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Columbia recognized for commitment to youth education, well-being

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | 6:52 p.m. CDT; updated 7:09 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 13, 2012

COLUMBIA — With the help of community organizations, the high school dropout rate in the Columbia Public School District has continued to decline over the past four years.

Since 2009, the district's dropout rate has decreased from 4.2 percent to 3.1 percent.

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That's one of the reasons Columbia has been named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People for the third year in a row, according to a release from America's Promise Alliance and ING U.S. The annual competition recognizes communities that make the education and well-being of today's youth a priority.

The award recognizes the work Columbia has done to address the high school dropout crisis and to make it a safe place for youth.

One of these local organizations, Rainbow House, has been a part of the community since 1986. Rainbow House provides emergency and crisis care as well as counseling services for Columbia's youth.  

Sol House, a homeless youth program through Rainbow House, houses up to eight residents ages 17 to 21 in an off-site facility for up to 18 months,Claire Slama, homeless youth program director, said. Aside from keeping these young adults off the streets, Sol House also provides residents with counseling, life skill training and case management.

To stay at the facility, "youth must be willing to put forth their best effort in completing high school or working on their GED," according to the Rainbow House website. 

"We work with them to re-enroll in school," Slama said. "Some youth come to us at 18, 19, 20 years old and we work with them to assess what's best for the youth."

If the resident already has obtained either a high school diploma or GED, then they are required to work full time.

Slama said Rainbow House has also partnered with the Youth Community Coalition to establish National Safe Place, which is a network of businesses and organizations that are willing to provide safe places for youths.

Another organization that helps the youth in the community is Youth in Action, a summer volunteer program that just finished it's 12th summer. Youth in Action encourages young adults to get involved in their community. 

The city of Columbia will receive a $2,500 grant as reward for being a "100 Best winner."

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.


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