By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Columbia Heights has a new distinction: All-America City.

The community of 20,000 won the award over the weekend in Denver.

A contingency representing all aspects of the city returned early Tuesday morning.

Pride for the newly named “All-America City” is already apparent in town.

“This is a topper,” said City Manager Walt Fehst. “This basically says you’re an All-America City and you’re doing it as well as anybody in the country.”

Different cities are honored each year, with the criteria based on local issues. This year: to ensure kids are healthy and find success in school and life.

“We’re not an affluent community. We’re very diverse community and yet the people in this community have made the conscious decision that we’re going to continue to try and do better for our kids because they are the future of our community,” said Police Chief Scott Nedeau.

There is a Cops N Kids program, and the public and private sector work together to engage students outside of the classroom.

“No school district can do it alone. They need to have collaborative partners, and that’s what makes this city so special is because they really are there for the youth,” said Superintendent Kathy Kelly.

Mayor Gary Peterson pushed to become a “City of Peace” years ago.

“Working together, building pride, building unity, spreading love,” Peterson said.

It is evident across town and to the community.

“This is a city in which everyone is an equal, well-respected and cared for,” community member Deghna Shabbeleh said.

Students said they feel the difference, and work to be part of the bigger plan.

“I think we’re really accepting here of a lot of different people,” student Justin Larkin said. “I think if you just work together, and if you learn to work together, it will help your community as a whole.”

The Columbia Heights community hopes others will take a piece of their peace with them.

There were 20 finalist communities from around the country, including Woodbury. Of those, ten were chosen to be All-America Cities.

The National Civic League has been granting the award since 1949.

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