Millcreek’s after-school program helps refugee and immigrant students learn and have funDec 16, 2021 09:47AM ● By Rachel Dalrymple
Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini cuts the ribbon for the newly renovated Sunnyvale Park on the west side of Millcreek near the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center, the location where the after-school program began. (Rachel Dalrymple/City Journals)
By Rachel Dalrymple | [email protected]
An after-school program in Millcreek that supports refugee and immigrant students and helps them achieve academic success is thriving.
The program serves students at Olympus High School, Evergreen Junior High, Millcreek Elementary and Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center, where the program first began in 2012. The program enrolls 100-125 students per year across each of the schools.
Peter Frost, director of Youth Services at Asian Association of Utah, oversees the after-school program. “All the programs are designed to meet the needs of refugee and immigrant students, although the programs are open to any youth that wants to participate. It’s open to anybody, and all programs are free,” he said.
Frost explained that many refugee and immigrant students arrive in Millcreek without the same level of formal education as their peers in the same age group. When children arrive in the area and enroll in school, they’re placed with other students their age, regardless of their education level.
“So not only have they not had the opportunity to learn English yet, but also their basic skills and math and science and other areas,” Frost said. “So our program is designed to help make up some of those educational gaps.”
The program includes an hour of tutoring to help students with their homework and other assignments from school. Following that, the students participate in games and activities to learn about the social and emotional aspects of life. They learn general life skills, including what it means to be polite, how you can resolve conflict and other important social skills.
Frost explained how the students have fun, too. “On top of that day-to-day programming, we try to cut loose and have a little bit of fun. We go to the local parks. We go on a hikes in the mountains and to Jazz games. We visit museums. We do stuff like that so the students have an opportunity to see what the community is all about.”
Over the years, the program has helped many students achieve academic success. Students enrolled in the after-school program typically see a 2-3% increase in GPA.
“We work closely with the school staff. Teachers and administrators in the school help us know if a student is facing a particular gap. Then we can try to work with the school to see if we can help address it,” Frost said.
When the program first began, it was held at Sunnyvale apartments with just 10-12 students. Frost said the program expanded to include a program at Evergreen Junior High and later to Olympus High School.
“We noticed these gaps at Evergreen Junior High,” he said. “They don’t have Title 1 funding, but they have a decent number of refugee and immigrant students that needed extra support. So we offered to come and provide the service there.”
The after-school program is one of the major focuses of Millcreek’s Promise Program, a program designed to mobilize and support Millcreek residents in building community. The city brings educational partners in the community together once a month in a committee to discuss how to support Millcreek education.
Kayla Mayers, Promise Program manager, said, “Millcreek Promise Program supports education, and specifically after-school programs, in the city first and foremost by identifying goals that the partners would like to see in terms of educational outcomes for youth in Millcreek. After identifying goals, the committee develops strategies that meet this goal, as well as methods to measure progress for those strategies.”
Frost described the experience of being involved in the program. “I really love it,” he said. “The best parts are when I get to be a little bit more hands-on and go to the programs and interact.”
Members of the community can also be involved in working with students in the after-school program says Frost. “We always say our programs become better with community involvement and volunteers supporting those programs,” he said. “We can always use more support and volunteers in the programs.”
To volunteer in the after-school program and help support education in Millcreek, visit aau-slc.org/volunteer.