Story and photo by JOHANNA WISCHMANN
“Partners in the Park” gives the community on the west side access to information and opportunities for further education after high school.
The program, which focuses on seven neighborhoods, started about nine years ago to raise awareness to people that they can have the chance to receive a further education.
“Partners in the Park” strives to strengthen opportunities for youth to receive further education. It also supports community leadership and helps the community have a more stable foundation by working on things like health, safety, housing and employment.
During the summer, free events are held in ethnically diverse neighborhoods at Jordan Park, Neighborhood House, Riverside Park, Sherwood Park, Westpointe Park, Constitution Park and Poplar Grove Park.
Joèl Arvizo, the partnership manager for youth education and success at University Neighborhood Partners, said particular communities are targeted because “of historical inaccessibility and disadvantages.” He also said, “The families are very interested in direct information for their children’s further education.”
UNP works with culturally diverse Salt Lake City neighborhoods to try to get students interested in attending the University of Utah. UNP partners with nonprofit organizations and U departments and colleges to try to link these neighborhoods to the U and create a stronger foundation for these communities.
“The west side has a lot of stereotypes which often aren’t accurate,” said Sarah Munro, UNP’s associate director. “Partners in the Park” is one of UNP’s programs.
Overall, Munro said UNP’s “program gives the west side the same opportunities that other neighborhoods have.”
Munro said one of her long-term goals is to try to ensure that the west side receives more recognition from the government. “The biggest complaint is that they were under represented,” Munro said. In an interview she described some of the problems west-side residents have had and said people often don’t know how to make their voices heard.
UNP aims to “help build a bridge from the U to the west side.” Munro said programs like Partners in the Park help a lot of children because parents want them to have a brighter future than the situation they are currently in.
“Our policy is to work with anybody,” she said. “They should have the same opportunities that other areas have.”
On average, 400 people attend the events, which feature activities and picnic dinners.
“For the past 10 years the region has been researched and we found that fewer numbers of students were attending the U from that region,” Arvizo said.
“Partners at the Park is necessary to spread information about the help we can offer the community,” Arvizo said.