Virginia Beach, Virginia
A three-time 100 Best winner, Virginia Beach, collaborates with schools, military facilities, public health, government, recreation and leisure services, civic associations and more, so that youth can learn and mature in a community concerned about them. Part of that care requires providing "ahead of the curve" quality education for lifelong learning. The City allocates roughly half of its annual budget to Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
The mission of the Mayor’s Youth Leaders in Action (MYLA) is to be a positive force in the community through leadership, service, education, and representation. Students complete projects and serve with adults on the Parks and Recreation Commission, Youth Opportunities Team, Citizens Working Group to Envision Transportation and others.
The Youth and Community Action Team (YCAT), led by the Human Services Department is a substance abuse prevention coalition, established to impact drug abuse and tobacco use. The Virginia Beach Gang Task Force is a multi-city and state agency partnership focused where school disciplinary referrals and dropout rate are the highest in the city.
Virginia Beach has the distinction of being home to more than 400,000 military families. Transience makes it difficult for families to develop community connections that lead to additional resources and much needed support. The Human Services’ Prevention Unit provides the Second Step program in elementary schools with a high concentration of military and other transient populations. In weekly club-like meetings, staff mentor and teach anger and behavior management and empathy building. These adults remain connected to the children all year, forming a bond between the children, parents and teachers. For example, the Western Bayside Community Coalition responded to the lack of opportunities and role models in their at-risk neighborhood with a collaboration between local churches, police, schools, parks and recreation to establish the Open Gym Program at a neighborhood middle school where church volunteers, police and staff coach and mentor the youth.
Healthy Start is the Public Health Home Visitation program that follows children birth to five years old. Currently, the public health department serves 150 families annually, meeting about 15 percent of the need. The Health Department’s Healthy Families Initiative comes in contact with about 1,500 families, providing information and follow-up as the need dictates. Grow Smart, a multi sector collaborative established partnerships throughout the city and region to train parents and child care workers to increase their capacity to provide quality care. The Early Discoveries child care program, a partnership between the YMCA and VBCPS, is free for three and four-year-old children in at-risk situations, and is held in 14 elementary schools. This program features a 1:8 child/teacher ratio, which allows for special attention for each youth.