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.
Students visited several University of Utah Athletics facilities, including soccer, basketball, strength, and conditioning. At each facility they engaged in sports activities and interacted with University of Utah student-athletes.
Students interested in the legal field role played as attorneys, judges and jurors during a mock trial where their teachers and parent volunteers served as witnesses at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. After the mock trial concluded, students participated in a mediation activity, showcasing a common alternative to trial.
During their time at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, students trained their artistic eye and developed visual literacy as they practiced looking closely at details to interpret works of art using visual evidence. Students discovered how to look at a work of art through sketching, storytelling, and games, asking questions about what we see, and making looking at art fun!
Students explored the University of Utah Public Safety Building where they met police staff, dispatchers, detectives, K-9s and several on duty police officers. They toured the dispatch center, the detective unit, had a glance into the evidence room, and experienced K-9 sniff demonstrations and interacted with K-9 officers.
Students visited a medical simulation lab located at the College of Nursing. They had five stations that included a Q&A with doctors, an activity with mannequins (CPR, intubation, checking vitals), using ultrasound probes to look at heart, vein, and organ functions, a bleeding arm mannequin, and a bone station with casting as facial plating.
Students learned about the field of Education through an interactive presentation and tour of the College of Education. They met U of U faculty members who have a passion for teaching and contribute to research and innovations in the education field.
Students did a walkthrough of the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Master Games Studio where students function in a game studio simulation and tour of the University of Utah Varsity Esports training facility. They had a brief conversation with Adam Hunter about how to get a job in games and participated in a student playtest of EAE published student-made games.
Students had the opportunity to learn about wind energy and design wind turbine blades at the College of Engineering. They put their newly built turbines to the test, analyzed results and made real-time adjustments to improve the efficiency of the wind turbine.