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There were cheers and tears of joy at South Salt Lake City Hall Wednesday as the town of about 25,000 was named one of America's Promise Alliance's 100 Best Communities for Young People.
It's the only city in Utah to receive the recognition for its multi-faceted approach to community involvement aimed at keeping young people healthy and making them successful.
The "Promise South Salt Lake Initiative" promoted by Mayor Cherie Wood in partnership with United Way and a host of others seeks to accomplish three promises: every child has the opportunity to attend college; every resident has a safe neighborhood and home; everyone in the community has the opportunity to prosper.
"This award is totally amazing," the mayor said as she praised various partners in the community dedicated to children's welfare and education before a small crowd in the City Council chambers.
"Our promise is that we are going to do everything in our power to get you to college and graduate," she said to the community's youth.
That could mean technical school, community college or university education.
Key to the partnership is the South Salt Lake City Police Department, which strives to forge positive relationships will all at-risk kids, said Chief Chris Snyder.
South Salt Lake is a working-class community where parents, including single parents, often work more than one job, the chief explained.
"One of our biggest efforts is to provide a safe place for our kids to go during the at-risk hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.," he said. "We want to get these kids before they take a wrong path."
The city has developed nine community learning centers where kids can go and participate in various recreational activities, including sports and arts. The centers also provide volunteer tutors. Youngsters must do homework for one hour before participating in activities.
Youth crime is down across the community, the chief said. But between the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. it has dropped about 60 percent since 2006.
"It's all about improving the quality of life for our children and all residents," he said.
Founded by Colin Powell, America's Promise Alliance focuses on preventing kids from dropping out of school by keying on five "promises" or fundamental resources it says children need to succeed caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others.
South Salt Lake was named to the alliance's 100 Best list in a national televised hook-up where Alma Powell, the chairwoman of America's Promise, told the audience, "Young people represent our common future."
The 100 Best, she said, are the communities that face up to their challenges together with common commitment and determination."