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The City Journals

Promise program provides opportunities for Cottonwood High students

Nov 26, 2018 03:07PM ● By Julie Slama

After an academic hour, Cottonwood High students in the Promise program can enjoy several activities from cooking to soccer. (Photo courtesy of the Promise program)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This December, the afterschool program at Cottonwood High may host a holiday party that brings in many of the students’ cultures.

As part of the Promise program, which supports students academically as well as offers enriching activities, the holiday event will be a fun, unifying event, said Kayla Mayers, Promise afterschool coordinator at Cottonwood High School.

“We will want to include the history of their cultural holidays and get to know what they do for the holidays,” she said. “We want to get to know them and celebrate them.” 

According to its website, the Promise program is in 13 South Salt Lake and Millcreek schools and community sites as well as at Cottonwood High. The program aims to serve South Salt Lake’s youth in academic, arts-based, physical fitness and recreation, social and cultural programs at little or no cost through community involvement and volunteerism.

“In 2008, (South Salt Lake) Mayor Cherie Wood made three promises to the South Salt Lake residents that every child has the opportunity to attend and to graduate from college; every resident has a safe, clean home and neighborhood; and everyone has the opportunity to be healthy and to prosper. This program is helping to support those promises,” Mayers said.

With a partnership with Cottonwood High, where about 600 South Salt Lake high school students are bused to, Mayers said that a specific goal is to provide those students with a traditional high school experience.

“Many of these students rely on provided transportation. There is an afterschool bus as well as one at 5:30 p.m., so students can participate in the afterschool program or in other clubs or sports. But with our partnership with United Way, they also provide buses to dances, some of the big football games and parent-teacher conferences. We’re trying to get rid of barriers that may make things more difficult so they can be part of the community school,” she said, adding that other times, they have made arrangements for students to have UTA bus tokens when needed.

Cottonwood High Principal Terri Roylance supports the Promise program at the school.

“We started hosting it two years ago,” she said. “We are the South Salt Lake high school so we wanted the program here. It’s flexible and open to help anyone with academics and offers activities that are fun with very little or no homework involved. They’ve had field trips to colleges and invited speakers in. It’s a great opportunity for students.”

The program, which is open to anyone, begins after school with snacks, that are provided by Cottonwood High’s PTA and its food pantry. From there, the program holds an academic hour, where National Honor Society members, college students, volunteers and three paid teachers provide assistance with homework.

Afterward, students take part in activities ranging from soccer to filmmaking. These clubs within the program are designed to enrich students’ knowledge and interests, Mayers said.

“Last year, we reached out to students and the interest in the clubs helped to determine which ones to offer and it helped boost participants in our program,” she said. “We offer cooking, last week they made an apple crisp; chess, there is a tournament coming up in South Salt Lake; filmmaking, which is popular; and soccer, we hope to set up games.”

The program also may rotate clubs and offer basketball, literacy, leadership and prevention, which will help students make positive choices, Mayers said.

Students are provided dinner from the Granite School District before boarding the bus to the South Salt Lake area.

“It’s free; you don’t need to qualify,” Mayers said. “We do need a parent signature and most students have a regular schedule when they attend. We started the first year with 15 to 30 students, had about 30 last year and have about 50 to 70 students involved in Promise this year.”

As partnerships expand, Mayers said there will be more opportunity for students. Already, Cottonwood’s Latinos in Action has offered to assist Promise staff in translating during parent-teacher conferences and she is hoping to expand enrichment activities with different areas at the high school.

“Part of the promise to graduate from the college is to attend and graduate high school,” she said. “We’re wanting to support students and give them a positive high school experience.”