JaNeal Rodriguez teared up during the Liberty Community Learning Center and Clinic’s opening celebrations Thursday evening.
In the past two years, the Liberty Elementary principal guided the school through a name change and a move, leading up to Thursday’s opening of the Salt Lake City School District’s third community learning center there.
“The neighborhood and city now have another space that can provide all the pieces needed to support families,” Rodriguez said. “We built this school and center to last another 50-plus years, and that longevity makes this whole process worthwhile.”
Dozens of students, teachers, parents and district administrators joined Rodriguez for the ribbon-cutting. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski spoke to the importance of learning outside the classroom for students and adults.
The district has two learning centers on the city’s west side — one in Rose Park, which opened in 2008, and one in Glendale, which opened in 2013. Each offers several after-school programs and services for students and families in partnership with organizations across the valley, including an Intermountain Healthcare clinic for families at the Rose Park center.
Liberty’s center will house after-school programs and free English learning classes for adults twice a week, and it has a community clinic providing routine checkups, dental exams and mental health services.
The new center was funded largely through a donation from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, which helped fund the University of Utah’s school of dentistry. Andy Noorda, son of Ray and Tye, attended Thursday’s event and said creating opportunities for growth and development was a core value of his parents, which he believes will live on through the school and learning center.
During her speech, Biskupski said Liberty’s opening is another step toward providing opportunity and equity for everyone in Salt Lake City.
“Community learning centers are game changers for how [the city] fosters education for our children, families and community,” she said.