McKell Withers, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, told an audience of about 80 people that he grew up near Liberty Park and had classmates from the Glendale area who attended South High School with him.
"This neighborhood is incredibly diverse," Withers said. "A lot of doors were opened from our partners."
This is the school district's second community center, but it's eight times larger than the first one in Rose Park.
The concept is variously known as community schools, community learning centers, shared facilities or full-service schools. While the design of older buildings kept the community at bay by creating an insular world of learning within, these new schools try to bring the life of the community onto campus.
The Salt Lake district paid about 85 percent of the $4.6 million cost of the CLC from its construction fund, which is separate from classroom spending. The other 15 percent came from a variety of donors.
Intermountain Healthcare, Valley Mental Health and Friends for Sight will provide health care at the center. For example, Friends for Sight will offer free vision screenings on Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m.
The center includes large classrooms and a demonstration kitchen for community classes. It also holds a pre-kindergarten program for three- and four-year-olds, along with about 125 Mountain View kindergartners.
"[The community center] provides this area with resources," said Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who represents the neighorhood. She noted one such resource is access to pre-kindergarten. "All children need to have this access to early learning."
The two public schools serve high-poverty, minority populations. Mountain View Elementary, 1380 S. Navajo, enrolls 600 students; 74 percent come from low-income homes, 48 percent speak limited English, and 70 percent are ethnic minorities.
At neighboring Glendale Middle, 78 percent of the students are from low-income homes, 32 percent speak limited English and 69 percent are ethnic minorities.
Last year, Glendale Middle won the district's School Progress Award because it showed the greatest amount of growth in student achievement. Students had above-average growth on state tests in math, language arts, and science.
The district's first center, Rose Park Elementary's Community Learning Center at 105 W. 1000 North, is also on the west side of Salt Lake City. The 3,800-square-foot building is divided into several sections: an Intermountain health clinic; a parent/family center; two conference rooms; an early childhood learning center; and an area for a full-time Valley Mental Health worker.
Jason Olsen, district spokesman, said the district will build a third community center in the next couple of years near Lincoln Elementary School, 1090 S. Roberta St.
Kimberly Schmit of University Neighborhood Partners, which has offices in the Glendale area, said the organization has been involved in community initiatives for more than a decade, building relationships and helping to connect citizens with civic and social service groups. She echoed comments made earlier at the opening by University of Utah President David Pershing.
"The bottom line is, something special is happening in Glendale," Schmit said.