22 February 2017

Volunteer to Party and Celebrate Dr. Seuss' Birthday!

Dr. Seuss is an American icon. He has inspired generations of learners to read. His words have been used to inspire, uplift, and create joy.

“Oh, the places you’ll go” is my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss book. One of my most cherished memories as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eastern Europe was our swearing in ceremony. After nearly 3 months of a grueling training program, I stood with my colleagues and swore an oath to serve our country by spreading peace and friendship. I had dreamed of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer since the 4th grade. And finally, on that humid and sweltering afternoon, there I was: raising my right hand and reflecting on how I’d been able to achieve one of my dreams. Next, the country director began to recite “Oh, the places you’ll go.”  I was amazed by how much wisdom was in this children’s book.

Today you are you!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about what this journey may hold. On our last day as Peace Corps volunteers, I “rang the bell” with some of my best friends in a symbolic close of service tradition (and whoops, we broke the bell!). That evening I read this little gem one more time and looked back on those two years of service. Little did I know that a new adventure was just beginning.

Upon returning home, I was lucky to land my dream job as a Community School Director with United Way at South Kearns Elementary. Using a Collective Impact model, we are working for population level change in eliminating disparities in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods. This means I work on coordinating different partnerships, aligning services, and using data to inform programming. As a United Way Community School, South Kearns Elementary is lucky to host volunteers for different events with students, parents, and teachers. Our next large volunteer event will be held in March.

Schools across the nation will be celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, a little known holiday called “Dr. Seuss Day.” Some schools fill the school day with Dr. Seuss themed activities for students while others cater to families and host their events in the evening. South Kearns Elementary will be hosting a family night with 8 different stations based on some of his best-known books. Activities will include playing with musical instruments, planting seeds, making playdough, photo booths, and story time.

Our teachers are excited about the event, but we’re looking for volunteers to help make this event as successful as possible. That’s where you come in!

Rosemary Mitchell is the Community School Director at South Kearns Elementary. United Way of Salt Lake currently has over 30 Community Schools across 6 promise neighborhoods throughout the valley. To support a Dr. Seuss day near you, sign up to volunteer here: http://seuss.uw.org/  

13 February 2017

Who Helped You During Your Literacy Journey?

Last night, I cooked pasta for dinner. After chopping the tomatoes and onions and adding spices, a delicious sauce bubbled on the stove. I boiled the water for the pasta and cooked it until it was al dente.  I served it with minced fresh basil and grated parmesan. During the time I created the recipe, I did not think about the action of chopping the vegetables or boiling the water as laborious. The process of making the food is second nature to me because I learned how to use kitchen tools and recognize what boiling water looks like through practice. I take for granted on a daily basis the basic skills I perform to nourish my body and stay healthy.

Much like cooking skills, my reading skills are second nature to me. When I cooked dinner last night, I glanced over a recipe and made use of those directions to create a delicious meal. When I am reading a book, I do not think about the action of reading or the order of letters. In the workplace, I fill out paperwork and read memos from co-workers without considering the individual words on the page. I move through the world processing the information that I gain through reading rather than thinking about the action of reading itself.

Access to literacy education is a basic right in the United States through our school system, but we must remember that being literate is still a privilege that is based on social, financial, and geographical resources. I ask you to think about all of the people who took part in your literacy journey. Learning any new skill has easy and challenging components. From learning letters and building your written vocabulary to critically comprehending paragraphs and writing essays for college, you and I have received feedback from our teachers. What happened when you struggled with a concept? Did your parents help you overcome your reading obstacles? Were they able to hire a tutor for you? Or were you able to walk to a community center that offered after-school programming based in literacy and homework help? Your ability to read is not simply a measure of how smart you are. Your ability to read is a product of your perseverance, your family’s financial capacity, where you live, your school’s resources, your network in the community, and so many other factors.

The America Reads Program at Salt Lake Community College invites you to become part of an elementary school student’s literacy journey. Providing consistent reading support and engaging mentorship can have an incalculable impact on the life of a young person who is struggling to read the words on the page. Through weekly tutoring, you can help them cut the keys to unlock their imagination, their potential, and a world of opportunity, which will impact their educational attainment, their career path, and their future families. If “knowledge is power”, you will give them the tools to analyze their community, engage civically, and be critical thinkers.

Through the America Reads program, you will:
  • Work with students at Esperanza Elementary, Nibley Park K-8, or the YMCA on a weekly basis throughout the academic year to build their reading skills and comprehension.
  • Earn your work-study financial aid award.
  • Acquire tutoring and communication skills

Samantha Collins is the Community Work Study Coordinator at the Thayne Center for Service and Learning. America Reads tutors reach over 200 youth each year and partner with Esperanza Elementary, Nibley Park K-8, and the YMCA of Northern Utah. Join our team by contacting Samantha Collins or by applying online here.

07 February 2017

Thayne Center Helps to Create a Civically Engaged Match Made in Heaven

When I first learned about the Community Partner Speed Networking event I was not sure how helpful it was going to be or what to really expect. I mean the first thought when hearing “speed date”, did not bring up warm and fuzzy thoughts. I can only tell you how wrong my impressions of this event were. It proved to be an exceptional experience that has benefited me in many ways.
To give you a little background on me and how all this came about. I have been involved in some kind of service activity for most all of my life. This was something my mother felt was very important and made sure we were involved in. At first it was the old “Do I have to?” as I got older my view has changed to service being something I enjoy and value. So when I first found out about the Civically Engaged Scholars program it felt like a natural fit. I was even more excited that the program I was enrolled in at SLCC had a specific track that was built to work with the Civically Engaged Scholars. This meant that participating and passing many of my classes would meet the needed requirements to be a Civically Engaged Scholar. One of these major requirements was the service hours. At the time I was working with Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA), but with the demands of school and the passing of my canine team member, I needed a change, I was just not sure what I wanted to change to. A few months later I got an email from Brandon Devlin telling us that he was the new contact for the Engaged Scholars. He informed us some changes were happing in the program and we would need to attend a cohort meeting to get the new information and so he could meet all of us. It was at the bottom of this email that he wanted to tell us about the Community Partner Speed Networking Workshop. It was in three days and I thought this will be a good opportunity for me. When I looked at my calendar, I saw that I could make the time but it would be tight. As time got closer I was less and less excited to attend, only because I was worn out from the previous days and I still had more to come. When the time came to actually go all I could think about was, this is not required; I have plenty of other places to volunteer; I can use this time to get caught up on home work instead. The last thought was this could be a really good opportunity and I don’t know if it will come around again. I mustered up the resolve and headed out. This turned out to be a great decision on my part.
              I arrived at the collage and was having trouble finding a parking spot. I started to worry that I was going to be late, as I quickly walked through the building looking for the room. I passed the sign for the event and quickly checked to make sure it was the room and went in. I was not really sure what I was getting into. I walked into the room my first thought was I am in the wrong place, I walked out of the room and checked the sign outside the door again. It was the right place. I was taken back at first because nothing there was what I expected. They had a small table set up with refreshments and this time someone was able to greet me and help direct me and get me a name tag. I got all settled in and ready for the event to start. I looked around for other students and I did not see very many. I was a little nervous thinking that I misunderstood the event. In short time the program started, we introduced ourselves and what we were there for. That is when I realized how many community partners were there and they outnumbered the students. The time came to meet with the different partners, as I was getting ready to rush and meet with the partners I had put on my list people started to come to me and wanted to talk to me. This was a very different experience than what I have had at similar events at larger University level schools. Most of those for me are where you are standing at a table trying to ask a question with many other people. Often times it is someone who tells you that if you put your email on the list someone will get back to you. This event was the complete opposite, the groups were coming to me and the people I was working with had answers to every question I could think of. I could not even meet with all the groups I wanted to as my time was running short and I had to be somewhere else. I collected all my information that had been given to me and packed up my stuff to head out.
As I was leaving the event all I could think about was how I hear people tell me how much better the bigger four-year schools are than SLCC, because these schools have better resources and better classes. I always ask if they get better experience in a class of over a hundred vs thirty at SLCC. As for better recourses I tell them they are not looking very hard, almost everything you have at other schools you can find at SLCC. The Community Partner Speed Networking is a perfect example of the resources available. I got to meet with the same community partners any other school works with. I got to do it in a much more personal and meaningful environment than students at other schools get. I was very happy that I came to this event. It turned out to be very different than what I was expecting. This event proved to be just as good as many other experiences I have had at SLCC. I will say that more of them are great experiences than bad ones. Whenever I have needed help or questions answered I feel like I am one of ten not one of a thousand. I feel lot of it comes back to the great faculty support. I strongly encourage anyone that is thinking about getting involved just do it- you won’t be disappointed.
By Chad Johnson, Civically Engaged Scholar