Butler County, Missouri

A previous 100 Best winner, Butler County is a rural community located in Southeast Missouri. This family-oriented community puts forth great efforts to leverage resources and provide ample opportunities for youth to learn, serve, and grow. Countless community programs, including summer art classes, community theater productions, after- school programs, youth civic athletics, and community spelling bees, provide students with fun and educational opportunities.

Youth are centrally involved in the development of local policies. Virtually every youth- serving program in the community asks youth participants to assess program needs, impacts, and effectiveness through annual surveys. These contributions are heavily weighted in decision -making concerning policy and budget issues. The Butler County System of Care committee, which includes department heads from all of the social service agencies focused on youth and educational leaders, seeks to remove barriers for students and families related to mental health and social issues. The Boys and Girls Club of Poplar Bluff provides a safe learning environment for the county’s most vulnerable students, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.

The driving force of community collaboration in Butler County is the Butler County Community Resource Council (CRC). The CRC engages over 300 participating individuals representing over 100 local agencies in community action committees, which seek to build healthy children & families. Various reading programs were developed in the Children Succeeding in School committee, and annual Career Fair and Job Shadowing Days for high school sophomores were initiated as a result of the work of the Youth Ready to Enter Productive Adulthood committee. These programs have been developed and supported by a collaborative body of local schools, agencies, and youth serving programs in the community.

Junior High counselors in Poplar Bluff Schools launched a mentoring program in 2002 after seeing a need for positive role models in the lives of at-risk students. The Teen Parent Mentoring program matches young mothers with experienced mothers as mentors, and provides parenting education and access to needed services. Since 2004, 344 girls from Butler County have participated in the program and only 12 had repeat pregnancies. Eighty completed the program during the 2009-2010 school year, and 90 percent maintained their child’s immunizations, while nearly all completed their educational requirements including promotion to next grade level, high school graduation, or obtaining their GED.

Community leaders came together to address high rates of juvenile crime in the county and were astonished to find that the majority of crimes by youth were committed during after- school hours. The Poplar Bluff Boys and Girls Club was established in 2001.  Since then, the community has partnered together to create and establish several "Sites of Promise", including five Sites of Promise, eleven Congregations of Promise, and ten Schools of Promise. All sites encourage young people to participate in different out -of -school activities and programs.