SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – It is estimated that 20 – 50 percent of students in some Utah schools have not connected with their teachers since March, when they transitioned to homeschooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Way of Salt Lake said the students experiencing the most disconnect are low-income, English language learners, and students of color, and coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, could negatively impact the futures of students already behind.

A new initiative, “Stay Safe, Stay Connected,” is meant to address the urgent, short-term needs of Utah families.

Stay Safe, Stay Connected combines many school district and community-based programs to:

  • Connect disconnected students to academic, social-emotional, and technology supports over the summer
  • Help families meet their basic needs through 211 resources
  • Engage community members to get involved through mentor programs
  • Provide essential school supplies to support and enable students’ learning

“This initiative will be a rallying cry to our community to find the kids and the parents who have been disconnected and help them get through these times,” said Bill Crim, President & CEO of United Way of Salt Lake. “Through the efforts of dozens of partners, we’ll connect families to the programs and services near them. And, we’ll mobilize volunteers as mentors and tutors to round out a cohesive strategy that supports students now and into the school year.”

Mark Miller and his wife Kathie, founders of The Mark and Kathie Miller Foundation, have donated $3 million to the program.

“We see this as a commitment to our community for us to really change our educational system,” said Mark Miller. “But it takes a community, and a community’s will, to sustain it.”

The United Way of Salt Lake is encouraging the public to:

  • Learn more. Visit to learn more about the critical education needs in our community.
  • Donate school supplies. Sign up to host a virtual supply drive during UWSL’s 10th annual “Stuff the Bus” event.
  • Become a mentor. Mentorship opportunities will be available soon, even virtually. Stay tuned for more information.
  • GET HELP. For more information, or to get support through Stay Safe, Stay Connected, visit, call 211, or download the free 211 app.

“Supporting students and families is a community-wide endeavor,” said Sydnee Dickson, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Stay Safe, Stay Connected is a powerful effort that strengthens the connections between schools, families, and community to best meet the academic, social-emotional, and basic needs of our students.”