Columbia recognized as among '100 Best Communities for Young People'

Monday, January 16, 2012 | 9:17 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – For the second year in a row, Columbia has been named as one of the "100 Best Communities for Young People."

The 2011 award, sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance and a financial planning company, ING, recognizes communities that work to reduce high school dropout rates and provide "service and support to their youth," according to a release by the Youth Community Coalition.

According to the release, communities were judged based on their utilization of the alliance’s "Five Promises," community work with youth and their families and efforts to reduce the dropout rate and prepare students for college and the workplace.

More than 300 communities applied.

The Youth Community Coalition will hold an event Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to honor Columbia’s recognition.

The celebration will be held in the City Council Chambers at 701 E. Broadway.

Mayor Bob McDavid, Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher and a representative from America's Promise Alliance are scheduled to speak, and area youth will help present the award, according to the release.

The release cited several organizations as contributing to the recognition by partnering to invest in local youth.

The Minority Men’s Network was recognized for its early reading program. According to a previous Missourian article, the organization addresses equality issues among minorities.

As part of the reading program, members of the network read to children at the Nora Stewart Early Learning Center.

Steve Calloway, the organization's president, said exposing children to books at a young age is part of the organization’s aim to close the achievement gap.

Calloway said being seen as contributing to Columbia’s recognition raises the bar for the network.

"When you hear from another source outside yourself that our guys are making a difference it's very gratifying," he said.

Another program, Partners in Education, was cited in the release. It seeks to help schools through partnerships with local businesses to provide tutoring, classroom presentations and career exploration, according to the organization’s website. 

The Rainbow House helps Columbia's youth by providing multiple programs for youth in crisis. According to the Rainbow House website, the organization provides services, such as its Children’s Emergency Shelter, Regional Child Advocacy Center and Homeless Youth Program, to address issues of child abuse and neglect.

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