INDEPENDENCE -- The City of Independence recently was honored by Eugene-based Rural Development Initiatives with an award for "Excellence in Rural Economic Development."

The award came at the organization's annual "Regards to Rural" conference on Oct. 25 and cited Independence for its partnership with the Polk Help Achieving Lifelong Objectives (HALO) Program.

HALO is Polk County's Workforce Development Program for economically disadvantaged youth ages 17-21, who have serious barriers to accessing meaningful employment and education.

HALO staff works with the community and employers to help train and mentor local young people to improve their chances of entering and maintaining a place in the workforce and/or continuing their education.

The city worked with Polk HALO to organize a youth construction academy that built the first 500 feet of the Ash Creek Trail.

Independence became the organization's fiscal agent this year, and the parties have been exploring the potential of expanding HALO to include a manufacturing training academy and possibly a youth-operated business.

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