St. Louis Park still ranked among the best spots for kids

In what has become an annual tradition, America’s Promise Alliance has again named St. Louis Park as one of its 100 Best Communities for Young People.

This is the sixth straight year St. Louis Park has won the award. No other city in Minnesota has won the award as many times as St. Louis Park.

Edina and Northfield were the only other Minnesota cities to make the cut this year.

“As a six-time 100 Best winner, St. Louis Park helps its young people grow up happy, healthy and successful through college preparation programs, free access to health services and early childhood intervention,” America’s Promise Alliance states on the nonprofit’s website.

The alliance points to College Possible, Children First and the Park Nicollet Creekside Clinic as groups making a difference in St. Louis Park. Children First is a St. Louis Park-based nonprofit that seeks to promote 40 assets that can help encourage the healthy development of young people. Park Nicollet Creekside Clinic provides free health care services to children in St. Louis Park.

College Possible helps low-income high school students prepare for college in St. Louis Park and many other cities. At St. Louis Park High School, juniors in the College Possible program during the last school year increased their ACT scores by 18 percent while all high school seniors received acceptance letters from colleges. They also collectively received nearly $30,000 in scholarship funds.

America’s Promise Alliance also noted the St. Louis Park School District’s “Engineering is Elementary” science, technology, engineering and math program for elementary school students.

“As young people across the country go back to school, it is especially timely to recognize communities like St. Louis Park that have come together to make supporting young people a top priority and that are committed to helping young Americans reach their full potential,” said John Gomperts, America’s Promise Alliance president and CEO.

Said Debra Bowers, superintendent of the St. Louis Park School District, “We are fortunate to have an organization, such as Children First, that is supported by the schools, parents, businesses, families and children. The Children’s First philosophy is lived by all residents in St. Louis Park. It is a tremendous honor to be awarded the 100 Best Communities for Young People award for the sixth year in a row. We are truly blessed in this community and city.”

St. Louis Park is one of only 19 communities in the United States to win the award six consecutive times, noted Children First Director Karen Atkinson.

“Being named one of America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best is significant and meaningful to the entire community,” Atkinson said. “So many dedicated people and programs contributed to this win and it further reinforces our belief that a focus on youth pays dividends to the entire community.”

St. Louis Park Mayor Jeff Jacobs said he is “extraordinarily proud” of the schools, nonprofits and other entities that helped St. Louis Park win the award.

“The future of our country depends on how well we educate our kids, how well we nurture them and the opportunities we give them,” Jacobs said. “My grandmother said your one job in life is to train your own replacement. Whether you like it or not or are prepared for it or not, they’re going to take over the reins of everything. So, how are you preparing them to do that? What are you teaching them?”

As he has said in past years, Jacobs said the award should motivate St. Louis Park constituents to seek to show themselves worthy of the award.

“I have no doubt that we’ll continue to earn it,” Jacobs said.

America’s Promise Alliance grades applying communities based on how well their programs and initiatives seek to instill the group’s Five Promises. The alliance’s five factors the nonprofit considers critical to the development of healthy, successful children are caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others.

Aside from existing programs, the alliance also judged communities based upon their future plans to help children and families overcome challenges and their work to prepare high school students for college and the workforce.

The 100 Best Communities for Young People award is part of a “Grad Nation” campaign that has a goal of raising the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with each school graduating at least 80 percent of its students on time, according to an America’s Promise Alliance statement.

In 2011, the Minnesota Department of Education listed a graduation rate of 92 percent for all students at St. Louis Park High School.

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