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South Salt Lake Journal

Students, parents benefit from Tumaini Welcome & Transition Center

Mar 11, 2020 01:41PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Imagine growing up in northern Sudan, moving away from your village at a young age to attend a boarding school in the city. All your education is handled by teachers and school staff. Parents aren’t involved. 

Now, imagine yourself years later moving from Sudan to South Salt Lake with your own family and three school-aged children. Imagine a caseworker talking to you about your children attending Lincoln Elementary and Granite Park Junior High School. The caseworker describes the Utah school system. Terms like tardy slips, school lunch payments, check-ins, check-outs, IEPs, locker combinations, A/B days, recess, parent teacher conferences, are unfamiliar.

With each new term and explanation, the concerns grow about trying to understand it all. Finally, the caseworker explains that there is hope thanks to the work of the Office of Educational Equity in the Granite School District (GSD).

Tumaini Welcome & Transition Center

The Tumaini (Swahili for hope) Welcome & Transition Center is a powerful resource for people just arriving to Utah and who may be unfamiliar with navigating the school system. Tumaini is located at Granite Park Junior High School and has open enrollment allowing new students to join anytime.

They conduct a two-week transitional program for k-12 newcomers who are enrolling in a U.S. school for the first time. The idea behind the program is to help students prepare to transition into their home school.

“The kids get to go to the welcome center and learn how to play school,” Jadee Talbot, associate director community centers, said.

According to their fact sheet, “Participants receive an intensive two-week instructional program focusing on academic and social skills in English. The curriculum includes oral language, school culture, literacy, numeracy, computers, and collaborative learning.”

“Part of the program is a parent orientation when the kids are ready to transition to their home school,” Talbot said.

Community Centers

Because parents are given a lot of information at the orientation, GSD has developed 32 community centers located in schools across the district. The district partners with many organizations like Promise SSL to give the students and parents resources to succeed.

After the school transition, parent navigators and multilingual refugee support staff conduct school and home visits to help. They help parents get involved in their children’s education by providing additional classes for parents such as English as a second language, learning how to read with their child even if they are illiterate, computer skills and school navigation classes. They teach parents how to use the Granite Parent Portal and how to check on their children’s progress.

“A popular event at our community centers is a school tour. They go by different names depending on the centers. Some of them call it a PIE (Parents in Education) walk. They tour classrooms and have a debrief over pie,” Talbot said.

Community center leaders work hard doing outreach. They make phone calls. They pass out handouts to parents when they drop their children off at school. They try to tap into cultural community groups.

“Getting word out about what we offer is our golden ticket,” Talbot said.

Many community center leaders find opportunities for parents to volunteer in their child’s school. This allows the student to see their parent at school and lets them know that school is important.

“We want to make sure parents know there is a place for them in school. It is a concept many parents are not familiar with coming from a school system in another country,” Madeleine Clark, community center coordinator, said.

“All of this takes time. One visit will not answer all the questions. You must build a relationship with these parents,” Talbot said.

The community centers with their many offerings and resources allow district personnel to build relationships.