New West Side Leadership Institute Pathways

While coupling rich diversity with community action, UNP has created a network of support from various partnerships all around Salt Lake City. The depth and strength of all these partnerships is  vital to the sustainability of the programs they offer on the west side. The Westside Leadership Institute (WLI), which is a resident leadership program, is a collaboration with NeighborWorks Salt Lake, the Salt Lake City School District, and multiple departments at the University of Utah (City and Metropolitan Planning, Social Work, Gender Studies, Public Affairs, and Political Science). For over 15 years, WLI has empowered more than 500 residents on the west side of Salt Lake City to take the lead in affecting positive change in their neighborhoods.  To meet the needs and diversity of Salt Lake, WLI has developed leadership courses in English and Spanish, and is now in the process of developing classes in Samoan. WLI is pleased to share their  collaborative efforts to make leadership classes accessible and available to all our community members.

Sāmoana Integrated Language Initiative participants.

To tap into the unlimited potential of the Latinx community on the west side, WLI has developed a culturally responsive leadership class in Spanish. The class has been offered for the past four years. It is geared towards meeting the language and cultural needs of its students while maintaining unity with its English class counterpart. A common phrase in Spanish is, “se hace el camino al andar” (“The path is made by walking it”). The class truly helps students make the path by walking as students are given the tools to create and implement a group or individual project to better their community. As the participants create the path by walking, the path forward becomes clearer. One graduate of WLI shared that, “This experience has helped me realize that I am able to continue my
studies and improve my life.” WLI is designed to empower participants to address community  ssues, which open doors to new opportunities and pave the way for others to follow. Developing WLI-Spanish has paved the way for the up-and-coming development of WLI-Samoan.

Working with the Sāmoana Integrated Language Initiative (S.A.I.L.I.), UNP has been able to provide
community based language classes for Pacific Islander communities on the west side. Taught every Tuesday night by Marilyn Figel-Griffin (known lovingly as Auntie Kuki) these classes provide opportunities for anyone to learn the Samoan language. However, it has a special focus on those Samoans living in the diaspora to connect back to their cultural roots and teach their children, many whose first language is English and have never set foot on the home islands. So’o le fau ma le fau (in working together we can accomplish great things) seems to be echoed as WLI- Samoan is being created. The excitement from every generation in Auntie Kuki’s class fuels motivation to remember the Samoan culture and apply it to our modern lives. As mentioned in the proverb above, NeighborWorks Salt Lake, UNP, and WLI are continuing to open doors for underrepresented groups to help them develop their ideas and action plans for the west side. As a collective, Salt Lake City will be able to experience change at a very personal level for all of these residents.

UNP’s Samoan language classes help to preserve community member’s cultural heritage, while WLI’s bi-lingual leadership classes are designed to meet the community’s unique cultural needs. The partnerships of UNP and the WLI are working to build strong foundational pathways that will foster a strong connection of leadership and culture. Stay tuned as the Westside Leadership Institute and its partners unveil further pathways to make a difference in our community.

Written by Lana Lichfield & Kalei Tuitupou for University Neighborhood Partners’ Community Voices magazine, Volume 10, 2020.