United Way of Salt Lake is committed to large-scale change in the communities where we work. We show this commitment by acting as the “backbone” organization within our Promise Partnerships. In essence, that means that our job is not to deliver specific services on the ground, but rather act as the glue holding the work together. Whether its researching new interventions that show promise, or working with Granite School District to create technical data-sharing agreements, or creating a smooth path for families from health services to insurance enrollment — our work is dealing with things we may not know we are going to encounter until they smack us in the face. The powerful thing here is that this is sometimes how complex, comprehensive, multi-partner work become possible. The downside is that we often get stuck focusing on the high-level interactions and aren’t able to spend time on the ground working with the people. Recently, I had a reminder of just how important our work is, and how steep the uphill battle can be for Promise families.
As the Community Learning Center Coordinator at Granger Elementary School, I volunteered to help translate at our recent Parent Teacher Conferences (SEPs). The purpose of SEPs is for parents and teachers to communicate and figure out what needs to be done for children to succeed. In many cases, I was able to witness parents crying with pride because their child was doing so well. This was an amazing experience and made everyone in the room feel connected. But, in other cases, things weren’t going well and bad news was being exchanged. Often, part of conversation was sharing what was going on in the home and in the child’s life, which was difficult for me to hear. In a school where 80 percent of families live in households making less than $30k a year, and the average household has 4.5 people, day-to-day life can be a challenge.
As a translator, there is more being asked of you than simply translating the words from one language to another. Parents are asking for an advocate, a supporter, and sometimes an explanation as to why their child is not succeeding. One thing is for sure – we have to do more than reproduce the same cycles. We have to change the odds by working with partners in a new way. By using collective impact, and neighborhood-based interventions, we plan to do just that.