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The City Journals

Daniel McArthur—from Promise volunteer to center coordinator

Jun 17, 2019 10:04AM ● By Holly Vasic

Kids at the Central Park Community Center Promise summer program on a June morning. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]

Promise is an initiative that began with Mayor Cherie Wood, in collaboration with United Way and many other community partners, to help improve the lives of South Salt Lake youth. Throughout the year programming is available from after-school activities at locations like Lincoln Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Elementary to summer programs such as the one at Central Park Community Center and Columbus Community Center. Program coordinators like Daniel McArthur put in a lot of heart so that Promise can continue to improve, expand and impact the youth of South Salt Lake. 

McArthur is not a new face to Promise, he began working with the program as a volunteer while he was a senior at Itineris Early College High School, a charter school in West Jordan that focuses on math and science. During his freshman year at the University of Utah he was hired on as a preventive specialist at the Promise Program Hser Ner Moo, tutoring high school math. Though he majored in English and Latin his time at Itineris contributed to his mathematical skills and ability to help high school students struggling with their math homework. 

At the time, the Hser Ner Moo program, which is now located at the Columbus Community Center, took place at the South Gate Apartments. “It’s mostly refugees,” McArthur said. “It was really fun, super different than growing up in Sandy, but good for me, very very good for me and it was there I fell in love with teaching.” 

While completing college, McArthur went from Hser Ner Moo to Historic Scott School, working as a program manager for two years. After graduating from the U he had the opportunity to teach high school English in Detroit with the help of Teach For America, a non-profit organization fighting education inequality by sending teachers to underserved communities. During his time, thanks to Teach For America, he took night classes at the University of Michigan and received his teaching certification. “They set me up, got me in the classes I needed to be in, helped me pay for them a little bit,” McArthur said about Teach For America. “It’s a two-year commitment, and then I stayed on an extra year.” 

His passion for teaching lead him next to Brazil, for what was supposed to be a few weeks, on a full ride scholarship with a program that gives teachers an opportunity to learn about different cultures to bring more diversity into their classrooms. “I loved it so much, I quit my job and stayed until my visa expired,” McArthur said. “After that initial month I taught English.” It is there he received his English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching certification. 

Promise Center Coordinator Daniel McArthur at Central Park Community Center in June. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

 

McArthur returned to Utah not sure what to do but said it was serendipity that lead him back to Promise where he was hired as the Promise center coordinator at Woodrow Wilson Elementary. Promise Deputy Director Bonnie Owens was excited to have McArthur back, first meeting him when he was an 18-year-old volunteer. 

The Promise summer programs come from the elementary schools, Owens said. “We have an after-school program in every school in the city and then every school also has, what we call, a sister site, which is in the neighborhood where the kids live.” Woodrow Wilson is large enough to have two sites, one at Central Park and the other at Columbus. McArthur clarified that the summer programming going on now is technically called the Woodrow Wilson Summer Program at Central Park.

The summer program taking place at Central Park Community Center is a new change this year. In the past attendees would go to Fitts Park in the morning and then spend time at another location in the afternoon. This is the fourth year of literacy programming during the Promise summer, which began as a pilot program at Woodrow Wilson. The goal is to help kids avoid, what McArthur called “the summer slide.”

“If they don’t pick up a book for three months, they are going to forget a lot,” McArthur said. 

McArthur has experienced the impact of Promise first hand, recalling a student he tutored years ago during his time at the Historic Scott School. A high school boy would come twice a week for help with his math homework. “He needed calculus tutoring and not that many people could help him but I could, because I really liked my math classes,” McArthur said. “He is now at Duke, which is incredible.” 

McArthur elaborated that this student is now doing medical research and will be attending a program at MIT this summer. “He was smart before I met him,” McArthur said, “but I was glad I could help him finish his calc homework.”