Community learning centers help west valley families thrive

August 15, 2012
Author: Brenda Fisher | West Valley Journal

The United Way of Salt Lake has been a familiar presence in the West Valley community for years. As part of its collective impact approach to solving community problems, the organization has partnered with Granger Elementary and the Salt Lake Community Action program to establish a Community Learning Center at Granger Elementary at 3700 South 1950 West.

 “One exciting part of this partnership is that it connects the dots [puts the program in a position to provide services that the residents in the area need] for the Salt Lake Community Action program, which is the lead program,” said United Way Community Collaborations Director Scott McLeod. “It helps residents in the area get the services they need in one convenient location.”

 Community learning centers bring services together to help students and their families and are more than after-school programs, McLeod said.

 Some of the programs available at Granger Elementary this year will include early learning, after-school programming, adult education and language classes, free tax assistance, financial literacy, youth mentoring, free immunizations and health insurance enrollment.

 “The goal of the community learning centers is to make sure the children and their family’s needs are met so they can thrive,” McLeod said. “Those needs include financial help and language classes, in addition to the after -school programs designed for the children.”

 With the Aug. 27 start of school just around the corner, McLeod said the Granger Community Learning Center is holding registration during August. Forms will be available for families to complete regarding other services they need. This information is forwarded to other program partners to assist families with their needs.

 “We hope to reach a new level, scale and impact for the families we serve through the community learning program,” he said.

 In addition to partnering with the Granite School District and the Salt Lake Community Action program, the Granger Community Learning Center is also working with Utah Partners for Health, Junior Achievement, English Skills Learning Center, Community Nursing Services and Community Education Partnerships. Each of these organizations provides services that many residents need help with. The community learning center puts all these services in one location.

 Granger Elementary is the largest elementary school in Granite District and serves more than 800 students. More than half of those students speak English as a second language. The Granger Community Learning Center isn’t the first center in the West Valley area, but it is the first to have a permanent physical location.

 The Five Parks Community Action Center (which doesn’t have a physical location) has been serving residents in the Five Parks area (around 3300 South 1200 West) for some time. McLeod said this is more about the partnership between different entities and not the physical location.

 “This is one of the highest need areas in West Valley,” he said. “The Five Parks and Granger Elementary areas overlap on purpose. We try to double up to make sure residents get what they need in these areas.”

 McLeod said the United Way doesn’t have any plans to put more community learning centers in the West Valley area. Instead, it will focus on depth of impact and creating a high level of service, he said.

 “We definitely don’t want to grow too fast and undermine our efforts,” he said. “We are eager to help the people that need it the most, and these two centers will be a good start.”