Promise Park City, a coalition aimed to improve local student achievement, received an anonymous grant for $1 million last week. The coalition met Monday afternoon to discuss a strategy for the coming year and how the grant might impact the work the group has already been working on over the past year.
With broad goals outlined as the major community issues in Park City, the coalition set to work more than a year ago to determine the best strategies in addressing those concerns. From the achievement gap to student health and wellness to parent participation, Promise Park City is banking on a coalition approach to improving education.
"Community organizations got together because we realized that collectively we would have a greater impact on student success than if we were working individually," said Park City Education Foundation Executive Director Abby McNulty. " It is incredibly exciting that someone was willing to make an investment like this one, the million-dollar grant, and I think it speaks to power of what is happening in our schools. People believe in what we can be as a community."
The grant which will be distributed to coalition programs over the next five years was gifted to Promise Park City after the anonymous donor toured the program in action at one of the local elementary schools.
"I think that the grant will help us provide, in addition to our remediation programs, other enrichment opportunities students don't have," said Kathy Einhorn, Trailside Elementary School Principal. "It will expand the enrichment opportunities we offer."
"The possibilities are pretty tremendous," she added. "This collaboration between the community and our schools is not something you often see."
United Way of Salt Lake, a facilitator and member of Promise Park City, has six other similar partnerships in the state in three other counties.
"United Way raises resources and investments to solve community problems," said Bill Crum, the United Way of Salt Lake senior vice president of community impact and public policy. "Our investments have been centered around this collective impact process. No single organization can solve a problem on their own like the ones we are targeting now. United Way is there to help connect community resources."
United Way of Salt Lake reported that despite the local economy being stronger than in other areas with its low unemployment rates and a high cost of living, there is still a major split in available resources. Approximately 39 percent of children live in families that make less than $29,000 a year in a family of four, according to United Way.
When looking at ethnicity, the economic divide is even clearer. Seventy-five percent of Caucasians own a home, while only 2 percent of Hispanics are homeowners. In Park City, 81 percent of Caucasian children have insurance coverage and receive regular medical care as compared to 50 percent of Hispanic children. Even in student achievement, the gap is apparent with 94 percent of Caucasian students meeting grade-level requirements in language arts, compared with 66 percent of Hispanic students.
"Through the coalition, what used to be just a school problem is now a United Way problem, a People's Health Clinic problem, a Big Brothers Big Sisters problem. The problem is shared by everyone, even the city and residents of the community."
For example, if a student needed glasses, a teacher might feel isolated in finding the right resources. But with the coalition, a teacher would know that the People's Health Clinic was a partner and could direct parents to that resource. If it's an important issue to the coalition or the community, that's where resources are spent, Crum said.
"This gift gives us the ability to accelerate the work that has already been started," he added, "and will help us deepen the impact so we'll reach more kids."