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The City Journals

Welcome Center’s after-school program provides safe place for kids to learn, play

Nov 15, 2021 03:26PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Elementary students work on a spook alley at the Hser Ner Moo Community Center. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The Hser Ner Moo Community Center and Welcome Center located at the Columbus Center, 2531 S. 400 East, was the first Promise SSL after-school program.

“Our daily average attendance is 15 between the three groups,” Chelsea Francom, center coordinator, said.

The students are in three groups: early elementary (K-second grade), elementary (third through fifth grade), and teens (sixth through eighth grade).

Francom mentioned there is room for more students. Most of the students are from the neighborhood or Woodrow Wilson Elementary. These students are dropped off at a nearby bus stop. Staff from Hser Ner Moo meet them so that students are never on their own.

Daily routine

“Our focus is to keep the kids safe,” Francom said. “Here, they can hang out, get help and make new friends.”

Some students start to arrive a little after 3 p.m., but the majority come around 3:30 p.m. From 3:30 to 4 p.m., the students are served a hot meal provided by the Utah Food Bank.

Between 4 and 5 p.m., it is the academic hour. Staff is available to help with homework. In addition, student mentors are available from the Bennion Center at the University of Utah. If students don’t have any homework, the staff provides other academic-related activities. For the younger elementary students, it is reading time as the team reads books to them.

From 5 to around 5:50 p.m., it is activity time. The activities range from art to science experiments, such as catching flies with apple vinegar, to sports. The staff provides a calendar each month so that parents know what is happening.

They have 10 minutes to clean up, and parents or other designated individuals start picking them by 6 p.m. As part of the enrollment process, parents must establish who can pick up their child.

Holistic approach

Since Hser Ner Moo is a welcome center, the staff takes a holistic view of interacting with families. When needs are identified, the family engagement team is notified. Sometimes information like the nearest food pantry is provided.

It is common for parents to have their children ask for supplies. There is less of a language barrier for the students. Francom mentioned that sometimes you just ask.

“Typically, you can see the need before you ask,” Francom said.

Hser Ner Moo

This community center has a unique name for a reason. The center is named after a young girl who was murdered in a South Park apartment in 2008. The Hser Ner Moo family had working parents. Hser Ner Moo was home alone when the murder occurred. 

This tragic event was the catalyst for creating after-school programs

“Through the leadership of Mayor Cherie Wood and partnerships with the South Salt Lake Police Department, United Way of Salt Lake, Granite School District, and the city recreation department, they launched an after-school program and community center named Hser Ner Moo,” Kelli Meranda, director Promise SSL, said.

Now there are 14 programs throughout the city.

Enrollment

The enrollment process is simple. First, parents need to contact Chelsea Francom at [email protected] or 801-828-7245. She will provide a form to be completed about the child, including who can pick them up.

If a parent cannot come in person to get the form, Francom can email out the form.