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Atlanta Mayor Reed Keeps Promise of Hope Through Youth Centers

December 20, 2010

Throughout Kasim Reed's 2008 - 2009 campaign for mayor of Atlanta, he vowed to turn abandoned neighborhood recreation centers into activity centers that provide inner-city youth with a meaningful alternative to street crime. He promised to form partnerships to get things accomplished within political and business communities. During his campaign, Reed put a strong focus on revitalizing these shut down recreation centers and has dedicated much of his first year in office to fulfilling that promise.

Reed promised to reopen 15 closed centers and seven closed swimming pools, and turn them into "Centers of Hope," an initiative that focuses on investing in the children of Atlanta. Children need an engaging way to spend their time, especially those from broken homes and/or low-income families who are provided little guidance and have no place to go. Children needing a place to feel safe and have fun at the same time are concepts Reed understands; he recognizes the benefits of community centers on a personal level. Reed has often spoken of how beneficial it was for him as a child to have a safe place to go to play.

It is necessary for low-income children, who are the majority population of Atlanta Public Schools, to get a good education and succeed academically. To fully accomplish this, the entire community must be involved in helping the youth towards success. The Centers of Hope Initiative focuses on community involvement to ensure the youth of Atlanta have a safe haven to get mental and physical exercise, obtain advice and guidance from dedicated adults, and develop the skills and abilities needed for a better future.

In June 2010, Atlanta's City Council approved $3.7 million to slowly reopen the shut down recreation centers. In August 2010, six of the shut down recreation centers opened their doors, just in time for the 2010-2011 academic school year. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on August 10 at the Central Park Recreation Center. To date, the city has re-opened 12 recreation centers, with the promise of five more opening over the next couple months. The centers offer new programming elements such as after'school academic and cultural enrichment; technology classes; health and nutrition awareness; SAT prep; job readiness and life skills training; as well as activities for seniors, such as computer literacy, exercise and cooking classes.

Reed has also obtained the private financial support to help fulfill the promise of the Centers of Hope Initiative, with significant contributions from Wachovia, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast and Converse. Turner Broadcasting has committed $1 from every CNN tour sale, which is expected to bring between $250,000 and $500,000 annually. Comcast not only donated $25,000, but also agreed to provide wiring for the centers.

The Centers of Hope are not the only way Reed shows his dedication to the betterment of Atlanta's youth. He continues to support the Mayor's Youth Program (MYP), which began in 2005 under former Mayor Shirley Franklin, a Conference of Mayors Poverty, Work and Opportunity Task Force Co-Chair, which helps individuals with hands-on assistance to plan for life after high school. The program seeks to assist students in effectively navigating the gap between high school graduation and successful careers.

Last year, more than 600 public school graduates were helped with tuition, laptops and other assistance through the MYP. The majority of families with children in Atlanta Public Schools have an annual income below the nation average. These children and families are not aware of the resources available to them and/or do not have the funds to access these resources. MYP moves Atlanta's youth out of destructive cycles by working with students one-on-one to develop individual plans for further education at universities, two-year colleges, technical schools, the military, and job training programs.

Since the beginning of his campaign, Reed has shown his commitment to helping Atlanta's youth. Having served less than a year in office, Reed has fulfilled his promises to the citizens of Atlanta and has proven his dedication not only to youth, but also to the city itself and all its citizens.

For more information, contact Jennifer Ogunsola, Mayor Kasim Reed Media Relations Office, at 404-330-6000.