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Partnering with Faculty for Deeper Youth Engagement

My name is Ana Antunes. I am an Assistant Professor & Lecturer in Gender Studies and a Youth Engagement & Leadership Coordinator working with University Neighborhood Partners. I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but I have lived in Salt Lake City since 2006. For most of my academic career, my focus has been on strength-based community work that promotes change through arts-based, university-community partnerships. In partnership with Jarred Martinez and Paul Kuttner at UNP, I am working to develop stronger and more critically engaged partnerships between west side communities and the University of Utah.

Working with young people is a passion, so when I was given the opportunity to work with youth at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center (Hartland), I was excited. Along with Saia Langi and Jeilani Athman, I am one of the co-facilitators of Youth Voices, a participatory action research-based program for high school students. This year, the Youth Voices collective is looking at issues of safety in school and challenging ideas of safe spaces. In its fifth year, Youth Voices is now a well-established partnership and we are working to build a stronger connection between the work the collective is doing at Hartland and on the main campus.

Every spring I teach Community-Engaged Learning classes on campus. In one of those classes, Girls’ Lives, students work in partnership with the Women’s Resource Center on a program called Go Girlz, a program for those who identify as female that has historically created a strong pathway for young women of color to the University of Utah. This is the first year that Go Girlz is being offered during the school year at Hartland. As an educator, I place great value in helping college students see communities like the ones surrounding Hartland as full of knowledge and strength. When college students become involved with programs such as Go Girlz, which gives them the chance to meaningfully engage with other young people, they shed deficit-based perceptions they might have of what the west side is like. For the young women participating in Go Girlz, the program provides access to knowledge produced on campus and information on how to continue their educational journey in college.

Finally, to me the most important thing about the work I am a part of at Hartland is the commitment to the fact that building bridges between the University and the community is reciprocal. That is, it is about creating pathways for youth in the community to attend the University but also about creating ways for college students to recognize the intrinsic value of the communities outside the University of Utah campus.

Post written by Ana Antunes, Assistant Professor & Lecturer in Gender Studies, University of Utah