In the basement of the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center, one of the ten neighborhood centers operated by the City of South Salt Lake’s Promise Department, the smell of pizza fills the air. Nestled in South Salt Lake, the Hser Ner Moo Community Center provides education, health, and livelihoods programming for refugees and immigrants. Youth attending after school programs hail from Burma, Thailand, Nepal, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, South and Central America, and Syria. The atmosphere is culturally rich and full of energy. Kids from different parts of the world huddle together around books and computers, practicing their English language skills.
For almost a year, Cotopaxi has partnered with the Promise South Salt Lake’s Hser Ner Moo Center to implement a small-scale job training program for teens. Program participants craft handwritten thank you cards to accompany each Cotopaxi purchase. Originally, these cards were written in-house, but the need quickly grew. In an effort to maximize this opportunity, we explored local community service providers who were in need of job training and livelihood opportunities for their participants. “We had just participated in National Refugee Day, so the refugee community was top of mind,” says Liz Portanova, who has been engaged with Hser Ner Moo since the program’s beginning.
Mark Lowe, Center Coordinator for Promise South Salt Lake Hser Ner Moo Community & Welcome Center, explains that the card writing program is one of many programs the center offers. Others include early-learning programs for toddlers, after school programs for children, and ESL and citizenship classes for adults. The card writing program is designed to provide youth with structured professional development, real world work experience, an opportunity to practice their English language skills, and a competitive wage. The beauty of the program is that it generates positive outcomes for youth while also providing Cotopaxi customers with a personal touch.
Application from Cotopaxi Card Writer
Cotopaxi’s need and the center’s engagement have both grown since the card writing program began. In upcoming weeks, the program will expand to reach more youth and integrate more professional development trainings. Each writing session will begin with a half hour job training workshop that supports the Promise Department’s goal of preparing youth to successfully transition into the workforce.
“We are thrilled to grow our partnership with the City of South Salt Lake Promise Department Hser Ner Moo Center,” says Lindsey Knueven, Cotopaxi’s Chief Impact Officer. “This initiative enables us to provide valuable job training for refugee youth while creating a rich personal experience for our customers.”
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