EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

SLC teachers’ union provides backpacks, supplies to refugee students

Oct 27, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 10:10 am
Volunteers stuff backpacks with school supplies for the benefit of refugee students in Salt Lake Ci...
Volunteers stuff backpacks with school supplies for the benefit of refugee students in Salt Lake City at the American Federation of Teachers Utah union headquarters in West Valley City, Utah on October 26, 2021 (Nick Wyatt, KSL Newsradio)
(Nick Wyatt, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is giving backpacks filled with school supplies to refugee students in the Salt Lake City School District. 

Supplies for refugee students

Volunteers gathered at the American Federation of Teachers Utah headquarters in West Valley to stuff backpacks with school supplies Tuesday night. 


The nearly 550 backpacks are going to refugee students at 34 schools within the Salt Lake City School District. 

“Calculators for secondary school students, binders, papers, pencils, just the works,” said AFT Utah Vice President Nadia Rockwood. 

There are 402 secondary students who qualify as refugees in the district, as well as 140 elementary students. Some schools have only one or two refugees, but Rockwood says West High has 90. 

“We have a large influx of refugees that come to our city and our school district,” said AFT Utah President Brad Asay. “When they get here, it’s such an adjustment for them to come into schools. They may not be familiar with the system, not be familiar with their surroundings. To be able to come in and have something handed to them, saying ‘this is for you, this is yours, this is going to get you started on the right foot’ and make them feel comfortable.” 

Asay says welcoming refugees, making them feel appreciated and cared for are the values of his union and the state of Utah. 

$25,000 grant

The money to pay for these supplies and backpacks came from a grant by the American Federation of Teachers national organization. 

Rockwood says the money was originally set aside for union executives to travel around the country, but the pandemic sidelined them. For the teacher of 15 years and union member of about 10, this was Rockwood’s first grant application. 

“I applied for it. I asked for $25,000 and I received everything. So, we got our wishes, desires, and [then] some,” she said. 

This is just one of many projects funded by grants from the AFT, according to Rockwood. She says more than 80 have been paid for across the country this year. 

The backpacks will be distributed as needed over the coming week.

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SLC teachers’ union provides backpacks, supplies to refugee students