Columbia, Missouri


  • Community name: Columbia
  • Community or city website
  • Population: 108,500
  • Graduation rate: 86.4%
  • Youth poverty rate: 16.9%                                                   


Second-time 100 Best winner Columbia provides local youth with programs that support their success. To ensure abused and neglected children and families have a place to go, Columbia offers and emergency shelter with a child advocacy center called the Rainbow House. Local businesses and community organizations have also partnered with individual schools, curriculum departments and grade levels through the Partners in Education program to provide mentoring, tutoring, job shadowing, classroom presentations and career exploration programs. Local youth can also participate in Youth in Action, which is a summer volunteer program where kids contribute to the community, make new friends and learn new skills.

Community Programs

  • The Youth Community Coalition advises the City Council on civic matters like planning and development.
  • Central Missouri Community Action provides Head Start and Early Head Start, job training, housing assistance, mentoring and life skills training to vulnerable youth.
  • Columbia Housing Authority manages low-income housing for more than 300 school-aged children. Onsite services include a food pantry, parent/child training, financial management training and after-school tutoring and mentoring.
  • Sol House offers shelter, counseling, life skills training and case management services for homeless 17 to 24 year olds for up to 21 weeks.
  • Rainbow House is an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children and families that are experiencing crisis, and includes a child advocacy center for those severely or sexually abused.
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters provides one-on-one mentoring for children, including at-risk groups such as children with an incarcerated parent.
  • Through the program Partners in Education, local businesses or community organizations partner with an individual school, curriculum department or grade level to provide mentoring and tutoring, job shadowing, classroom presentations and career exploration programs.
  • Members of the Minority Men's Network act as caring role models that provide one-on-one mentoring and operate an early reading program.
  • During Columbia’s annual Youth Service Day more than 100 youth work to complete service projects across the community.

Youth Voices

When I first moved to Columbia I was what folks called a ‘Troubled Child’ If you wish to have fun without getting into trouble, play sports, exercise or take a dive in the swimming pool.