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Holladay Journal

Family engagement centers build a bridge between schools and communities

Aug 03, 2022 07:20PM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

Parents involved in a child’s education create an environment for scholastic success. But when parents feel disconnected from the school system due to language barriers, cultural differences or their own lack of education, a student’s chance for success drops.

Granite Family Engagement Centers help families engage with the education system in ways that empower them to get involved in schoolwork and the classroom.

“We know the value of the role of parents in education and all the data says very clearly that when families are involved in children’s learning and partnering with the school, the kids have so much more ability to reach their potential,” said Jadee Talbot, Granite School District family and community engagement director.

Granite Family Engagement Centers foster communication between families and teachers through programs and classes that engage parents. Centers offer ESL courses and computer skills, like using email and Zoom, and learning how to use the district’s parent portal to monitor a child’s progress in the classroom.

Parents who understand the system can help their children more effectively. Those who use the centers’ programs develop confidence to assist in the classrooms and even become leaders in the school.

One mother worked with the center at Olene Walker Elementary in South Salt Lake.
When she realized her 5-year-old was struggling, the mom felt empowered to create a kindergarten club. Working with kindergarten teachers and the center coordinator, she planned activities for students to help take them to the next level.

It was a proactive approach from someone in the community who understood the area’s demographics and needs, and stepped up to create a vibrant program.

“We want the parents to own the space. If there are programs they’d like that aren’t being offered, we’d love to hear that type of feedback,” Talbot said. “It’s such an intrinsic motivator to see your kid thriving because you’re doing that extra work with them.”

There are more than two dozen Family Engagement Centers operating in Granite School District. Some centers are located in a school classroom, others have a separate building on school grounds.

With ninth graders now moving into high schools, the district has purchased seminary buildings from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that sit on junior high sites to convert to engagement centers. Some of the bigger centers, like the ones at Olene Walker and South Kearns Elementary, can serve parents from neighboring schools.

Kyndal Kruse, a family engagement center specialist, said she has seen parents become  involved with the schools in a more substantial way. Parents voices are important to communicate the needs of their kids, as well as let school officials know about concerns in their neighborhoods.

“[The parents] feel more comfortable in the school and more comfortable in leadership roles in the school,” Kruse said. “We’re really starting to thrive when parents are stepping into community council or coming to speak in front of faculty meetings. We’ve even had a couple of families in our centers become family center coordinators.”

The centers are seeing a return on investment as children move through the school system, graduate from high school and come back to be involved in their hometown community through service or donations. For more information about the Family Engagement Centers, visit

“With parent and community support, these kids do so much better,” Kruse said. “There is absolutely no doubt.”