Real Life was born in 2010 when the United States was facing the Great Recession. At the time, Youthlinc’s main programs focused on the Service Year and the Young Humanitarian Award. Youthlinc leadership was worried about how the Recession would affect volunteers’ ability to travel on international service trips. This caused Youthlinc to look inward and ask, “What more can we do here at home?”  

This led to the birth of the Real-Life Program, whose mission began with the aim of providing support for an underserved demographic – refugee teenagers. With the collaborative efforts of Ellie Seaborn and Domoina Kendell, Real Life began its journey of empowering refugee and immigrant youth. Since then, the program has flourished, forging partnerships, and making a positive impact in the community.  

From Conception to Growth 

 Born from a desire to make a difference in the lives of refugee youth, Real Life started with a focus on teens, who often received less attention in resettlement efforts. Ellie Seaborn’s visionary leadership and her experience volunteering with refugee youth at the Hser Ner Moo Center paved the way for the program. Collaborating with Promise of South Salt Lake, Real Life took its first steps in working with refugees, and it has been growing and improving ever since. 

 Reaching Milestones: From One Site to Thirteen 

 In 2014, Real Life achieved a significant milestone when it secured a landmark grant from Synchrony Bank. With a partnership agreement with Promise South Salt Lake, the program expanded from two sites to five during the 2014-2015 school year. Additional community partnerships allowed Real Life to grow further, leading to its presence at thirteen locations across the Salt Lake Valley today. 

Empowering Refugee and Immigrant Youth 

 Real Life’s commitment to its mission is evident through its comprehensive curriculum, providing meaningful opportunities for refugee and immigrant youth to develop essential life skills. From job and college readiness to language and communication development, financial literacy, and interpersonal skills, Real Life equips students with the tools they need to succeed beyond high school. Additionally, the program fosters a sense of camaraderie and celebration of diverse cultures, creating friendships and unforgettable experiences. 

Adapting to the Times: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities 

Over the past few years, the pandemic has underscored disparities in opportunity for communities of color and lower socio-economic status families. Real Life recognizes the urgency of these challenges and has adapted its curriculum to best fit the needs of its students. As the pandemic ends, the program is poised to meet the increased demand for support and education that awaits students facing unique challenges. 

An Expanding Vision: Kindergarten through Third Grade 

With the support of bioMérieux, Real Life is preparing to take another significant step in its journey. The program, currently serving students from fourth grade through high school, will expand its reach to encompass students from kindergarten through third grade. This expansion reflects Youthlinc’s dedication to providing transformative opportunities to even younger learners, ensuring they receive essential support from the very beginning of their educational journey. 

The Role of bioMérieux in Making it Possible 

The expansion of Real Life’s programming has been made possible through the generous support of bioMérieux. With a vision that extends beyond its core business, bioMérieux has demonstrated its commitment to making a positive impact on society. As part of its initiative to support early childhood education, the company has partnered with Real Life to provide a grant that will fuel the expansion project. 

bioMérieux: A Beacon of Corporate Social Responsibility 

BioMérieux has long been at the forefront of innovation in healthcare and diagnostics, striving to improve patient outcomes worldwide. Their dedication to corporate social responsibility is evident in their various philanthropic endeavors, which focus on areas like education, public health, and community development. 

By investing in Real Life’s expansion, bioMérieux aims to bridge the gap in early childhood education, emphasizing the importance of laying a strong foundation in technology and critical thinking from an early age. This strategic partnership highlights the collaborative efforts of the private and nonprofit sectors to create a better future for the next generation. 

The Impact of the Expansion 

The expansion of Real Life’s programming to include kindergarten through twelfth grade is set to have a profound impact on students and the communities they belong to. By starting programming education at an earlier age, children will be better equipped to grasp fundamental concepts and develop essential problem-solving skills. This, in turn, will contribute to a more proficient workforce in the future, fostering innovation and progress. 


 Real Life’s journey of empowerment and support for refugee and immigrant youth exemplifies the power of leadership and collaboration. From its inception during the Great Recession to the current day, the program’s impact has grown exponentially. As it moves forward with plans for further expansion, Real Life remains steadfast in its commitment to providing essential services and cultivating personal growth among young individuals. With the ongoing support of its partners and the generous contribution of bioMérieux, Real Life continues to make a lasting difference in the lives of those it serves, creating a brighter and more promising future for all. 

Real Life Program Expands Mission and Impact: Serving Refugees from Kindergarten to High School 
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