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The City Journals

Westminster Freshmen Lend Helping Hands to Beautify Jordan River

Aug 30, 2016 04:14PM ● By Travis Barton

Students pull weeds during the Helping Hands Day service project. Promise South Salt Lake and Westminster partner together bringing students to both service projects and to tutor the city’s youth. –Travis Barton

Many hands make light work and, with that in mind, Westminster College freshmen used their hands to help beautify an area along Jordan River.
As part of the college’s annual Helping Hands Day service project, Westminster’s Class of 2020 spent the morning of Aug. 23 at General Holm Park cleaning and improving the trails along the Jordan River. Westminster partners with Promise South Salt Lake to give its students community service opportunities.
“It grows every year so that’s awesome,” South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood said of the partnership. 
It’s a partnership that not only continues to deepen, but also provides opportunities for students. Westminster students contribute over 95,000 hours of community service every year.
“The goal of Westminster and Promise South Salt Lake’s (SSL) partnership is to foster authentic, relevant and transformational experiences,” Julie Tille wrote in a press release. Tille is the director of Westminster’s Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement.
Promise SSL is made up of three promises, one of which is that every resident has a safe, clean home and neighborhood. The Helping Hands event aimed to fulfill that promise.
“You guys helped with that today by cleaning our community,” Wood told the students at the event’s conclusion.
Helping Hands Day was part of Westminster’s orientation program for incoming first-year students. It gave the freshmen a chance to familiarize themselves with the surrounding community.
“It’s nice to get to know the community you’re helping out,” freshman Andrew Luo said.  
Luo spent the morning with dozens of other students picking up trash, spreading seed in necessary areas and pulling weeds along the trails.
“I hope it kind of inspires people to come out and keep things clean,” Luo said.
Roxy Ervin, a freshman from Colorado, said she wants to be proactive by approaching service opportunities and she’s learning from experiences like Helping Hands.
“Over the next four years, students will connect with the community and create lasting reciprocal relationships that lead to meaningful change,” Tille said.
Those interpersonal bonds are forged through Promise SSL’s after-school programs where staff and students can serve as tutors, mentors and coaches to the city’s youth.
Wood said she wants the city to have a college-going culture for kids, no matter the college type.  
“What’s cool about it is that [Westminster’s] youth sit next to our youth and our kids get to hear their stories,” Wood said. “Just having someone sit next to them and help them with homework is huge.” 
Luo, who intends to major in computer science, said that experience is twofold.
“It’s good for personal development, you get to grow as yourself while you’re helping them out and it’s a good feeling too,” Luo said.
Promise SSL has added four new after-school programs this year bringing its total to 14. Wood said this is the first time they can say every kid has the choice to attend.
“We’re in every neighborhood and every school that our youth are supposed to attend,” Wood said.
Crime rate in the city is down 64 percent during the hours of 3 to 6 p.m. with the majority of kids occupied by the after-school programs.
Wood said Promise SSL is run by grant funds, philanthropic dollars, volunteers and partners. Those partners have services Promise can then utilize.
“It’s huge because I think we put all the right pieces together for our community to really address every issue,” Wood said.