Scott McLeod, Vice President of Collective Impact Partnerships, United Way of Salt Lake
At United Way of Salt Lake, we take our commitment to the community seriously, that all children—regardless of their circumstances—have the chance to succeed in school and life. This requires partnerships throughout the community, including parents, students, educators, businesses, philanthropists, nonprofits, faith leaders, elected officials, government agencies, and more.
Ensuring that students graduate from high school college and career ready, and that students complete college (whether a one-year certificate or four-year degree) is key to long-term success. By 2020, more than 50% of jobs will require some form of college. Not surprisingly however, the pathway to college is not an easy one, and of course is more difficult for some than it is for others.
In 2015, a small group of individuals from Utah joined the first Young American Leaders Program hosted by the Harvard Business School. Among them were leaders from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Latinos in Action, the International Rescue Committee, the Utah Legislature, Granite School District, and United Way of Salt Lake. Immediately it was clear, this group of individuals had the ability and willpower to build a pathway to careers for Utah’s Latino and refugee youth, so that is exactly what we set out to do. As a result, we have a network of engaged, cross-sector partners that connect students with meaningful opportunities that help them learn about potential career paths in high-growth fields, understand the required background to pursue those careers, and develop important skills that will help them in college and careers.
In the initial phases of program development, and perhaps one of the most exciting, Latinos in Action (LIA) has partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to replicate, for refugee students, what LIA’s nationally renowned curriculum does for Latino students. That is, validate their ethnic identity, name the assets it provides, honor their dual language abilities, and help develop the leadership abilities through service learning and mentoring for younger elementary students. LIA currently boast remarkably high graduation rates (above 95%) for its students, so it is a lesson worth learning. In addition, the partners are working to:
- ensure participating students enroll in online career mapping that will assist them in moving forward with their education and/or career plans;
- connect students to in-person employer contacts and mentoring opportunities;
- engage minority and/or refugee populations in language and job training programs through culturally and linguistically appropriate methods; and
- involve employers in implementing effective mentoring and apprenticeship programs for minority and refugee students.