Investing the Time

Summer 2011

The future of America lies in the hands of our youth. Young people can easily be misled, and it is vital for a community to foster its youth to insure its own success in the future. Some communities, however, forget about this integral principle when creating programming and community activities. Therefore, the communities that invest their time and effort into helping youth should be celebrated, and that is where 100 Best Communities comes in to play. Every year America’s Promise Alliance creates a list of the 100 Best Communities in America, or “those most committed to making youth a priority and taking concrete actions to back up those commitments”. (100 Best Communities Guidebook) Growing up in a community which has been featured on Americas Promise Alliance’s 100 Best List for the last four years (this will be its fifth), I know the impact an invested community has on its young people. When reviewing the many applications, I noted the programming in my own hometown of Missoula Montana.

The programs mentioned reached out to all of the youth in my community, and I personally have been involved in many of the youth activities Missoula provides. The activities featured in my community, and in all of the winner’s communities, provide for an environment of support for youth. By involving the young members in the greater community, by providing them opportunities for self-expression, and giving them a safe place for the time after school the winners encouraged their youth to succeed both in and out of school. For example, in Missoula, a new program has been employed: Graduation Matters. Graduation Matters has the principle of 100 percent graduation from high schools in a state struggling to keep education on the agenda. This particular program (and many programs in the winning communities) line up with Americas Promise Alliance’s Grad Nation campaign which “is a national movement to transform awareness of the dropout crisis into sustained, results-driven action.” (Americas Promise Alliance: http://www.americaspromise.org/How-to-Help/Invest-in-the-Alliance/Grad-Nation-Campaign.aspx)

In addition to programs paralleling the Grad Nation campaign, the winning communities of 100 Best Communities involvement with their youth reflects the five promises at Americas Promise Alliance: caring adults, a healthy start, safe places, effective education and opportunities to help others. While judging the communities I focused on the one promise I find most important: caring adults. As a young person in Missoula, I have found the most influential entity in my life has been the adults whom have been my mentors and trail guides along the way. Communities cannot foster their youth without providing for them examples of success and giving them helpers to push themselves to greatness.

In my own life I have found that a true caring adult provides the four other promises of Americas Promise. Without the initiative of my main adult mentor in Missoula, I never would have never become involved in Americas Promise Alliance, or ended up becoming a judge of this competition. Reading through all the efforts of the communities in America was rewarding and eye opening. It showed me how other communities are helping their youth, and gave me ideas on programs which I hope to employ in my own community. The winners of 100 Best Communities have made a great effort to give back to their towns, and create an environment in which young people can grow and prosper.