Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton



During her five years in office, Minneapolis Mayor Sayles Belton has developed a comprehensive program to create "Places to Grow" for Minneapolis young people. Combining innovative recreational and educational programming in non-school hours with public policy initiatives, such as moving back school start times to ensure middle school students are in school in the mid-afternoon, Minneapolis is effectively supporting and nurturing young people and keeping them safe in their schools and in their neighborhoods.

This narrative describes three innovative programs developed by the City of Minneapolis to keep young people safe and engaged in positive activity. Each is effective, unique and could be replicated by any municipality anywhere in the United States.

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

In 1994, the Office of Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, along with the multi-jurisdictional Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, commissioned the internationally-renowned Search Institute, to conduct a study to determine the availability of, and participation in, positive youth development activities for seven-14 year old youth. The study surveyed 1,500 providers, youth and parents citywide.

2. When was the program created and why?

The study, called Places to Grow, was completed in 1995. Places to Grow focused and defined the city’s efforts on behalf of youth and families for the past five years.

3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?

The study provides a tangible, meaningful basis for investing limited resources in youth development activities. Addressing the needs as determined by the study ensures that the most needed, effective programs for young people are, indeed, being supported.

4. How is the program financed?

Places to Grow was underwritten by the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating board, a multi-jurisdictional, government agency chaired by Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and including elected officials representing the City, County, State Legislature, and the City’s School Board, Library Board and Park and Recreation Board.

5. How is the community involved in the program?

The community provided input into the study and, upon completion Places to Grow was distributed to youth-serving and philanthropic organizations to help inform their programming. To support asset development in young people, growing out of the study, the Mayor’s office and YCB produced and distributed "Tips" cards for a wide range of community sectors (congregations, the media, businesses, government, etc.).

6. What are the major lessons learned from this program?

Places to Grow revealed that fully half of Minneapolis youth do not participate in any positive youth development activities despite the availability of many fun and free or low-cost programs throughout the city. A major reason cited for non-involvement is that neither young people nor their parents know what activities are available. Transportation, safety and program costs were also cited as reasons for non-participation. And, while Minneapolis is home to many excellent programs for young people, several areas of the city lacked programs to adequately serve neighborhood youth.

Under the leadership of Mayor Sayles Belton, a comprehensive plan was developed and launched to address these findings. Through the Youth Coordinating Board, the public and private sectors and the business community are working together to provide coordinated, accessible youth development programs for school-aged youth.

7. Contact person:

For information on Places to Grow:

The Search Institute

700 South Third Street, Suite 210

Minneapolis, MN 55415

(612) 376-8955

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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