by Ashley Hillman

Community Collaborations Director

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Children’s Aid Society Fundamentals Conference in New York City with at least 15 other individuals from the Salt Lake area. UWSL staff and many of our community partners made the trek across the country to spend two full days in New York listening to champions of Community Schools efforts across the country, participating in sessions targeted towards developing Community Schools initiatives, and probably most importantly, connecting with our partners outside of the day-to-day work environment. I don’t think New York City was ready for Utah!

While I gleaned valuable insights and knowledge about how to better engage the community, why a needs assessment is imperative to meeting the needs and desires of the community, and how vital school-community based partnerships can be to the work, my aha moment occurred repeatedly throughout the two days as my colleagues shared successes and experiences from Utah. I felt proud to have people from Connecticut, Oregon, and Indiana intently listening to how we’ve worked with partners to develop leadership committees and how we’ve started the data conversation and acknowledge how necessary quality data is for each community. I was constantly validated listening to others across the country talk about the ups and downs of partnership and the data/evaluation enigma. Recognizing that Utah is not an anomaly as we continue on the journey to shaping the path towards collective impact work via community schools warmed my heart!

Outside of the conference itself, the long walks to and from the hotel with partners helped us bond on a level that wouldn’t likely have happened here at home in Utah. Navigating the subway system, roaming the streets of New York, and eating dinner in trendy restaurants with not only partners, but friends, was something I will not forget about this trip. When it comes down to it, in all of our hearts, whether we work at UWSL, in Park City, or at Guadalupe Schools, we want to help change the odds for kids and families. I think Utah is well on its way to success.