LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 12, 2012) — Four Kentucky communities have been named among the 100 best places for young people in the U.S. by America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth.
Barren County, Louisville, Mt. Sterling/Montgomery County and Lexington were among the honorees. The annual competition, now in its sixth cycle, rewards and recognizes communities making extraordinary efforts to reduce dropout rates and provide outstanding services and supports to their youth. These communities, while not without their own challenges to overcome, have demonstrated a significant and lasting commitment to their youth for which they deserve to be recognized and commended, according to America’s Promise Alliance.
Barren County is a third-time 100 Best winner. The community of 42,000 is focused on providing its youth with multiple pathways and opportunities to reach their full potential, America’s Promise Alliance said. The county’s SUCCESS Academy allows students to stay in school while earning income for themselves and their families through a co-op program. The Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning provides virtual coursework to students who do not attend traditional high school but still want to earn a diploma. The program serves gifted and talented, home-schooled and at-risk students.
Outside of the classroom, youth can receive hands-on job training through the Leaders of the Future Program. Organized by the Chamber of Commerce, the program hosts monthly meetings that teach young people about agriculture, health, education, media, economic development, government and local agencies. Additionally, students can join the Glasgow Police Department’s Explorer Program to learn more about a career in law enforcement.
Louisville is a six-time 100 Best winner, engages the entire community in creating and executing programs that provide youth with opportunities for success. The Mayor’s office and the Metro Chamber of Commerce in Louisville created the 55,000 Degrees initiative with a goal of increasing the number of bachelor’s and associate degrees attained in Louisville by 55,000 by the year 2020.
Kentucky’s biggest city, Louisville also helps students prepare for their futures through the Kentuckiana Works’ Youth Career Center, which provides disconnected youth ages 16–21 with career counseling and job readiness training. The Every1Reads initiative serves approximately 12,000 students each year in an effort to improve their reading skills and have every participating child read at grade level within four years. Since its inception, the number of children reading below grade level has decreased by more than 10 percentage points.
Mt. Sterling/Montgomery County, with a population of nearly 26,000, is a four-time 100 Best winner. The community was honored for its programs that offer young people service opportunities, access to extracurricular activities and a supportive educational environment. Youth are provided opportunities to achieve academic success through programs such as the Freshman Experience, which connects new students transitioning to high school with a staff contact. The staff contact works with the student to make sure they are adjusting well and works with them if concerns about attendance or grades arise. Additionally, a designated Student Advocate at the high school works with students to help them stay on track to graduation.
Giving back and serving the community is another priority for Mt. Sterling/Montgomery County, America’s Promise Alliance said. The SERVE student group is a high school organization that connects students with service activities, such as volunteering at local civic group banquets or programs. Additionally organizations including the Future Business Leaders of America, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H and ROTC offer students access to more community service-learning projects.
Sixth-time 100 Best winner Lexington, with a population of nearly 300,000, continues to expand its commitment to youth with educational, diversity, health and safety programming. Lexington’s Delivery to Diploma initiative partners with Fayette County Public Schools and hospitals to support children’s development and learning experiences from birth. The program, which began in January 2011, encourages life-long learning, offering resources at Lexington-area hospitals to newborn’s families including child care assistance.
Two initiatives within local government, Mayor Jim Gray’s Commission on Youth Development and Public Safety and Partners for Youth, are collaborations with local businesses, governing offices and community members to bring safe, recreational and enriching activities to Lexington.
Additionally, LexArts has a youth council to help bring arts programming to the community and the Courts Catalyzing Change project, a collaboration between the Fayette Model Court and Fayette Race, Community & Child Welfare work to address racial disparity and treatment for families and children within the family and juvenile court systems.
This year, America’s Promise Alliance winners were chosen from a pool of more than 320 nominees from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They hail from 42 states, which is a record for the competition. Nineteen communities are receiving the honor for the sixth time and 18 more are winning for the first time. This year’s winners were chosen by a panel of judges that included some of the nation’s most well-known civic, business and nonprofit leaders.
Each year, the winners vary dramatically in size, location, demographics, resources and approaches to their unique challenges. Past winners have ranged from small towns to some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York City, Chicago and Houston; to counties and school districts.