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West Valley City Journal

Family Engagement Center opens at Kennedy Jr. High

Nov 30, 2023 12:34PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Kennedy Junior High teacher Jill Walganott discussed tips for family success with parents and teachers at the school’s Evening of Excellence. (Tom Haraldsen/City Journals)

A much-needed resource has opened at Kennedy Jr. High School. During the school’s Evening of Excellence on Nov. 15, a Family Engagement Center was introduced to the community. Students and parents gathered for a series of 20-minute information sessions on a variety of topics.

“We really wanted to put together an event for our community connecting them with resources,” said vice principal Ande Miller. “We also are highlighting some of our student performance groups. Families can leave with something to remember about the achievements of their students.”

Sessions included addressing mental health challenges, making good choices, learning Internet safety tips, tips on checking on grades and attendance, and much more. Teacher Natalie Gray offered tips on “great words to say” every day, like “School is a great place to learn” or “You’ve made a great decision to go to school, so do your best today!”

“One of the cool parts of this is that our teachers are the ones teaching sessions,” Miller said. “So not only do we have agencies from the county that parents can connect with, but also teachers from this building who are talking about things they’re passionate about. That can help parents connect to their students academically.”

One such area is student reading scores. Miller said a lot of parents get reading scores on reports but don’t know how to interpret them. 

“So we have our teachers help parents understand their child’s scores and what they mean. It’s a chance to get families in this building so we can tell them ‘we want you here. We want to build a partnership with you.’ We’re just so happy with the turnout tonight.”

Parents and students were given a “punch card” as they entered that they could fill out as they visited each session. Those completed cards earned free tacos from a food truck parked outside the school entrance. There were tacos aplenty being served. This was the first year for the Evening of Excellence, but Miller said it will probably become an annual event.

The new family center provides a space where families can gather, take some classes and learn more about the school, according to principal Robin Tenbrink. λ