Houston/Harris County, Texas

Houston/Harris County has historically held a reputation as a "can do" community, which has resulted in being awarded a 100 Best Community four times. From its inception, residents of the county have had to overcome environmental and natural factors, most recently with Hurricane Ike. Incredibly, the community was able to regroup and showed an intense and focused prioritization towards the needs of the student population.

Montrose Counseling Center’s Safe Zones Project has been successfully piloted in two Houston high schools as a peer support program for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) youth. Additionally, through a recent multi-year grant and formal collaborations with Houston ISD Counseling & Guidance and Communities in Schools Houston, the next phase of Safe Zones will further its outreach to GLBTQ youth by addressing symptoms of chronic stress and uni-polar depression, utilizing targeted assessment and evidence-based therapeutic interventions.

The Houston Chapter of American Leadership Forum began the Public Education Community Program in 2008. It is designed to join and strengthen leaders in the Houston education community. Participants reflect a broad definition of "education community," including representatives from schools, charter schools, early education, higher education, business, government, workforce, foundations, nonprofit organizations supporting schools and other partners and volunteers. This year-long program offers benefits by establishing lasting bonds and relationships of mutual trust among diverse leaders, facilitating collaboration and resource sharing to obtain better outcomes. Houston A+ Challenge, a non-profit supporting public school improvement in the Houston area, serve as a catalyst for change in public schools, teaming with principals and teachers in targeted schools to ensure that every student is prepared for post-secondary success. Additionally, A+’s ambitious, multi-year, multi-district partnership Challenge Network aims to significantly increase the number of economically disadvantaged middle school students in the Houston area who are prepared for postsecondary success.

Although the Houston/Harris County business community has not experienced some of the drastic effects of the nation's economic downturn, many of the community’s children and youth have. As families struggle to keep employment, many of their children cannot afford to participate in out-of-school-time programs or other extracurricular activities. Recognizing this need, State Farm agents and staff in the community recently asked to become mentors. A partnership between State Farm, the Joint City/County Commission on Children and Communities in Schools of Houston soon formed. State Farm agents and staff are now being trained to be mentors and on how to engage youth in middle and high school in a school-based setting. Additionally, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a tutoring dropout prevention program that identifies at-risk middle and high school students and signs them up as tutors for elementary school children who are also struggling in school. Results show that tutors stay in school, have increased academic performance, improved school attendance and advance to higher education. Since its inception in 1984, the program has kept more than 29,000 students in school and more than 154,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.