America's Promise Alliance, a consortium dedicated to improving graduation rates nationwide, released a list of the 100 best communities for young people this morning. The list includes cities, towns, and counties that provide effective high school dropout prevention services for teenagers.
"These 100 outstanding communities refuse to let the economic and other challenges they face determine the fate of their youth," Marguerite Kondracke, the group's president, said in a statement. "Instead, they are working together to ensure that all their young people can reach their full potential."
America's Promise Alliance was formed in 1997 by Gen. Colin Powell and is made up of more than 400 corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations that seek to improve education and child safety in the country.
California and Florida have the most communities on the list, with seven each. Kentucky, New York, Virginia, and Washington each have five places on the list.
Kondracke says winning communities have programs in place that support the organization's "Five Promises," which it says are key to a child's development: caring adults; safe places such as school or community centers; good healthcare and nutrition; effective education; and community service opportunities.
The communities range in size from New York City to Lamoni, Iowa, a five-time winner with a population of 2,324 and a 93 percent graduation rate. Communities on the list have above-average high school graduation rates, provide or partner with organizations to offer after-school programs, and often have other extracurricular services to enrich a student's education.
[Learn how reducing the dropout rate would improve the economy.]
Success Academy, a school in Barren County, Ky., won an award for having the best local dropout prevention program in the country. Administrators in the Glasgow Independent Schools district, where the academy is located, realized that many students were dropping out of high school because they had to get jobs to help support their families. The school provides students with a flexible schedule and helps them find work in the community so they can stay in school.
Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the financial firm that sponsored the competition, said in a statement that high school graduation should be a top economic priority for the United States. "The success of our communities and our economy is directly impacted by how well our young people are doing," she said. "Their success and the quality of their education are of vital importance."
The Alliance has released the list annually since 2005. Twenty-two of the communities listed have won each year, while 29 communities are on the list for the first time. More detailed information about each community is available on the organization's website.