Written by: Jason Carrillo and Dustin Khong, Pictures by: Maegan Castleton
The West Side Tours initiative is a collection of StoryMaps, which are web-based maps that draw on the power of visual elements and geography to tell a story. These StoryMaps share the beautiful cultures of the region—led by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs’ (MCA) Logistics and Project Coordinator, and lifelong West Side resident, Jenny Hor. Salt Lake County’s West Side has many diverse stories. These include migration, community pride, and entrepreneurship. What better way to learn about these stories than by asking the future leaders of the West Side themselves?
Our MCA family hosted three separate workshops led by Claudia Loayza and Jenny Hor at Kearns High, Cyprus High, and the PROG Foundation. These activities aimed to help students understand how to make a place meaningful using placemaking principles. Students thought about what makes a space special by considering the important ones in their own lives. Homes, libraries, and schools came up as safe spaces where they felt strong connections with others. For our future leaders, these places represent community and give chances to connect with their heritages, cultures, and create long-lasting relationships.
Considering the Oquirrh Mountains are in the background of it all, it is no surprise that students also talked about the green spaces in the West Side. Places like Magna Regional and Centennial Park provide a way to get away from the pressures of everyday life and connect with nature. A beloved local business is never too far in the West Side, meaning that their goods are often brought and enjoyed in these natural spaces. Through our discussions, we discovered that nature, local restaurants, and food-related traditions play a big role in building and preserving cultural and community connections.
Images: A series of three photos of students and MCA staff engaged in the PlaceI t! Activitiy.
To wrap up the workshop, students took part in a “Place It!” activity where they reimagined the important places in their lives. Keeping their values in mind, students used everyday items to create a model of a special place. This unique approach was introduced by James Rojas, an urban planner, community leader, and artist. His method combines community engagement, community visioning, and art which helped us connect with our young leaders. The students had limitless possibilities! Some focused on nature, lakes, and animals in the places they thought of, while others focused on family programs.
The students eagerly took this hands-on challenge, using creative resourcefulness to bring their ideas to life. Their models designed an environment of growth, collaboration, and to build a sense of belonging for all. The passionate insight from our young West Side leaders provided our team with an important learning experience as well.
Image: MCA Staff Claudia Loayza engaged with youth creating with craft materials for the Place It Activity.
“Homes, libraries, and schools came up as safe spaces where they felt strong connections with others. For our future leaders, these places represent community and give chances to connect with their heritages, cultures, and create long-lasting relationships.”
Image: MCA Staff Jenny Hor talking to a youth during the Place It! Activity.
The workshops we held have made us even more enthusiastic about connecting with other diverse groups in our state. Thank you to Kearns High, Cyprus High, and the PROG Foundation for your support. And an extra special thank you to our students and future leaders for participating and providing us insights about your communities. Keep an eye out for the West Side Tours StoryMap, and until then explore what Magnify Utah currently has to offer.