Feb. 12, 2007 –University of Utah President Michael Young is scheduled to offer congratulatory remarks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 celebrating the opening of a new Head Start Center located at the Hartland Apartment Complex, a primary resettlement site for refugee agencies in Salt Lake. The ceremony, held from 4:00 pm to 5:00pm, will include Hartland Head Start families and residents, west Salt Lake community leaders, and other University members.
President Young’s interest in the Hartland Head Start Center stems from its innovative partnership model which involves several University of Utah faculty and students due to its connection and history with Hartland Partnership Center, a collaboration of University Neighborhood Partners.
“This is an extraordinary example of the impact that results when the University and community work together,” said President Young. “The University’s engagement at the Hartland Apartments has given students and faculty truly unique learning experiences, and I understand their work there has made a huge impact on Hartland families. This new Head Start classroom at Hartland will help children from diverse backgrounds start down the path to higher education. Naturally, we hope that path leads first to the University of Utah, and then to their communities as doctors, teachers, parents, and active residents,” he added.
Currently, eight University of Utah early childcare students are acquiring valuable teaching experience at the recently opened Hartland Head Start Center. Sophomore Katrina Miller, who is working towards a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, said her involvement with the Hartland Head Start Center is the result of a class “designed to give you hands on information on teaching.”
Miller along with her seven classmates, are currently enrolled in a child development practicum through family and consumer studies. Each will work four hours one day a week in order to earn three hours of credit towards their early childhood certification, for a total of 920 hours this spring. They will plan and implement learning activities and work on academic and social goals for the thirty children enrolled at Hartland Head Start under the joint supervision of the department of Family and Consumer Studies and Head Start.
Miller had the option of working at the University of Utah preschool, but was enthused about Head Start’s mission. “I am really excited to have such an opportunity for this learning experience,” she said.
Miller is considering remaining at Head Start after completing her course. “One of the main reasons I have decided to become a teacher is because it’s great to see people acquire knowledge and skills,” she said.
But Miller admits the diversity at Hartland could be a challenge for her. “I think that the language barrier will be somewhat of a challenge to me and for a few of the children. It will be exciting to see them grow and get to know them and their story,” she added.
Dr. Cheryl Wright, family and consumer studies, described the opportunity to be involved at the Hartland Head Start center as mutually beneficial for residents and students.
“Providing quality early childhood experiences for young children is the most important investment of resources. The way to make a difference is to reach children early with support services so they are successful in school. We also want the teachers working with young children to have challenging experiences-and these children with their diverse needs will provide wonderful learning opportunities for our students to get teaching experiences with a diverse group of children and families,” she added.
The 300 unit Hartland apartment complex located near 1700 South and Redwood Road is home to nearly 800 adults and children from all over the world-Somalia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, Peru, Sudan, Georgia, Bosnia, Liberia, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States-75% of whom are non-native English speaking immigrants or refugees. As is true with most families, the residents of Hartland face many daily challenges: transportation, child care, work responsibilities, time management, etc. But according to Sarah Munro, UNP assistant director, many face the additional social challenges of language acquisition and cultural capital.
“The Hartland Partnership Center seeks to address many of those issues right where people live,” she explained.
The need to provide early childhood education services to Hartland residents arose when residents attending the various classes and meetings at Hartland Partnership Center brought their preschool age children with them, creating challenging learning and working environments, explained Kim Schmit, Hartland Coordinator.
“Providing a separate space for young children quickly became an obvious need. Our partners initiated the research, planning, and acquired the funding to create the new Head Start center over a year and a half ago,” Schmit added.
The Hartland Partnership Center initially addressed this need when it partnered with the Utah Family Center, Utah Federation for Youth, and the Social Work department at the U of U in the fall of 2005 to start an early childcare center. Hartland Partnership Center rented a two-bedroom apartment and converted it into a space where children could learn school readiness skills in a safe and structured environment while their parents simultaneously participated in the adult classes offered at Hartland Partnership Center. This was seen as a temporary solution, with the longtime goal of establishing a Head Start center on site to address the problem, explained Schmit. Utah Federation for Youth has since taken over administering that space and uses it to provide an afterschool program for Hartland residents ages six to 18 years old.
Two different adjacent apartments have been remodeled into one Head Start classroom that will provide care from 8:30a until 3:30p for qualifying residents.
“What is remarkable is the growth from one center on-site a year and a half ago into three separate centers, all serving the needs of our residents,” said Schmit.
The Hartland Partnership Center is coordinated by a team from UNP, the College of Social Work, and an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. The Hartland Partnership Center is part of an expanded effort by the University of Utah toward civic engagement-a recognition that active collaboration between University and community groups can enhance learning, teaching, and research. While Hartland residents learn valuable skills, become active leaders, and familiarize themselves with pathways to higher education, University and community partners receive academic credit, practical experience, and increase organizational capacity. In addition, residents, community agencies, students and professors alternate as educators and learners, all participating and contributing to the educational process.