Monday, March 25, 2013

English Skills Learning Center (ESLC)

Utah is home to thousands of refugees who have fled poor conditions in their homelands in home of a better life in America. The goal of the English Skills LearningCenter (ESLC) is to assist non-English speaking adult refugees and immigrants in learning English and acclimating in to American life. The ESLC currently tutors nearly 500 individuals from 40 different countries.
Here are ten reasons why I love volunteering with the English Skills Learning Center!

1.      The students love to learn! I am excited every time I go to teach a class because the students cheer me up with their positive attitudes about life and learning.

2.      The ESLC staff is SO supportive! I am never nervous to teach because I know I have the support of a wonderful, experienced mentor when preparing lessons if needed.

3.      I get to be creative when preparing my lessons! I have learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and how to prepare activities that the students will enjoy and find useful.

4.      There are a variety of student levels I can teach! Individuals need help in all stages of their transition, whether learning basic English, applying for citizenship, or getting a driver’s license.

5.      I get to see the students’ progress! I love when I can tell the students really understand something they didn’t know before. I know I am truly helping them improve the quality of their daily lives.

6.      I can get to know my students! Whether it’s a one-on-one class or a small group class, I am teaching the same students over an extended period of time so I can really get to know the students and appreciate their improvement.

7.      I get a glimpse into other cultures! I have taught students from all over – Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, the Congo, Nepal, Mexico, Iraq, Iran – and I love hearing about life in other places.

8.      The ESLC is accommodating about teaching locations! There are a variety of places I can select from to teach at, depending on what works for me.

9.      The training is excellent! Going to the training was so beneficial. I learned a lot about how people learn and felt very prepared when I was assigned to my class.

10.  Basically it just feels good to serve others and I know I am making a difference!

If you would like to know more about the English Skills Learning Center, e-mail and I’ll tell you everything you need to know!
-Kelsi Foutz, ESLC Program Director

Monday, March 18, 2013

Girl Scouts

Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer for Girl Scouts

10. You get to have some amazing Girl Scout cookies!
9. You get to do fun activities.
8. You have amazing new experiences.
7. You get to have hands on volunteering in community.
6. It opens doors to new volunteering opportunities in the Bennion Center.
5. You get to take ownership of your volunteering experience.
4. You get to meet some wonderful people you would not be able to otherwise.
3. You get to develop mentoring relationships with the girls.
2. You get to change young girl’s lives.
1. You have the opportunity to guide girls to build courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place!

Bonus:  you get to hang out with Olive and Valery!

Reasons we volunteer:

Olive: Volunteering for the Girl Scout program at the Bennion Center came naturally for me since I have been involved in Girl Scouts since first grade. When I first got involved, I wanted to give young girls the opportunity to have some of the same experiences I had within scouting and I continue to volunteer to develop leadership skills and to get new experiences.
Valery:  I worked at a Boy Scout camp before coming to the U.  The experiences and feelings I had there gave way to me wanting to keep regularly volunteering.  I found the Girl Scout program in the Bennion Center and learned of what they stood for.  I believe in those things too and being able to have girls learn and explore makes volunteering even better. I believe that by volunteering we are more aware of the people around us and our desire to help and contribute in our community increase. 

We love what we do with Girl Scouts and we want to share that with you!

-Olive Poulson and Valery Kennion, Girl Scouts Program Directors

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

College Bound Highland

College Day

A Day Of Inspiration, Information And Incentive

Highland High School became a community partner with the Bennion Center on Fall 2011. The program started because of two moms at Highland High who identified the need of free ACT prep classes at the school and came to the Bennion Center for help. I was excited to direct the program and get it up and running as soon as possible. As a result of the 2011-2012 evaluation on the ACT Prep course, I felt that the kids at the Highland High needed more than just preparation for an assessment test; they needed reasons and encouragement to want to take the test and go to college.

In order to improve the program and be able to reach out for more kids, it was proposed that the program adapted a larger approach – the program would then be called College Bound. In addition to the ACT prep classes, the program would offer tutoring and other tools for students to be successful in high school. A bigger and exciting addition to this program would be an event called “College Day”.

The purpose of College Day is to inform high school students about college preparation, inspire them to pursue higher education and let them know that they have incentive and support.  The idea was to bring Highland High students of all years (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior) to spend a day at the University of Utah to learn about the importance of going to college, what they can do in high school right now to prepare for it and get a feel of what college looks like.

With the help of amazing volunteers and a dedicated co-director, we had an incredible event. Initially, we were planning College Day for 40 students but we had so many more interested in coming that we ended up having 110 students being part of this. All the kids that came to the U were excited to learn more about college and were very receptive. This is a part of our community partners’ reflection about the event:

“Highland High absolutely loves The Bennion Center. College Day was a great success. We cannot believe the thoughtful hours of hard work you so generously gave our students.  Breaking the students into their classes was a wonderful idea. Sometimes, college seems overwhelming but the students were taught the steps they need to take now to make higher education attainable”

We’re happy to announce that College Day will be back for Spring 2013 on March 28 and we need a lot of volunteers to make it happen!

For more information about College Day and how to get involved, please email us at

- Tammy Reque, College Bound Program Director

Monday, March 4, 2013

Arts for Youth

What is Arts For Youth?
Arts For Youth works with Title I schools in the South Salt Lake City district to teach art lessons to kids. Arts For Youth (AFY) works at two different elementary schools: Lincoln Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Elementary. Volunteers go to the after-school programs and teach kids art in the form of visual, musical, theatrical, dance, or more. Along with teaching art, volunteers are role models for the students (grade 1-6) by encouraging them to respect each other and the environment.

Volunteer Roles:
  • Lesson Planner: This person comes up with the main lesson plan (which should be about an hour long). There are many sources to find lesson plans: YouTube, Pinterest, or simply thinking back to when you were doing art as a kid.
  • Instructor: This person gets the attention of the students and explains the lesson plan to the students. It is more organized to have one instructor; however, all the volunteers walk around and help the students.
  • Material Pick-up:   This person picks up the materials bag from the Bennion Center on the day of volunteering.
  • Photographer: This person takes uses their own camera to take pictures of the volunteers, the students, and the art process.
  • Shadow: All new volunteers are required to attend a shadowing session, where they will go to a school and follow a previous AFY volunteer. They will see what the different roles entail and they will get the chance to work with the kids before they are required to complete a background check.
  • Driver (optional): A lot of our volunteers do not have cars, therefore we have the optional driver for anyone who has a car and would like to give rides to other volunteers. If not, we highly encourage our volunteers to take public transportation to the schools (its FREE with a UID). 

Why Should You Volunteer with Arts For Youth?
All of our volunteers have a great time working with the kids at the elementary schools. Similarly, the kids LOVE having college students come to their school to help them with art. The kids are so enthusiastic and look forward each week to see University of Utah volunteers. Also, every year, there is an Arts For Youth Showcase for the kids to show off their beautiful artwork. This showcase is a chance for students and their families to come to a free event and see the artwork, get free food, and have a great time with their child. We always have our volunteers at the Showcase for face painting or helping out with other small art projects. So, if you are looking for a leadership role or just want to volunteer with fun kids, then Arts For Youth is the program for you!

-Brittany Thurgood, Arts for Youth Program Director