Professional Aspirations

Sixth-graders explore their dream careers at the U with a new community partnership

Imagine, and then do—that’s the U’s raison d’être. And nothing embodies that more than inspiring the next generation of scientists, artists, and leaders. This past spring, University of Utah Health and University Neighborhood Partners teamed up with Whittier Elementary in West Valley City to pilot a new tailored career-exploration experience for local sixth-graders. Dubbed “Imagine U Day,” it aimed to illustrate to the nearly 70 students that a secondary education is obtainable when they follow their passions.

Students wrote essays on what they would like to be when they grow up. The major employment themes from the essays helped organizers determine the six career experiences scheduled across the U campus.

For Whittier Elementary School Principal Jennifer Bodell BS’04, Imagine U Day presented a unique opportunity to encourage her students to think about college. “As a new principal, I’m constantly imagining new and improved ways to spark an interest in my students to further their educations and open unique opportunities,” says Bodell. “When I connected with the team from U of U Health and University Neighborhood Partners, a wide world of connections opened for these students.”

Imagine U Day is part of efforts to build lasting partnerships with residents of all ages near the future U of U campus in West Valley City, which will include a world-class hospital and a variety of education and career pathway opportunities. Much like the city, Whittier Elementary has a minority-majority student population, with close to 40 percent of students identifying as Hispanic or Latino. “The new hospital and clinics can address community priorities in creative and innovative ways,” says RyLee Curtis BA’12 MPP’14, community engagement director for U of U Health. “But only if we truly partner with the community and build on existing assets.  Imagine U Day is an example of working with some of the community’s most important residents—our young people.” 

The university will build on the first Imagine U Day as the relationship between the university and the West Valley City community evolves.


Comments are moderated, so there may be a slight delay. Those that are off-topic or deemed inappropriate may not be posted. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *