CULTURALLY ROOTED PARTNERSHIPS

By Janelle Hanson, University Communications

University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) recently celebrated 15 years of partnerships with Salt Lake City organizations, the university and west Salt Lake City neighborhoods.

The April 12 celebration at Rice-Eccles Stadium was an opportunity to bring together the people who have done the work, recognize great partnerships and look at what has been accomplished in the past 15 years. Various community groups from the west side performed, expressing the richness of the neighborhoods they represent.

UNP launched in 2001 with a charge to create a partnership between the university and west Salt Lake City neighborhoods. The vision was to see more west side youth pursuing higher education, collaboration with U students, faculty and staff working with west Salt Lake schools, nonprofits, community councils and residents.

“Together, people who have spent their entire lives in west Salt Lake, and others who have come from across the globe, are building a shared future that focuses on the best for their children and, in the process, they are a living example of a community coming together,” said Irene Fisher, the founding director of UNP.

By addressing systemic barriers to educational success, these collaborative partnerships foster increased access to higher education for community members, a university enriched by its involvement in the community and an enhanced quality of life for all involved.

“I remember when I first found out about UNP nine years ago. I was a high school senior interested in attending the U, yet unaware of the steps I needed to take in order to apply,” said Alonso Reyna Rivarola, Dream Program director. “UNP supported me in the process of applying to the university as an undocumented student. This was a critical moment in my life and has led me in my pathway into higher education.”

Looking back at how the neighborhoods and university have changed in more than a decade, one indicator of success shows the number of Latino students enrolled at the have increased from 21 students in 2002 to over 200 students currently — up by over 900 percent.

Looking forward to the future of UNP, Sarah Munro, director of UNP, said they want to bring new momentum to priorities identified by their partners for the next several years — building partnerships to strengthen pathways to higher education, address neighborhood issues of housing and resident leadership, support faculty and student engagement and build on the richness of cultures, languages and perspectives already present in the work.

“It’s very clear that the communities and issues in these neighborhoods extend way beyond UNP’s boundaries. I think a question will be, ‘should we expand?’ There are many ways to share UNP’s model—we’ll have to figure out how best to do that as we move forward.”