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West Valley City Journal

University of Utah college students from West Valley clean Redwood Elementary

Aug 29, 2019 12:42PM ● By Travis Barton

Students from the University of Utah’s Opportunity Scholars program help paint the track at Redwood Elementary. (Screenshot via West Valley City)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Nearly 100 University of Utah students spent a day in early August doing service at Redwood Elementary, 20 of them were from West Valley City. 

“These are students that have gone to school in areas like ours in West Valley City and they’re giving back to the community,” said Redwood Elementary principal Jolynn Koehler in a video released by West Valley City. “We want to make sure our students have a wonderful start to their year, that they’re able to come back to a building that’s clean, fun, colorful and beautiful.” 

The service day came via the University of Utah’s Opportunity Scholars program, which provides resources to students such as tutors, mentors, internships, financial assistance and anytime access to the program director, to name a few.

Part of the expansive program encourages its students to give back to the community with acts of service throughout the year. 

University students were split into five groups putting up “why you matter” posters, cleaning the grounds, compiling first-day packets and painting a sensory walk on the outside track. The sensory walk helps students who might struggle with physical limitations or need to release some energy, Koehler said. 

Another group helped prepare Redwood’s calm room, where struggling students can come talk about their emotions and settle themselves. 

Koehler said she’s proud to be a part of the West Valley community and passionate about her school. 

“We’re trying to create community programs that will be around for a long, long time to help the people that are here,” Koehler said. 

Richard Kaufusi, director of Opportunity Scholars, said the program looks for students who would be first generation college students with a financial need. He added being a minority is not a requirement, but they do look for populations that “are underrepresented in higher education.” 

“When you see someone that needs help, why not help?” Kaufusi said. 

“Education is that equalizer,” he continued. “Education makes the difference. When you look at the societal benefits of education, it’s overwhelming.” 

Kaufusi said those that graduate may pay more taxes, but communities and governments will spend less on them than those that don’t go to college.

“Having an educated population changes the overall health and wellness of a community,” Kaufusi said. “And it starts with each individual kid.”