By Lynn Rilling

Community Collaborations Director

This week the Children’s Aid Society in NYC is holding a conference about Community Learning Centers (they use the name “Community Schools” but the concepts are very similar). United Way of Salt Lake, in its interest in expanding the knowledge and skills of its staff and the people we support and work with directly, wisely decided to assist in sending 15 people to the conference.

My work with UWSL is focused on supporting CLCs in Park City and Clearfield. I attended the conference and learned about work being done in other parts of the country in the development and implementation of Community Learning Centers (CLCs). The CLC concept has been around since the early 1990s. The primary strategy behind CLCs is that schools, agencies, and nonprofit organizations work together to create positive change in the educational development of children.

A CLC can be an entire school, or part of a school. To effectively educate children, schools and organizations (which typically tend to work alone without combining resources, knowledge and skills) actually do just that. School and district personnel combine forces with area nonprofits and other agencies to help children succeed in school. Focus is usually on education, health, and income needs of the family.

UWSL has been involved in supporting CLC work for several years now. It was exciting for me to see how far we have come, and to learn that the challenges we face are not unique. Our efforts around collecting data to more effectively target services to children and to better inform our work, is being done elsewhere in the country, but only in a few places.

I believe that we are on the cutting edge of using information (data) to create more significant change in the lives of children and families. Also unique to UWSL, is that we work with multiple stakeholders – sixteen schools in four school districts and numerous nonprofit organizations in Salt Lake, Park City and Clearfield. I believe that having multiple stakeholders strengthens the work and will increase the likelihood of successfully empowering families and, therefore, entire communities.

As I’m flying home from the conference, I feel a deep sense of pride in the work that UWSL and our partners are doing. At the same time, I feel very excited to expand and develop our work further to generate broad community change – the kind of change that is timely and can last for multiple generations.

Isabel Rojas, Lynn Rilling, and Ashley Hillman–Community Collaborations Directors (right to left) in NYC for Children’s Aid Society Conference