Editor’s Note: Every month, we’ll share a short Q&A with one of our community school directors, highlighting details about the schools we partner with. Community schools provide more than a high-quality education. They are a hub of opportunity for students and their families to get connected to resources they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.
Name of school: Cottonwood High School
School Population: Approximately 1600 students
Location: Located in Murray- but our students come from Murray, Holladay, Millcreek, Taylorsville, and South Salt Lake.
Grade Levels: 9th-12th
What is one unique fact about your school that sets it apart?
Cottonwood High School is a really diverse school that has over 40 languages spoken by our families. We are diverse in the truest sense of the word, which makes our school a really dynamic space for learning and collaboration.
What are some of the ways that you and/or the community partners you work with serve our students and families?
Our community partners work together in a lot of exciting ways. For example, some of our partners run their regular programming during the school day but also participate as a club in afterschool to increase the availability of programming to all students.
As a community school director, I have the privilege to work with our amazing partners. Some of the partners/services we have at Cottonwood High School are; a food pantry (run by the PTA), vision and medical clinics (put on by Utah Partners for Health), Dentist appointments (by Smart Smiles), college awareness/access (by organizations like Gear Up, PACE, TRIO, Promise South Salt Lake, Utah College Access Advisor, One Refugee), financial stability services (such as Utah Community Action– HEAT and Siemer programs), medical insurance enrollment (Take Care Utah), and many, many more.
What are the main areas of focus for your school this year?
As far as my role is concerned, I will mostly be focusing on chronic absence, FAFSA completion and family engagement. In all of these spheres, we are trying to engage a diverse group of stakeholders to improve outcomes for our students and families.
For example, we have a dedicated team of folks who meet weekly to discuss our upcoming FAFSA efforts and how we can measure those efforts and improve throughout the year.
However, working in a school means there is always more that can be done. In my role, I will pitch in where necessary to help the students.
What is a big accomplishment your school has achieved recently and why was it so important?
Our robotics team (comprised of a really diverse group of students) won rookie team of the year in Utah and was able to compete in a national robotics competition in Houston in 2019. Watch KSL’s video to learn more about the team.
Which community partner(s) has/have really stepped up?
Smart Smiles is our newest partner at Cottonwood. Cottonwood is the first high school that Smart Smiles is partnering with, and they have been a dream to work with so far. We haven’t had any dental clinics, but we are well on our way! Learn more about the work Smart Smiles does in the blog Smart Smiles: Putting Kids Oral Health First.
All of our partners work diligently to make sure they are supporting our students in the best way possible, and they work tirelessly to always do more. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Utah and Promise South Salt Lake have integrated themselves into many of the school initiatives this year, and we appreciate their dedication and insight.
Tell us about something in your school that put a smile on your face.
I am so glad to have students back in the building, they are so much fun. Additionally, I hosted Cottonwood’s first partnership fair the Friday before school started. We provided lunch, free school supplies, and teachers were able to mingle with our community partners in an effort to increase knowledge of the many supports at the school. I got really favorable responses from everyone involved, and have had many teachers reach out to me already who had not previously done so.
What is something you love about being a Community School Director?
I love the diversity of folks I get to work with. There are so many talents and abilities in the areas I work in, whether that be parents, students, teachers, staff or community partners. Being able to work in spaces where folks want to push themselves and always be better is a very exciting atmosphere.
Learn more about United Way of Salt Lake Community Schools in the blog, United Way of Salt Lake’s Community Schools Goal: Help Students Learn, Thrive.
By: Sarah Schafer, Senior Community School Director at Cottonwood High School