Impact Stories

Parents Sharing Power in Salt Lake City Schools

By the Family-School Collaboration Design Research Project

If you attended parent-teacher conferences at a west side school this past fall, you may have been handed a small comic book about School Community Councils (SCC). That comic — and the parent leaders who handed them out — are part of a community-based research project working to increase family voice in school decision making….
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Partnering with Faculty for Deeper Youth Engagement

My name is Ana Antunes. I am an Assistant Professor & Lecturer in Gender Studies and a Youth Engagement & Leadership Coordinator working with University Neighborhood Partners. …
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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….
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Building Deeper Knowledge Systems at UNP

In 2018, UNP took stock of its work over the previous 15 years by celebrating partner and partnership accomplishments. UNP also looked ahead to the future by engaging west side residents and university stakeholders in the creation of a new long-range strategic plan. …
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A conceptual rendering of the Public Market at the State Fairpark.

The Westside Coalition and a Shifting West Side Narrative

The Westside Coalition is a social welfare organization that advocates for residents living on the west side of Salt Lake City. The Coalition fights for health, safety, and quality of life for its residents. …
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Strategies for a Shared Future: UNP’s Long-Range Plan

The following post is an exerpt from UNP’s most recent issue of it’s Community Voices magazine.

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A Study in Social Interventions at Hartland

Districts and after school programs throughout the United States grapple with ways to best serve their students.  For some students, growth and progress come through various school and after school community partnership experiences….
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Go Girlz Summer Camp Wrap Up

Friday, August 9 was our last day of Go Girlz Summer Camp 2019. It was our first year piloting a summer program for 14-15 years olds transitioning into high school. …
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Students Bridging University & Community Social Work

The Hartland Bridge Training Clinic is a partnership with the University of Utah’s College of Social Work based at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center.  This group of undergraduate and graduate social work students (plus a few missing) clocked over 4200 hours this past year! Students focus on health and wellness partnership building and support, including education pathways, mental health, and community capacity building alongside youth, teachers, community leaders, residents, parents, and agencies in the west side of Salt Lake.  We are inspired by and grateful for their efforts, and look forward to the incoming team in August!

The 2018-19 Hartland Bridge Training Clinic social work practicum team.

Content provided by Julianne Rabb, Clinical Director at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center

Growing Our Own Teachers

Jacque Tovar has been a paraeducator in Salt Lake City’s schools for over 20 years. As a youth, Jacque struggled in school. She and her parents — a Mexican immigrant father and a white mother — were forced to move year after year into new school boundaries. Today, Jacque works tirelessly on behalf of students, particularly those with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities. In 2018, this commitment earned her Utah’s Marilyn Likins Paraeducator of the Year award. Jacque has long dreamt of earning her teaching license, but despite multiple attempts to return to college, obstacles have always delayed these plans.

“When I first got out of high school and enrolled at the U, my mom lost her job. I tried to go back again but she got cancer and I stopped going, to support her. Every time I thought I was ready and had enough money to get back in college something else would pull me back out, so that I couldn’t afford it emotionally or monetarily.”

In 2018, Jacque joined a new initiative called Grow Your Own Educators (GYOE). GYOE supports pathways to teaching for local community members and paraeducators in high poverty schools. Jacque became a member of the initiative’s first paraeducator cohort, a group of 12 employees in the Salt Lake City school district working to earn their teaching license.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that I’m a part of this. The paraeducators accepted into this program are primarily educators of color that are already working in Title 1 schools. We have various experiences and levels of education, but our commonality is our drive to become teachers within our own communities.”

Since joining the cohort, Jacque has re-enrolled at Salt Lake Community College to finish her associates degree. She’s now co-chairing the GYOE planning committee, assistant teaching for a new paraeducator training course, and is one of the partnership’s most vocal advocates.

“I like that we’re all in it together and that we support each other. A lot of us didn’t know what to do next, or if we could do it. In the cohort we feel supported, and that support system is crucial. We are working together to navigate the educational system so we can all give back to our communities by becoming licensed teachers. And we want to support parents within our communities to join this pathway by becoming paraeducators and to work in their community schools.”

There are so many individuals like Jacque in our schools. They are classroom aides, student advocates, after-school coordinators, and parent volunteers. They have years of experience, deep connections to community, and a demonstrated commitment to students. As we work to address Utah’s teacher shortage and increase the diversity of our teacher workforce, we cannot afford to ignore these fabulous educators right in our midst. However, these individuals often face multiple obstacles to earning a teaching license.

GYOE works to break down the financial and social barriers that members of low-wealth communities and communities of color face when entering the teaching profession. It is a partnership that includes the Urban Institute for Teacher Education, the Department of Special Education at the U, Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake Education Foundation, Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, and the National Resource Center for Paraeducators. 

Grow Your Own Educators Annual Report Cover Image

GYOE has just put out its first annual report, offering a glimpse into the partnership’s first full year in operation. Among the partnership’s achievements are:

12 members of our paraeducator cohort completed 35 college courses for a total of 105 credits.

40 paraeducators took part in a pilot training series, and 88% report already using what they learned in their day-to day-work.



GYOE continues to build toward its vision of a sustainable, accessible pathway for local community members and paraeducators to become successful classroom teachers. The partnership is seeking additional resources and partners, including:

Scholarship Funds
Tuition and fees will continue to be a major priority for GYOE. In addition to supporting cohort members in applying to all available scholarships and awards, GYOE is looking to develop its own scholarships for committed participants.

Foundational Supports
GYOE recognizes that the barriers to higher education are not only financial. They also include the need for supports like child care, transportation, tutoring, and technology that allow individuals to support themselves and their families while furthering their educations. GYOE is looking for financial and in-kind donations in this area.

For more information, or to get involved, email Paul Kuttner at