Sylacauga, Alabama was named one of the nation’s 100 Best because its community’s coalitions and partnerships have developed an infrastructure that addresses its youth’s challenges and needs, promotes cross-sector collaboration, and works toward strengthening families and the overall community. A three time 100 Best winner, Sylacauga conducts and reviews meaningful needs assessment data and has selected coalition-led, evidenced-based prevention/intervention programs to address its community’s needs.
One example of these coalitions is Sylacauga’s award-winning SAFE Family Services Center, which has provided meaningful opportunities for youth and families to contribute to the growth of the community, to serve others, and to promote community cohesion. Since 1997, Sylacauga’s SAFE coalition has brought together local government, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, and the medical, educational, and business communities for this purpose. The national award-winning SAFE coalition brings together local government, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, and the medical, educational and business communities. SAFE has leveraged over $15 million in local, state and federal funds to support community initiatives, and helped the community increase its graduation rate from 83 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2008.
In addition to SAFE, Sylacauga’s community-wide BRIDGES after-school program provides youth development activities for grades 4-8. Through collaborative support from Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Governor’s Office BRIDGES participants receive academic coaching from certified teachers, instruction in computer literacy, volunteer service opportunities, enriching cultural experiences, and more. This program has paid off with 100 percent of at-risk BRIDGES students passing one or more sections of their graduation exams. Another of Sylacauga’s educational support programs is the HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) program. HIPPY has provides early intervention school readiness strategy and has helped 100 percent of kindergarteners pass the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills benchmark. Both BRIDGES and HIPPY are responsible for Sylacauga students graduating at an increasing rate.
Additionally, Sylacauga and the greater Talladega County have also worked to increase enrollment in the SCHIPS (All Kids in Alabama) children’s health insurance program by 30 percent, and have subsequently raised child immunization rate to the third highest in the state of Alabama. And, to try to promote preventative health efforts, Sylacauga and the Talladega County have begun implementing guidelines and standards to reduce sales of foods with high amounts of fats, sugars, and unhealthy ingredients.