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West Valley City Journal

Round two: city leaders approve second year of Opportunity Scholars program

Aug 01, 2018 02:00PM ● By Travis Barton

Students from the Opportunity Scholar’s program stop for a photo at City Hall in February. (Kevin Conde/West Valley City Photographer)

By Travis Barton | [email protected] 

First generation college students from West Valley City may, once again, participate in the Opportunity Scholar’s program that assists and mentors those aspiring students. 

The West Valley City Redevelopment Agency (essentially the city council) voted unanimously to approve $150,000 funding for an additional pilot year with the program.

Created and run by the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, Opportunity Scholars provides resources to students such as tutors, mentors, internships, career services, networking opportunities, financial assistance and anytime access to the program director, among other services. West Valley City completed its first year partnering with the program this past spring. 

“The program reviews are glowing,” said Councilman Jake Fitisemanu Jr. of the students he’s spoken with who participate in the program. Fitisemanu works at the University of Utah. 

Sixteen students (of varying classes) were housed in four units at Fairbourne Station, next to the TRAX station for transportation, with an additional 15 students also assisted by the program. Four of those students graduated in the spring with two more expected to this summer. All intend to remain in West Valley City, according Assistant City Manager Nicole Cottle. 

From a city perspective, participation in the program helps increase education levels in the city and the aim is to retain those graduates adding them to the workforce in West Valley. That’s the reasoning for the second year of the pilot program, to give city officials more data to shape a long-term partnership. One that includes sustainable housing for students and a pathway into the local business community. 

Cottle used the example of how law students often start their careers where they interned. “We want the same thing here.”   

Having studied the challenges students face in the city, city leaders found many wish to attend college and live in the city, but hold responsibilities with their community and family thus stifling those opportunities. Through this program, students have housing located conveniently in the city, near their family, without the necessary distractions. 

Those students then benefit from the resources and mentorship offered through Opportunity Scholars. 

“This is just a great program,” Councilman Steve Buhler said during the meeting in which they approved the second year of the program. 

Back in February, two of the original 16 students spoke to the city council expressing their gratitude for the city’s help. 

“A lot of us didn’t have many options,” an emotional Fabrynn Soonalote said at the time. “I myself was homeless before this. I really do appreciate this.”