The Chronicle’sView: Partners Program benefits diversity as well as the community

Every Tuesday evening this summer, a program sponsored by the U’s Neighborhood Partners called Partners in the Park will expose the U to west Salt Lake City organizations and families.

In context this is just one of the many efforts of Neighborhood Partners to encourage young students to think about college who might not otherwise. But more than helping youngsters think about the U as being part of their future, the program also invests in the future success of the U.

The U needs diversity to be the kind of school it deserves to be. A university environment is all about developing, destroying and debating ideas.

Diverse people come with diverse minds that enrich the educational experience of the school.

The U’s diversity is still lacking. Something which every visitor quickly notices, and often dislikes, is the U’s homogeneity. College students usually come from the same demographic groups because they can afford it and have interest in attending.

Programs like Partners in the Park work to expand the number of students from different demographics who are able and want to attend the U.

Mata Tukuafu, employee of the Sorenson Multicultural Center, which co-sponsored the event said, “[West-side kids] think about the future, but it’s not given to them. If you don’t have good networks, chances aren’t as great to go to college.”

By not providing these networks, the U would be perpetuating a level of mediocrity that results from the same group of middle- to upper-class kids extending their high school experience onto the U’s campus.

Marcie Bunker, assistant director of the program, said, “We’re so isolated at the U, we don’t realize how much is out there.”

It may take years to reap the fruits of these endeavors, but at least Neighborhood Partners are trying. While universities are often seen as elitist, this program focuses on inclusion and building a unified community.

And while the concept of Partners in the Park is aimed at the West-side of Salt Lake City, there are numerous campus groups reaching out to other facets of our community like the Bennion Center, the Service Learning program and the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs.

Any student’s university experience would be incredibly enhanced through participation in one of these efforts.