To parents, hold close relationships with your kids and support them in all that they do to attain their goals.
I attended Edison Elementary Glendale Middle School. My time in high school was divided among East, American Fork, and Granger High Schools. Part of the split time was due to getting in trouble and being placed elsewhere. Upon graduation, I attended Weber State University and a community college in Glendale, Arizona.
My education path started off well enough. In elementary, my focus and attention was completely invested in lessons during school. I believe this was possible because I did not have to stress about the things my parents stressed about, like bills and taking care of the family. I loved learning. I loved my teachers and my classmates. My teachers were always nice, respectful and caring. This made school an environment where I could learn freely. I was in a program for gifted students. I enjoyed playing all sports. I had few worries.
As I approached my adolescent years, my tendencies were directed in negative ways. We found other ways of having fun. But what was fun for me was also destructive. The curious learner in me became curious about drugs, alcohol and crime, which led to juvenile detention. Not cool. I was an honor roll student who was lured by the stimulation of worldly things, rather than the education school provided – education that offered a promising future.
I am choosing not to explain the details of the troubles I've been in and out of for a number of reasons. It is no secret that I've been charged and convicted as a gang member. This kind of life has been mistakenly glorified and I am here to be your reality check. Do not join gangs. There is no future in it. Help yourselves and your families by staying in school. My family and friends have suffered because of my incarceration.
I do not wish to see any kids from my community next to me in prison. I know the potential and talent we have in our neighborhoods, but to see it all go to waste is disheartening for me. I recognize the destruction gangs and crime can cause for my community's future and my family's future.
Just as I have been a part of the problem through my ignorance, I have been enlightened to be part of the solution. My contribution comes in the form of awareness.
What a kid is learning outside of school can impact that kid’s performance in school, and in effect, life. Knowing this, we should ask ourselves, “What are we doing or helping to teach in our homes and our community?” The answers can make the difference in whether a child succeeds.
My wish for young kids everywhere, especially in my community, is to stay on track with their education and decision-making. I have learned that we have the ability and power to overcome outside conditions.
It was quite a sight to see – a procession of men cautiously walking around Jordan Park in high heels. Some wobbled and a couple rolled their ankles, others walked alongside women (called “blister sisters”) who were there in case the men needed to grab their arm for support.
The gender roles were intentionally reversed at this domestic violence awareness event last October.
Organized by the Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) non-profit, their annual event called “In Heels to Heal” raised awareness about the problem of domestic and sexual violence against women.
“We are trying to understand how it feels to walk in their shoes,” said Simi Poteki, director of KAVA Talks, a program within PIK2AR that educates Pacific Islander men about domestic violence and sexual abuse issues.
KAVA Talks (Kommitment Against Violence Altogether) is a men’s group that meets monthly to discuss violence prevention within the Pacific Islander community. (In case you were wondering, this has nothing to do with kava drinking, but they do use the Kava circle platform for open discussion.)
A Women’s Empowerment Group, which meets weekly in Glendale, was recently added to the programing to provide a safe environment for Pacific Islander women to share their unique perspectives and experiences concerning their wellbeing. Women are invited to come for “REST,” which stands for Resources, Education, Support & Talanoa (Talk).
Poteki and his wife Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou started up the KAVA Talks and women’s groups to address the domestic violence that is prevalent not only in their community, but the community at large. No cultural group is immune.
“In the islands, we tolerate violence so much that we think it is part of our culture. It is not. Abuse does not belong in any culture, especially ours,” said Poteki.
“When little kids grow up and see their dad hit their momma, they just turn their heads the other way, because it’s beyond their control. They are not supposed to say anything. Well, it’s time for some of us to stand up and say something,” he said.
PIK2AR also organizes film screenings and panel discussions as part of their domestic violence prevention efforts.
To find out more about PIK2AR and KAVA Talks, visit www.pik2ar.info, contact Executive Director Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou at , or attend one of the following meetings:
KAVA Talks: Meet other men who work towards eliminating violence on the 2nd Thursday of each month at Jordan Valley Medical Center West Valley Campus, 3460 S. Pioneer Pkwy, West Valley City.
Pacific Island Women’s Empowerment Group: a peer support group that meets every Wednesday at the Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S 900 W. from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Free child care available.
Much learning takes place outside of the traditional classroom.
Outdoor enthusiast Dan Potts teaches three popular classes in West High School’s Community Education program during the first part of the year – Ice Fishing, Fly Tying, and Wild Food Foraging. Mr. Potts also teaches Intensive Gardening later in the spring, about growing the most food in the smallest available space.
The Salt Lake City School District’s Community Education Program has a flexible system that allows the public four ways of registering for a multitude of different classes at the three different sites at East, Highland and West High Schools. Brian O’Neal, who manages the program at West, stressed how well online registration worked, and how popular and efficient it was compared to mail-in registration, phone registration, or rare cases of in-person registration.
Instead of mailing out bulky paper catalogs this year, the district mailed postcards with the web address of the online catalog. Classes vary in duration, beginning and ending throughout the semester, with other classes replacing them. To access the printable catalog, go to www.slcschools.org/departments/community-education/documents/17-18-winter-catalog.pdf
Online registration helps everyone by keeping a person’s chosen class from being cancelled, or even over-booked. For instance, there are only ten kits readily available for Fly Tying. Classes are cancelled if there are less than five students. Online registration starts on January 3 and classes start the week of January 16.
There’s a category called “Enrichment” in the catalog, but O’Neal said, “Everything we offer is an Enrichment Program!” He mentioned the importance of word of mouth recommendations, as Potts also pointed out, which drives many students to try his classes.
O’Neal spoke about a Hip Hop class and an eight-week Zumba class, both taught by Chelsea Fernandez. He also mentioned a Bollywood Dance class taught by Divya Narayanan. Youth Karate is also well-attended, as are computer software classes like Quick Books, Excel, Power Point, and Word. O’Neal said he is always on the lookout for new teachers with good ideas.
Potts’ Ice Fishing class meets in Room 200 on the second floor of West High School’s Main Building, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday January 22. There are 4 sessions of two hours each. Potts teaches how to enjoy getting above the winter inversions to bask in the sunshine while catching your evening meal on nearby mountain lakes.
Potts’ Fly Tying class meets the next night, Tuesday January 23 in Room 200 as well, but it meets five times during the course. His Wild Foods Foraging class meets twice a year in spring and autumn for six sessions each and roughly 30 people sign up for the experience. It costs $50.00, but the demand for this process mean that class sizes are limited to just over two dozen people. There’s a strong element of fun in all of Pott's classes as well, and he says “I intend to make it that way.”