by Lindsey Edwards
Community Learning Center Coordinator
Woodrow Wilson Elementary

After many conversations with teachers and staff, a continuous theme emerged.  “We really need to increase parental involvement in our school.”  Woodrow Wilson Elementary has quite a diverse population with over 20 languages being spoken within the community.  One of the largest cultural groups enrolled in Woodrow Wilson Elementary is the Bhutanese from Nepal. We wanted to do something to engage the parents of the Bhutanese community, to make them feel welcome at the school, and to emphasize the importance of their role in their students’ education.  We started the planning process by surveying teachers, and asking what they thought were the most important topics relating to their Nepali students.  We then reached out to International Rescue Committee, Ghana Dlal (a prominent leader in the Nepali community), and organized the Bhutanese Community Outreach event.  Teachers and administrative staff from Woodrow Wilson Elementary volunteered their time on Friday, October 5th from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. to speak to over 50 members of the Bhutanese community who were in attendance.  Mr. Dlal from IRC translated for us as the teachers and I covered topics such as: an overview of the American school system, proper hygiene, discipline in a school-based setting, the absences/tardiness policy, and the importance of parental involvement in their children’s education.  Parents were also given the opportunity to ask questions.

The parents were very receptive to the information covered, and many of them expressed how much they appreciated everything that they learned. Many of them said that they learned a lot and felt like the information that they got was exactly what they needed in order to help their kids. The parents were excited about this new knowledge and how they will use it to support their students. Mr. Dlal was so pleased with the success of the event that he recommended that we replicate it with the other pockets of Bhutanese families living in Salt Lake City.

The Bhutanese Community Outreach event is an example of how United Way of Salt Lake and Collective Impact works across sectors in order to bridge gaps in services for Salt Lake City’s most vulnerable populations.  I would like to extend a huge “Thank You” to the teachers and staff at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, Mr. Dlal, IRC, and all of the Bhutanese community members in attendance that made the event a huge success.