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The City Journals

Promise South Salt Lake works to give every child the chance to graduate from college

Aug 30, 2017 05:14PM ● By Jana Klopsch

The program focuses on four key areas: economic stability, education, health and early childhood education. (Jessica Parcell/City Journals)

By Jessica Parcell | [email protected]

Every child has the opportunity to graduate from college. This is the first of the three promises Kelli Meranda, deputy director of Promise South Salt Lake, said the program makes to its community.

Promise South Salt Lake is an afterschool program that aims to give children the help they need to grow and progress academically and to ultimately see them be successful. 

“When you look at data, families living in poverty it’s usually generation upon generation,” Meranda said.

Meranda said that the program focuses on four key areas: economic stability, education, health and early childhood education, and it’s important to make sure that these families have resources in these areas to really see improvement.

Adrienne Buhler, Promise South Salt Lake after-school coordinator for Utah International Charter School, said they spend an hour each night to help the kids improve in their academic studies, but they don’t do it alone.

“During this time, some teachers will come and also tutor the youth,” Buhler said.

Besides engaging the children in their studies, Buhler said they also help organize the sports for the charter school; being so small they don’t have their own. She said during the time they spend with the youth they will also involve them in basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Buhler said it’s more than just allowing the kids some recreational time, they also organize competitive teams for the center.

Some of the kids have been through traumatic experiences, or have lived through unstable circumstances. Buhler said that for them it’s hard, because some of them don’t understand how to sit still in class and follow school rules.

“They’ve never been explained to them before,” Buhler said. 

Buhler said that some kids come from outside the United States, which puts them at another disadvantage of being behind in credits.

“If you’re fleeing a country, you’re not looking for your school credits,” Buhler said, “so they often come credit deficient.” 

Promise’s three goals for every resident also include providing everyone with a clean, safe home and neighborhood, and everyone has the opportunity to be healthy and to prosper. 

With such big expectations to deliver on, Meranda said that they split up the work between seven different councils of health, safety, housing, jobs and economy, education, arts and community and neighborhoods.

Meranda said each council has subcommittees that work within them to try and make changes. Within their education council they have a family engagement committee.

“That’s really thinking about how families are engaging with both our schools, and with our community, and really taking it from a ‘school out, family in’ approach,” Meranda said, “really meeting families where they are and defining family engagement from their perspective.”

Promise’s Family Liaison team includes individuals that will visit the family in their home and help connect the family to resources, and then follow up with the families to make sure they are connecting with those resources.

Meranda said that the strong partnerships they have with the local schools and the different faith communities help them receive recommendations for their team’s home visits.

“We’re trying to help connect in all the different ways that we can,” Meranda said. “So that we’re not just reaching students that we’re serving, we’re reaching all of South Salt Lake.”