Annalisa Purser, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
The University of Utah recently launched a new initiative called Our CASA (Communities Aspiring, Succeeding, Achieving), with six spaces opening at school and community sites across the west side of Salt Lake City. This initiative is part of a partnership with Salt Lake City School District, University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) at the University of Utah, local school communities and Google Fiber to help socioeconomically disadvantaged youth prepare for higher education.
The newest Our CASA space opens today, Monday, Feb. 27, at the Glendale Mountain View Community Learning Campus. To celebrate, there will be an open house where members of the public are invited to see the space and visit with representatives from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City School District, Google Fiber and other partners. All are invited to the event, 5-7 p.m., 1388 Navajo Street, Salt Lake City.
Our CASA promises to increase access to higher education for first-generation students and their families on Salt Lake City’s west side by strengthening college-going cultures in schools and decreasing barriers to higher education for students and families. Google Fiber helped to catalyze the project through a donation to fund computers, furniture and other resources in the spaces. Google Fiber will also be actively involved in supporting opportunities within Our CASA for increasing digital access and literacy for families.
Since November 2016, three Our CASA spaces have opened at school and community sites across the west side, with three additional sites opening this year. Designed by educators, parents and students at each site, the Our CASA spaces bring together school and community partners to offer space for a range of activities that address higher education barriers, including:
- Support for college and career planning
- Opportunities to develop digital literacy skills
- Adult education classes
- Parent-led meetings and events
- Visits from college representatives
- Online learning opportunities
- Drop-in times for one-on-one counseling and support
- Computers, printers and other technological resources
- After-school youth and family programming
This project is an example of the University of Utah’s commitment to the west side of Salt Lake City, as demonstrated by the 15-year history of UNP. UNP aims to decrease barriers to higher education by uniting university and community resources. The idea for Our CASA emerged from UNP’s many years working with public schools in order to understand the multiple barriers faced by west side students and their families.
UNP has worked closely with the school district through the Salt Lake Education Foundation, as well as local school leaders, to bring the idea of a whole network of Our CASA spaces to fruition. Partners are continually working to bring these spaces to life with new programs and activities, including a multi-site series of college knowledge workshops and events funded through generous support from AT&T and A Capital City Education.
Our CASA sites are currently operating at West High School, the Salt Lake Center for Science Education and now at Glendale Mountain View Community Learning Campus, with plans to open centers at Northwest Middle School, Backman Elementary School and UNP Hartland Partnership Center by the end of the school year.
To learn more about the Our CASA program, visit partners.utah.edu/our-casa-network.