Four-time 100 Best winner, Hampton, is committed to supporting youth throughout the first two decades of life. In 1990, the mayor and city manager declared youth, education and families to be a top priority for the city. Throughout the years, countless city leaders have affirmed this commitment. Perhaps the greatest testament to Hampton comes from the young people themselves. Recently a massive budget deficit in local government threatened many of the long-standing youth initiatives. Young adults who are alumni of the youth commission organized a campaign on Facebook to ensure that funding remained intact. Their impassioned messages to the City Council, that were ultimately successful in maintaining city investments in the youth agenda, tell a story of promise.
Youth serve in advisory roles with the opportunity to impact city planning, policy development and decision-making. Many of the opportunities are ongoing – for example all high schools have a Principal’s Advisory Group and the Superintendent has her own advisory group to improve school climate and student services. The Neighborhood Youth Advisory Board advises city leaders on issues youth face in urban neighborhoods. Other advisory opportunities are short-term. Recently, when the city faced a $19 million budget deficit, citizen input conversations were convened across the community. Both the Youth Commission and Neighborhood Youth Advisory Board sponsored youth sessions that provided decision-makers with input regarding the impact of budget cuts on youth. When cuts threatened the Youth Commission, members spoke before the City Council and successfully influenced final decisions.
Since the 1990’s, three major collaboratives have focused on positive outcomes for the first two decades of life. These long-standing partnerships include: Healthy Families Partnership which brings together agencies, pre-school programs, social services, libraries and businesses to ensure that children are born healthy, enter school ready to learn, and read at grade level by third grade; In-Sync Partnerships which leverages resources among schools, neighborhoods, recreation, agencies and community organizations to support youth in the out-of-school time; and the Youth Civic Engagement Initiative which recruits, trains, places and supports hundreds of youth each year in service and decision-making opportunities throughout government, schools and the community.
Hampton is a community of working poor and lower income residents who need to work more than one job to support their families. Many have to commute to neighboring cities causing even more limited time with their families. While Hampton youth give high ratings to family support and communication in the Survey of Student Resources and Assets, this quality of relationships is often minimized by the quantity of time available. In addition, only 41 percent of youth report other adult relationships that fill the gap. The Faith Partnership between Hampton City Schools and the faith community has been a tremendous blessing to youth and families. This is a program of intentional outreach to members of congregations to become partners within in-school and after-school settings.