Monday, September 17, 2012
McKinney named a “best community for young people”
Like a Norman Rockwell painting?
MCKINNEY Add another "best" to McKinney's accolade list.
America's Promise Alliance (APA) this week named the city one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People, to recognize its commitment to improving high school graduation rates and providing for children's health and success in the process.
"As young people across the country go back to school, it is especially timely to recognize communities like McKinney that have come together to make supporting young people a top priority and that are committed to helping young Americans reach their full potential," said John Gomperts, APA president and CEO. "We hope the example set by these communities provides inspiration for others to take action."
On Wednesday afternoon, Gomperts joined APA Chair Alma Powell and her husband, APA founding chairman and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to officially announce the 100 winning communities during a live webcast.
The alliance, which sprouted from the 1997 President's Summit for America's Future, chose winners from more than 320 nominees from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They include cities, counties, and school districts, depending on which entity applied for the competition.
Nineteen communities were honored for the sixth time, and 18, including McKinney, were honored for the first time since the annual competition began six years ago. Frisco ISD, Lubbock, and St. John Community-School Alliance were the other chosen Texas communities.
The selection comes just a few weeks after Money Magazine named McKinney the No. 2 Best Place to Live in America.
"Being named one of America's Promise Alliance's 100 Best is significant and meaningful to the entire community," said McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller. "We are proud to add this to a growing list of national accolades our city has been honored with recently ... So many dedicated people and programs contributed to this designation, and it further reinforces our belief that a focus on youth is vital to the entire community."
The winners were selected by a panel of civic, business, and nonprofit leaders, such as Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 national teacher of the year, and Heath Morrison, 2012 national superintendent of the year.
McKinney gets a $2,500 grant and signage identifying the honor, which, to APA, proves the city and McKinney ISD have programs that help deliver APA's "Five Promises," or resources it believes are critical to youth development: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.
The alliance summarized McKinney's "cross-sector community involvement on behalf of the area of young people" as the reason for its selection, alluding to McKinney ISD Partners in Education and its REACH campus-based mentoring program as principal proponents.
Though APA's website lists the McKinney graduation rate at 82 percent, McKinney ISD Superintendent J.D. Kennedy said the school district's completion rate is up to 98 percent.
"This is tremendous for a district the size and diversity of ours and the increased requirements for graduation," said Kennedy. "Of course, I would love to see the completion rate be 100 percent."
Nancy Cowlishaw, director of Partners in Education, last year worked with city staff members to apply for the competition. She said the REACH program, which has connected more than 700 mentors with 800 students since 2006, related highly to the Alliance's "caring adults" promise.
"We have one of the nation's largest school-based mentoring programs," she said. "Every child is different, but one thing I do know is the importance of having a caring adult, someone other than a parent who helps them see they can be successful."
About 80 new potential mentors are expected at a mentor training workshop Tuesday at the McKinney ISD administration building. Cowlishaw invited anyone interested to call the Partners in Education office at 469-302-4043.
"McKinney is a great place that realizes our youth are the future," Cowlishaw said. "This award is not just about McKinney ISD, but about our city and how we've wrapped our arms around these young people."
Kennedy added the 3e McKinney, e-High, AVID, and Communities in Schools programs as others that assist in preventing students from dropping out. Administrators make home visits every September to urge absent students back to school, he said.
"As I visit campuses and talk with parents of children in our schools, it is evident that we feel a sense of 'family' in this district. We are committed to student learning and success," he said. "Students from poverty have the opportunity to see the possibilities that can be there for them if they put forth the effort. The programs that are available through the city, our churches and other organizations are valuable, as well. There is truly a 'team' spirit in this community."
The alliance disclosed McKinney's youth poverty rate at 11 percent, and listed the Community Lifeline Center and the Bridges Out of Poverty initiative as resources that help ensure that number doesn't grow. Also mentioned is the Children and Community Health Center of McKinney, a free clinic that has immunized more than 83 percent of local 2 year olds, according to APA.
But the competition's focus is education. Working within its Grad Nation campaign, APA aims to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, leaving no school with a rate less than 80 percent.
Even with the national recognition, Kennedy and Cowlishaw said they realize there's always room for improvement - essentially, better than "best" in this case.
The city's accolade list could always be longer.
"We need to stay diligent in what we do to provide a great community to raise our youth," Kennedy said. "If we consistently keep this commitment toward improvement, we can only get better in creating a great community to raise children."
For a list of all 2012 Best Communities for Young People, visit AmericasPromise.org/100Best.
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