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Forsyth among nation's best for young people
Honor is second in three years for community
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Superintendent Buster Evans holds an award from America's Promise Alliance, an organization that has ranked Cumming and Forsyth County as one of the 100 best communities for young people. - photo by Jim Dean

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For more on the honor, visit the America’s Promise Alliance website.

As the school system’s principals gathered Wednesday morning, little did they know Forsyth County was about to again be named as one of the 100 best communities for young people.

“We just knew there was a secret. We didn’t know what it was,” said Lambert High School Principal Gary Davison. “It’s a great honor for us to be recognized in such a way.

“It’s a great way to get credit and receive a pat on the back for the things that we do every day.”

Cheering erupted in the school board building as the principals watched America’s Promise Alliance announce Forsyth, which was one of just three communities in Georgia honored. The others were Houston and Troupe counties.

But perhaps few people were more excited than Judi Jenkins and Ruth Goode, the two women who handled the county’s application.

“It’s the community, it’s not just us,” said Jenkins, the community relations facilitator for the local school system. “There are so many people and programs that help contribute to this.”

It was the second time in three years Forsyth has won the honor, which is presented by ING. The county was first honored in 2010.

John Gomperts, America’s Promise Alliance president and CEO, noted the timing of the announcement.

“As young people across the country go back to school, it is especially timely to recognize communities like Cumming/Forsyth County that have come together to make supporting young people a top priority and that are committed to helping young Americans reach their full potential,” Gomperts said in a statement.

“The 100 Best winners are doing outstanding work delivering the Five Promises that create the conditions for all young people to have the best chance for success. We hope the example set by these communities provides inspiration for others to take action.”

Goode, executive director of United Way of Forsyth County, said the honor was due to several factors the county has in its favor.

She said Forsyth’s high-performing school system, businesses that are partners in education, nonprofit organizations and community leaders all have “a hand in making this the best community for young people.”

“Forsyth County can win this every year. We just have to highlight best what we do here every day,” Goode said.

In the application, she and Jenkins highlighted the county school system’s partners in education program, the various child advocacy groups, nonprofits and safe houses for both boys and girls.

Also touted were the success of the SAT 2400 Challenge, which has already helped lift SAT scores, and the Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life program.

PROPEL is a joint initiative between the school system and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce to raise Forsyth’s high school graduation rate.

Davison said he was excited the award honored not just the school district, but the local leaders and businesses who make the community a place for youth to thrive.

“It’s the one thing we’re able to achieve where we all work together for the same thing, so it’s nice to be recognized for that,” he said. “Many of us moved here from other places and this is confirmation of why we moved here.”

The “best communities” distinction is based on five promises to provide a community’s youth with caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others.

Forsyth first earned the ranking in 2010. While it did not make the list last year, Jenkins said officials have a better understanding of what it takes.

“You want to strive to keep getting better. You have over 350 communities applying for it and they pick 100, so you’re playing against the best and I think you have to keep striving to improve,” she said. “It shows that you’re succeeding if you can keep winning each year.”

As a longtime employee of the school system, Jenkins said this isn’t about the contest, it’s about the county’s youth. Winning just confirms the success being realized locally.

“They judge the communities on our strength and innovation of the programs and our efforts we have made to help people graduate on time, go onto college or be prepared for the 21stcentury work force,” she said.

“That’s the main thing is to get kids to stay in school and graduate. We need to keep getting better. I don’t think you can ever get too good.”