By Shelly Burningham, Real Life Director

Real Life is an after-school tutoring and life skills peer mentoring program that partners Youthlinc with a variety of organizations in Salt Lake County. Real Life provides active, practical, after-school programming to teens, tween with refugee or immigrant status in Utah.   


Real Life was born through the visionary leadership of Ellie Seaborn, a Youthlinc employee at the time.  She explains, “Four nights a week, I was working with different refugee families and I was helping run a program after school with the IRC. I saw that there was such a huge need in the community, and I knew we had all of these amazing Youthlinc kids that wanted to help but didn’t even know that there were refugee families to help. I started talking to Judy (Youthlinc’s founder) about it and I could see her wheels turning. She sparked me on and said, ‘Let’s do something. We have a captive audience. We have people that want to help. What can we do?’ And that kind of started the whole Real Life Program.” 

In 2010, through the collaboration of Ellie Seaborn and Domoina Kendell, our first partner with Promise South Salt Lake, Real Life began working with refugees at the Hser Ner Moo Community Center. Real Life has been growing and improving ever since. 

Domoina Kendell, of Promise South Salt Lake said, “Real Life has had a tremendous impact on Promise South Salt Lake youth programs. The partnership began 10 years ago, when the Real Life program was piloted at the Hser Ner Moo Community Center, serving primarily refugee and immigrant teens. The program has grown and is currently at several Promise South Salt Lake sites. The Real Life curriculum offers mutual benefits for South Salt Lake youth and the Real Life peer mentors. Through their exposure to the Real Life program, a handful of South Salt Lake teens participated in Youthlinc’s international service trips. Real Life allows for a rich cultural exchange as valuable friendships are formed between participants.” 

After a landmark grant from Synchrony Bank in 2014 and through a wonderful partnership agreement with Promise South Salt Lake, Real Life made a leap from one site to five during the 2014-2015 year.  Through additional community partnerships, Real Life added three additional sites during the 2015-2016 year and four additional sites during the 2016-2017 year.  

In partnership with Promise South Salt Lake, Promise Millcreek, Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, Salt Lake City School District, and Granite School District, Real Life continues to provide services at twelve locations. Real Life provides profound opportunities for refugee and immigrant youth to practice and develop skills to make them more successful during and after high school. Youthlinc projects that Real Life programming will continue to influence 400+ students and 120+ peer mentors during the 2019-2020 school year. For more information about Real Life, visit

How Promise South Salt Lake Shaped the History of Real Life
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