Sayro Paw was 12 when she arrived in Utah from the Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. She recalls being totally overwhelmed by the language and cultural differences. “I didn’t know how to communicate with anyone,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone at school, and I couldn’t do homework.”
Gradually things improved for Paw, especially once she connected with the U’s own University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) Hartland Partnership Center, one of more than 30 sites where UNP engages with west side neighborhoods. At UNP Hartland, Paw had faculty and student mentors who helped her with language and study skills and eventually helped her apply to college. In addition, Paw made new friends participating in UNP Hartland’s outdoors programs, where she got out on weekends to rock climb, canoe, and hike.
“UNP builds partnerships between the university and west side neighborhoods that reduce barriers to education and opportunity,” explains UNP director Sarah Munro. UNP brings together partners who work with about 4,000 west side residents each year on issues ranging from English language acquisition to mental health support, education and employment pathways, and after-school programs.
Paw is now studying at the U and wants to be a middle or high school art or English teacher. “I want to show my students that I made it this far and they can too,” she says.
“I’m so grateful for everyone at Hartland. They were always there for me. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”