After writing essays on what they would like to be when they grow up, 170 fifth and sixth graders from local elementary schools were treated to a catered career experience on campus by University of Utah staff. Nine themed career experiences ranging from Nursing to Education to Athletics to Law were developed for students across campus. In its second year, the "Imagine U Day," program aims to illustrate that a secondary education is obtainable when students follow their passions.
The joint venture between University of Utah Health (U of U Health) and University Neighborhood Partners, has successfully partnered with Hunter Elementary, Whittier Elementary, and Hillside Elementary schools in West Valley City. Imagine U Day is a multi-year initiative to engage with and build lasting partnerships with students, parents, and educators in west side communities.
In 2022, the program reached only one elementary school and was so successful it expanded to three schools for Imagine U Day that was held May 24, 2023.
Whittier, Hunter, and Hillside Elementary Schools in the Granite School District have student populations made up of diverse learners, with close to 47% of students identifying as Hispanic or Latino, explained RyLee Curtis, community engagement director for U of U Health.
“Early on our partners in the west side communities expressed the desire for us to look further upstream and identify ways the entire U of U campus could help break down barriers to secondary education and create pathways for youth to be our future healthcare providers, educators, and more,” said Curtis. “We believe this program exceeds the original expectations and are committed to continue these educational efforts over the coming years.”
For Whittier Elementary School Principal Jennifer Bodell, Imagine U day presented a unique opportunity to encourage her students to think about college.
“For these students to be on a university campus and see that being successful on a college campus can be reality for them, it’s truly just incredible,” said Bodell. “It’s also a unique opportunity for us as educators to send our students off to Jr. High ready to learn. To follow their passions and to know that at the end of their K-12 journey, they are ready for higher education.”
All attendees of the 2023 Imagine U Day were sent home with a signed letter by University of Utah President Taylor Randall. In the letter, President Randall describes the campus as a place where everyone is welcome and hopes these west side students felt a sense of belonging, a sense of wonder, and that the University is a place where they can achieve their dreams.