Findlay/Hancock County, Ohio

The driving factor behind the Findlay-Hancock community being named one of the 100 Best three times has to do with its collaborative spirit and drive to do whatever it takes for youth to thrive.

A collaborative effort was created between the City of Findlay, Hancock County Commissioners, Findlay City Schools and local youth of all ages to promote a sales tax and two levies; and, all three passed in November 2009. This action has allowed continuation of 4-H youth programs, the addition of two new middle schools and a career technology center. Two alternative schools are now available to ensure graduation. Local task forces have also been created to address issues related to vulnerable youth including bullying and school safety, child abuse, poverty, foster care placements and divorce. And Findlay High School offers Challenge Days and initiated a GLSEN group for gay/lesbian students. 

For 10 years, county schools have collaborated to create an Alternative Opportunity Center which serves High School students at risk of not graduating. These students are provided volunteer opportunities plus a Life Skills Course based on the 40 Developmental Assets. Major youth serving agencies collaborate through the Family First Council, in existence for 14 years, to provide services from birth to adulthood. Feed a Child Program, a collaboration of Community Foundation, United Way, YMCA, and Marathon Oil, is in its first year and provides weekend lunches for qualifying students. The Family Center houses 17 agencies and over the last 4 years has increased collaboration and communication among agencies to strengthen the safety net for all our families.

Hundreds of caring adults work with thousands of local youth through 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire USA, sports teams, churches, YMCA, library, after-school programs, HAPPY and Teen Institute, school clubs, Mayor’s Teen Advisory Council, Hancock Youth Leadership and many other groups. There are many mentoring programs: STRIVE (Rotarians and vulnerable students), WIA (youth mentored by employers) and Women’s Resource Center (mentoring pregnant teens and young parents). Caughman Clinic mentors teen moms. Help Me Grow mentors teen moms in their homes. Children’s Mentoring Connection provides one-on-one mentoring for youth. Two alternative schools provide caring staff who mentor students to keep them engaged in school. Church youth groups have caring advisors. Thousands of youth participate in service-learning projects with hundreds of caring teachers and community partners.

The creation of a Freshman Wing and Freshman Mentorship program at Findlay High School are some innovations designed to reduce the number of dropouts in the city. During the Freshman Mentorship program, every freshman receives mentorship opportunities from both staff members and upper classmen five days a week to provide support for class work and build social supports to help with the transition from middle school to high school. Next year, Findlay High will initiate an "Adopt a Freshman" effort through the Student Council.