A Focus on Youth & Families: Bridging University and Community Wellbeing

There is some exciting energy building with a family engagement partnership between the Hartland Youth Center and the Hartland Bridge Training Clinic (UNP and the U of U’s College of Social Work). This partnership is focused on home visits to families in the Hartland neighborhood from a team of social workers and Youth Center staff, increasing trusting relationships and student support.

From L to R: Julianne Rabb and some of the Hartland Social Work team members – Faithe Felt, Esad Ferhatbegovic, and Paola Melissa Diaz.

Relationship building begins with the youth in both the formal school setting and after school in the Hartland Youth Center. The intention is to strengthen the bridge between those spaces by increasing trust, deepening connections, and committing fully to support youth and families in their education pathways and wellness. Home visits are not just for the “problems” but a way to show up and let families know we care about them, that their children are safe, and that we are deeply committed to their priorities.

When asked about the importance of building relationships with families, Abdullah “Tuna” Mberwa, Youth Center Coordinator, shared that, “Home visits are the key to building trust. And trust is everything. I’m not just here for the short term, I’m not a stranger, and I’m committed to the whole family. Through home visits I’ve been able to build trust with parents so they can feel comfortable to talk with us about anything they need, like employment and how to talk with teachers. Once the kids see me at their homes, and that their parents trust me, they start opening up about things they need, like how to help their parents understand the letters and instructions teachers are sending home, and what homework they are struggling with.”

The family engagement plans are ambitious and a top priority in our education pathways and community wellness efforts at Hartland. So far, outcomes include increased use of the Hartland Walk-In Center for social service navigation, connection to Hartland’s Head Start classroom, successful employment searches, and increased understanding between parents and teachers in the schools.

According to Jarred Martinez, Education Pathways Partnership Manager, “All of these pieces have been able to come together in a way that they’ve never been before.” He continues, “It’s more than UNP running a youth center, it’s about pathways into educaiton, and what happens after. Tuna and Jasmine (Youth Center coordinators) are educators with deep connections in our community and this is also part of their education pathway. Their connections allow for other work to happen, beyond just offering after school activities in the youth center. They represent the UNP model, and our role, in regards to young folx here.”

We are grateful for the dedicated efforts of Tuna and Jasmine in the Hartland Youth Center, as well as the social work practicum team, literally meeting families “where they are at.

Written by the UNP Hartland Partnership Center staff