Jackson Elementary School moves ahead with Adelante Partnership

Story by MELANIE HOLBROOK

Explore Adelante here

“Adelante,” the Spanish word meaning forward or ahead, is a big part of the lives of students and teachers at Jackson Elementary School. But it’s more than just a word; the Adelante Partnership is a university-school-community partnership that seeks to raise awareness of higher education opportunities and to increase the expectation of university attendance and success among students, families and teachers at Jackson in Salt Lake City.

The Adelante Partnership started in fall 2005 as it kicked off at Jackson, located at 750 W. 200 North. The partnership has five major components: University Visits and Academic Summer Camps, University Service Learning and Mentors, Cultural and Academic Enrichment, Parental and Community Engagement and Research Informing Practice. It has approximately 125 University of Utah mentors and 10 staff members.

Judy Perez, Adelante coordinator, explained in an email that each component gives kindergarten through sixth-grade students hands-on experiences that will help enhance their learning horizon.

“Each grade takes one field trip to the U of U per semester and learns about a subject that fits with their current curriculum. For the summer we offer a four-day camp mostly focused on science since it’s been cut down at their school,” Perez said.

Under the University Service Learning and Mentors, Perez explained boys and girls take a one-year ethnic studies course during their first year in the program. Students complete a total of 11 service-learning hours per semester. Mentors and children build relationships and have conversations about college.

For Cultural and Academic Enrichment, students can learn the Folklorico dance, a traditional Latin American dance that mixes local folk culture with ballet. “Currently we have 40 students participating! We also have oral histories in the second-to-sixth-grade dual classrooms,” Perez said.

Adelante started off with a dual program at Jackson, meaning a program given in English and Spanish. Within the dual program there were initially about 250 children, but since Adelante extended to the entire school there are now about 550 students.

Perez explained that Adelante started the first cohort when the kids were in kindergarten and now they’re in the sixth grade. Every year after that Adelante has followed the students entering in the kindergarten dual immersion program allowing them to work with the whole school.

Enrique Aleman, co-director of the Adelante Partnership, said in an email interview that being in a predominantly Latino community their program found it vital to have a dual program.

“That’s why we chose Jackson Elementary. At the time it was the only public school offering a dual program, the other two schools that offered it were charter or private. We wanted a public school on the west side,” Aleman said.

Students can talk with Adelante mentors and staff whenever they please due to their office being located within the school, allowing students to build stronger relationships.

Some adult relationships children can also build is with their parents.

Aleman and Perez both agree that without parents and families the partnership wouldn’t be where it is today.

“My son is in the 3rd grade at Jackson elementary and absolutely loves Adelante. There’s always something new about him and college to be talked about at the dinner table,” Luisa Vizcarra said.

Vizcarra said neither she nor her husband attended college but they know their son will, thanks to the Adelante Partnership.

“The ambition and kindness of staff is touching. These men and women are truly making a difference in these children’s lives,” Vizcarra said.

When asked what her favorite aspect of the Adelante Partnership was, Perez said in an email, “From the students, to the parents, university mentors, teachers and staff, every day I’m reminded of the work that has made amazing impact and the work that still needs to be done to get more students of color in college. Having students asking me ‘when are we gonna take another field trip to the university?’ or conversations of ‘when I go to college I want to be …’ is like love songs to my ears. I love hearing the impact come out of their mouths.”

Perez said Adelante doesn’t believe in teaching and working with their students in any selective way. They want to bring their ‘home’ into the school and partnership.

“We recognize their struggles and challenges and therefore this is why parents and families are always invited to partake in Adelante decisions,” Perez said.

During field trips students wear their T-shirts that say “Future College Student” that were given to them by Adelante.

Adelante is hoping to extend to all of the west-side schools, yet programs cost money and can be a struggle every year. “One step at a time,” Perez said.