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Alameda celebrates `100 Best Communities for Young People’ honor

Submitted by on 1, November 4, 2010 – 12:02 amNo Comment

By Heather Lyn Wood

Alameda has been named one of the nation’s “100 Best Communities for Young People” by America’s Promise Alliance, a nationwide partnership of over 400 organizations working to support quality of life for youth. The city will celebrate the honor this Saturday, November 6 with an event on the U.S.S. Hornet.

Alliance Co-Chair Alma J. Powell announced the 2010 winners at a September 21 ceremony at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Powell’s husband, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, founded the Alliance in 1997.

According to the Alliance, the City of Alameda won a place on the prestigious list because of its many projects and initiatives that “empower youth, support their voice and call them to action.” The judges pointed to the Island’s many schools, the $8 million Boys & Girls Club of Alameda facility slated to open in February, youth-related events at the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex and the City View Skate Park as examples of a community-wide commitment to young people. They also acknowledged Alameda’s city government, the Alameda Unified School District, local service providers, and housing complexes for their collaboration on effective programs that serve youth in specific neighborhoods.

One of the Alliance’s main policy goals is that “all young people graduate from high school ready for college, work and life.” To that end, it promotes what it calls the Five Promises – Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, An Effective Education and Opportunities to Help Others – and rewards the communities most dedicated to achieving those goals.

Girls Inc. of the Island City and the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department were praised for their efforts to create safe, accessible after-school options for youth impacted by “limited public transportation and lack of personal vehicles.” Both agencies are members of the Alameda Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families, a consortium of more than 100 separate entities serving young people in Alameda.

Karen Kenney, executive director of Girls Inc., brought the 100 Best award to the attention of the Collaborative three years ago. The group was eager to start the process, but decided to wait until this year to submit its final application. Kenney and other members of a specially formed steering committee viewed the process as an information-gathering tool that could “benefit the community even if Alameda did not win the award.”

Along with attending regular Collaborative meetings, the committee gathered information at a four-hour workshop attended by 62 representatives from 59 local organizations. It also accepted essays written by local young people in support of the application. Kenney is confident that patient preparation was the right decision. “It’s great that we won. It’s going to be really important for Alameda’s youth. But we believe the process itself was just as important as actually winning the award,” Kenney said.

More than 350 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were nominated for 100 Best honors. Judges included representatives from the American Association of School Administrators, Big Brothers and Sisters, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and others.

Advantages of the 100 Best logo range from access to invitation-only professional development events, $1,000 to host a celebration for the community, and future logo recognition by grant-awarding corporations affiliated with the Alliance. Now that Alameda has won the right to wear the logo, large “100 Best Community” signs will be prominently displayed at two entrances to the Island.

Kenney made a point that Girls Inc. is just one of many organizations in the Alameda Collaborative, and that she is just one of the individuals who worked to earn Alameda this recognition. But she sees Girls Inc. as a clear example of the kind of resource that is valued by the Alliance.

“We make an intentional effort to embrace young people from across the socioeconomic spectrum. We have girls who are very privileged and those who really aren’t. We bring them together and they work things out together; they get to know each other as people. In that way, it’s like a microcosm of the larger world,” Kenney said.

Kenney said she is proud of Alameda’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods, 36 languages and the young people served by the organization she leads. “Look out the window right now,” she said during an interview. “You see all sizes, shapes, colors … Those are our girls. That’s Alameda.”

This was the first time that Alameda was named a 100 Best winner. Other California communities to achieve the distinction this year were Chino, Fontana, Georgetown Divide, Irvine, Sacramento County, and Solano County.

Alliance Vice President Amy Rogers will present Mayor Beverly Johnson with the 100 Best Award at the free-to-the-public celebration on the U.S.S. Hornet. The celebration begins at noon. The Hornet is at 707 West Hornet Avenue.

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