• Community name: Bloomington-Normal       
  • Community or city website
  • Population: 123,076
  • Graduation rate: 65.1%
  • Youth poverty rate: 15.6% 

Overview

Bloomington-Normal, a first-time 100 Best Communities for Young People winner, makes youth a priority with its excellent mentor programs and community collaborations. Based on the young person’s personal and professional goals, the 25 Under 25 Youth Leadership Program pairs young leaders with community mentors who together work on a yearlong service-learning project. The 100 Black Men of Central Illinois’ Mentoring for Life program partners with the Lawrence Irvin Neighborhood Center to help more than 200 African-American teens learn about the importance of education, cultural identity and character development. Bloomington-Normal also helps young people transition from school to the workforce through the McLean County Community Compact, where more than 150 leaders from the education, business and government sectors have worked together since 1989 to offer career exploration opportunities for youth.

Community Programs

  • The 25 under 25 Leadership Program  pairs young leaders with community mentors based on the mentees personal and professional goals, and then they work together on a service-learning project.
  • The McLean Community Compact  is a collaboration of over 150 community leaders from education, business and local government who help strengthen the transition of young people from school to the working world through numerous programs, including Career Preparation Realities, Sixth Grade Business/Education Partnership, Achieving Competence in Education, Teens in Prevention, Peaceful Schools Project and Principal for a Day.
  • The 100 Black Men of Central Illinois’ Mentoring for Life Curriculum , along with the Lawrence Irvin Neighborhood Center basketball league and Illinois State University help over 200 at-risk, African-American youth learn about the importance of education, cultural identity and character development.
  • Heartland Head Start provides an inclusive preschool program for nearly 400 children at 15 different neighborhood locations to help improve each child’s quality of life while providing services that empower the family as a whole.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois provides One-To-One mentoring to at-risk youth in both the community and schools. Its mentoring assists children in developing positive relationships with peers, family and other adults, achieving academic success and avoiding delinquent behaviors.  

Youth Voices

I met new neighbors who kindly welcomed me to Bloomington-Normal, asked if my family needed anything and then directed me to the houses in which kids lived. This early memory has stayed with me, and it represents exactly what this town is: a caring, close-knit community in which I have loved growing up.

—Anonymous