Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Iowa, Ky. and W. Va. each place two rural communities in list of nation's best places for kids

In the "100 Best Communities for Young People for 2008," 15 were in rural communities, and Iowa, Kentucky and West Virginia each placed two among the 15. It's the third time the Kentucky cities, one of the Iowa towns and one of the West Virginia counties has received the honor from America’s Promise Alliance, a creation of former Secretary of State and Gen. Colin Powell that unites businesses, non-profits and local governments.

The top 100 were selected from nominees from 300 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Mt. Sterling and Murray, Ky., were two of the 44 communities that were also selected in 2005 and 2007. Mt. Sterling is in Montgomery County, which has a population of about 23,000 and is in the east-central part of the state, about 35 miles east of Lexington. Murray is in Calloway County, which has a population of about 34,000 and is at the southeast corner of the Jackson Purchase, Kentucky's western extension.
It is home to Murray State University.

"Mt. Sterling was chosen, according to America’s Promise, in part, 'because of their work to ensure students have the best problem- solving skills to manage their future,'" reports Tom Marshall of the Mt. Sterling Advocate. "It also made note of the school system’s Reality Store, 'which provides mock life experiences for eighth- graders, where they are issued jobs, salaries and checkbooks, and must face costs and problems associated with daily living.'" (Read more)

"Murray and Calloway County were named because of its commitment to young people and their support," according to a staff report from the Murray Ledger & Times. "The release especially notes efforts with the Laker After School Educational Resource (LASER) program for K-5 students in the Calloway County School System, and the Angels Community Clinic, which provides free medical and dental care for uninsured but working families." (Read more)

Like the Kentucky towns, Lamoni, Iowa is a three-time winner. The town of fewer than 3,000 near the Missouri border on Interstate 35 made the list for its SAFE Coalition that brings together youth-serving agencies and businesses, according to the profile by Cynthia Hobgood of America's Promise (which also provided the photo of Lamoni above). Lamoni is in Decatur County, which has the state's lowest per capita income, but it is also home to Graceland University. (Read more) The other representative from Iowa was Storm Lake and Buena Vista County, a community of about 20,000 in the northwest part of the state, about 80 miles west of Sioux City. It's home to the weekly Storm Lake Times, which we have written about.

West Virginia's winners were Mercer and Monroe Counties, both on the Virginia border where the New River enters the state. Mercer County (pop. 65,000), another three-time winner, drew praise for its Creating Opportunities for Youth Coalition, which works to keep kids away from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, reports Charles Owens of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. To the east, just outside the Appalachian coalfield, Monroe County (pop. 15,000) drew recognition for its universal preschool. (Read more) The Daily Yonder has a quick rundown of the 15 rural communities on the list. (Read more)

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