SALT LAKE CITY — Abdulkhaliq Mohamed stood before a crowd of people Tuesday and spoke of a new building behind him and a new day before him.
“The Hartland Partnership Center made me who I am today,” said Mohamed, a Somali who came to America as a young boy.
Having studied social work as an undergraduate and currently pursuing a master's degree at the University of Utah, Mohamed achieved his goal of becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college.
The 10,000-square-foot Hartland Partnership Center opened its doors Tuesday to university students and faculty, nonprofit organizations and residents, offering a space that helps refugees and immigrants acclimate to the community, addressing issues such as English language acquisition, family financial literacy, citizenship, after-school programs, employment skills, health care education and life skills training.
Mohamed, who will be the manager of the program, said he hopes the center instills a sense of ownership within many and encourages them, as it did him, to rise up and be an asset to the community.
“I look forward to helping so many others in my position,” Mohamed said. “It’s like my friend Kim says, 'Everyone lives in their own bubbles.' Hartland brings those bubbles together to create a new one.”
The new center, located at 1578 W. 1700 South, replaces the original Hartland Partnership Center, which began in 2004 in the Hartland Apartment complex (now called the Seasons at Pebble Creek) in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City. It provided 75 percent of the apartment residents — immigrants or refugees who are non-native English speakers — with the tools necessary to succeed in the community.
“People don’t deal with these issues in isolation, so they started getting together,” said Dr. Sara Monro, director of research at University Neighborhood Partners, a partnership of University of Utah departments and local organizations. “This was an energetic place, full of possibility. It had a welcoming management. It was a gateway apartment complex for new arriving Americans.”
Monro said she didn’t think anybody involved then could have foreseen what it would grow into. “It has blossomed, so it is very exciting for us to be here … in this celebration.”
The new building stands as a representation of the work of so many partners, residents and donors over the past eight years who have worked together to bring higher education to all people, said Rosemary Hunter, the director of University Neighborhood Partners.
Hunter said this building could not have been possible without the help of others.
In 2010, the group launched a campaign that sought to address the program’s limited space. Local and national corporations, foundations and private donors stepped in to help purchase and renovate a property adjacent to the apartment complex.
The total campaign cost less than $1 million and nearly $150,000 was set aside for additional fundraising efforts. Goldman Sachs contributed a generous $300,000.
“The UNP Hartford Center represents so much to us for the future,” said U. President David W. Pershing. “It’s a day of celebration and also a homecoming because finally the UNP has a home to come to.”
Pershing said the impact of the center is immeasurable. “We won’t know today or even next month what will happen here because so many great things will happen over the next decades and we will have people who will be transformed here go on to do other great things we will never know about.”
“We have a saying in Somalia, ‘Far keliya fool ma dhaqdo,’ which means ‘one finger cannot wash a face.’” Mohamed said. “The hard work and dedication of many people working together makes possible something like this.”