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Forsyth best for youth


October 01, 2010
Looking for the best place to raise your child? Few places are better than Cumming and Forsyth County, which was named a 100 Best winner by America's Promise Alliance and ING on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C.

Combined efforts of Cumming and Forsyth County civic and community leaders were honored with the announcement it was a winner in the 100 Best Communities for Young People.

Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President James McCoy was pleased to hear of the designation.

"This is a great recognition of the fantastic cooperation and strategic effort that goes into making Cumming and Forsyth County the preeminent place in the nation to do business, raise a family and live a high-quality life," he said.

The Forsyth County Schools System, which was well represented at the awards ceremony, likewise was pleased with what Superintendent of Schools Buster Evans said was a well-deserved recognition.

"Forsyth County is environmentally beautiful and has many resources attractive to young people, such as parks and greenways, a low crime rate, and of course, the best teachers and schools in the nation," Evans said. "Our district has many young families that work within our schools, and despite the recession, our student enrollment numbers continue to climb. We hope that our graduates realize all of the blessings we have in our community and make the choice to grow their futures in Forsyth County."

Evans referred to the Henry Ford quote, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

"And this is how Cumming-Forsyth County will continue to grow," Evans said.

Ruth M. Goode, executive director of United Way of Forsyth County, and Judi Jenkins, business and community relations facilitator for Forsyth County Schools, were among the community represenatives who went to Washington, D.C., for the recognition.

"It is truly an honor for Cumming/Forsyth County to have been named one of the nation's 100 Best Communities for Young People," Goode said.

Cumming-Forsyth County was named one of the nation's 100 Best for its efforts to support young people in five different categories: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education and opportunities to help others.

"We had to demonstrate to the national selection committee that our community is dedicated to helping young people stay in school and graduate on time," Goode said. "We also had to demonstrate how well our community works together to address the challenges facing our young people today. Our county's collaborative effort with the business community, local government and nonprofit community impressed the judges, as did our rise in the graduation rate."

Jenkins also said it was an honor to be recognized for what the community has accomplished.

"Our young people are our future, and just to know that we are laying the ground work for their success, is phenomenal," Jenkins said. "We salute all those people who have diligently worked together to make our community a place where young people can grow, play and live and become productive citizens."

The community's innovative and far-reaching programs are bold steps to help young people graduate and lead healthy productive lives, said Marguerite W. Kondracke, America's Promise Alliance president and CEO.

"Cumming/Forsyth County serves as an example to inspire and educate other communities across the nation to tackle the challenges facing their city and children, and to implement initiatives that give them the essential resources they need to succeed in life," Kondracke said.

The 100 Best designation recognizes those communities that make youth a priority by implementing programs that help keep children in school and prepare them for college and the 21st century workforce.

The community understands that health issues, poverty, language differences, lack of parental involvement and other non-school issues are factors that stunt students' academic success, according to America's Promise Alliance. Its support system includes robust nonprofits, great city and county government leadership, successful businesses, caring individuals, colleges and faith-based organizations that support the student population.

The Forsyth County Schools System is consistently in the top five school systems in Georgia for CRCT scores and SAT scores, and is nationally recognized as a leader in the use of technology in the classroom.

This is the first time Cumming/Forsyth has been a 100 Best winner.

"Envision 2030, a joint project by the city and county, was created with an important piece of the puzzle being involving the youth in decision-making procedures. From transportation to green space to fresh, safe water to drink, Envision 2030 addressed the issues deemed most critical to the future by Cumming-Forsyth youth. Every decision in the school system is based on Envision 2030. For some kids, this may be providing food and clothing, for others it might be determining what AP course is in their best interest.

In a move to prepare students for the real world, Forsyth County Schools partnered with the local business community to improve academic performance, provide for educator support, and work-based learning. More than 600 businesses and community organizations partner with Forsyth's 35 schools as official Partners in Education. In 2009, the partners provided $1.6 million in student funding.

Programs like Forsyth's chapter of Girls on the Run a national nonprofit prevention program that empowers young women through competitive running, is one of the many programs aimed at youth development. The Forsyth Girls on the Run chapter started four years ago with 32 girls. It now has more than 250 girls participating and more than 125 volunteers assisting in the program. Other youth development, empowerment and leadership programs include local chapters of 4-H, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. A total of 7,659 hours of work on service projects was completed, which was an increase of 25.2 percent over 2008.

A cadre of programs are aimed at helping students who are in need, or require special attention. The Mentor Me organization developed a program in conjunction with Leadership Forsyth called Kick-It Up Clubs, aimed at engaging and empowering minority students who are at risk of dropping out of school. In addition, the American Dental Association's Give Kids A Smile – a Cumming-Forsyth initiative – helped provide free dental services for more than 100 students.

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