America’s Promise Alliance confirmed Tuesday something Forsyth County leaders have long suspected -- the county is a great place for youth.
From the Washington Monument, the alliance named Forsyth one of the 100 best communities in the nation for young people.
“The recognition is well deserved and it just validates what we’ve known for a long time,” said Ruth Goode, executive director of United Way of Forsyth County.
Goode worked with Judi Jenkins, the local school system's business and community relations facilitator, to put together the application for the competition, which was sponsored by ING.
When the two women started writing, Goode said, they “didn’t have enough room to put all the good things about the community.”
“We had up to 300 words ... it was not enough room to tell our story,” she said.
Both Goode and Jenkins were in the nation's capital Tuesday to accept the award.
“I think the recognition is going to draw more industry in,” said Jenkins, adding that the county will also get road signs proclaiming the honor.
“Businesses always look at what kind of school system we have and what we can do for our young people,” she said. “I’m just so excited, I’m beside myself.”
The Alliance has a network of nearly 450 partners that will work with the top 100 communities, offering connections to resources, grant assistance and other support.
In a letter to the winners, alliance president and CEO Marguerite Kondracke wrote that the program hopes “to not only support but strengthen your community’s outstanding youth-serving programs.”
“We are so proud of all our winning communities and thrilled to be able to spread the word about the great work you are doing to end the dropout crisis and support your community’s youth,” she wrote.
The communities spanned the country, from Bellevue, Wash., to Tampa, Fla. Bibb and Troup counties were Georgia’s only other honorees.
Communities were chosen based on programs to keep students in school and prepare them for college and the 21st century work force.
They also encourage civic engagement, enhance local education opportunities and facilitate improved access to health care for youth.
In Forsyth, more than 600 businesses work with local schools through the Partners in Education program.
The school system is also working on PROPEL, a project to raise its high school graduation rate, and has already improved its SAT scores through the SAT 2400 Challenge.
PROPEL, or Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life, is a joint effort of the system and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
The county also offers many nonprofit opportunities for children, including river cleanups, Boy and Girl Scouts and self-esteem building programs.
“There are so many supports in this county that it’s really not like any other county that I’ve ever lived in,” Goode said. “There’s just so much going on to make sure that every young person succeeds.”
In addition to the high performing local school system and nonprofit organizations, Goode noted that area colleges factored in Forsyth’s success.
School Superintendent Buster Evans said the designation is an honor highlighting the county's results.
“Along with our award-winning school districts, Cumming-Forsyth County has done an extraordinary job providing healthy, safe and caring environments for young people,” he said.
“Nothing is more important than seeing our young people succeed.”