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Great Bend to apply for national designation

What ‘100 Best Communities for Young People’ could mean for Great Bend

POSTED December 15, 2012 11:22 p.m.
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DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune/

Great Bend Police officer Jefferson Davis visit...

A steering committee made up of representatives from the City of Great Bend and several local organizations is making preparations to apply for the designation as one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People,” awarded by the America’s Promise Alliance each year.
If they are successful, Great Bend will join a small, elite group of cities in Kansas to have earned the designation. These communities include Kansas City in 2012, and Salina, and Lawrence/Douglas County in 2005.
“This would not only recognize Great Bend for all the wonderful things it already does for young people, it could be a big boost for economic development of the area,” said Christina Hayes, Great Bend community coordinator,
So far, in addition to Hayes, Great Bend police officer Jefferson Davis, fire and police employees, representatives from Barton Community College, Chamber of Commerce members and USD 428 make up the steering committee. Other non-profit organizations have been informed and invited to help also.
The application will be made available in January, and the committee will have four months to fulfill all the requirements, including video taped student testimonials and collecting recommendations from educators.
Last year, over 325 communities applied for the “100 Best Communities” designation. Of those, 42 new communities were chosen, and 18 of those were first-time applicants, Hayes said. She feels Great Bend has a good shot at getting the award the first time out because of the sheer number of opportunities offered by a town of this size.
Communities selected receive a grant of $2,500 to be used to help fund a local program or service, national media exposure, a commemorative trophy, road signs and marketing assistance. The steering committee’s goal is to meet the early application deadline of May 1 in order to be eligible for a $2,500 grant recognizing an outstanding local dropout prevention program and a $2,500 scholarship to the author for the youth testimonial that best captures the spirit of the 100 Best Communities program.
Communities can win in consecutive years. Boys Town, Neb., and Oklahoma City, Okla., have been winners for all six years the designation has been awarded.

America’s Promise
America’s Promise Alliance, founded by General Colin Powell, is a non-profit organization focused on improving the nation’s graduation rate to 90 percent by the year 2020. To do this, their work focuses on five promises: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.
“Children who receive at least four of the Five Promises are much more likely than those who experience only one or zero Promises to succeed academically, socially and civically,” according to the organization’s website. “They are more likely to avoid violence, contribute to their communities and achieve high grades in school.”
There are four major themes communities may apply under, and Great Bend will focus on mentoring programs. The other three include career readiness initiatives, productive venues for out-of-school time and anti-bullying programs.
Hayes pointed to a long list of existing programs, including the Optimists club Punt, Pass and Kick program, Teen Court, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) – with the mentoring aspect introduced this year – Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Boy Scouts, just to name a few.
“Great Bend is huge on giving opportunities, skills and recognition to youth, and that is why I believe this award would fit us perfectly,” she said.
Prior to taking her position with the City of Great Bend, Hayes worked as a prevention consultant, training law enforcement, communities and schools on the importance of programs that serve youth and what components are important to include in them.
“America’s Promise is right on target with them,” she said.
First, kids are offered opportunities, skills and recognition. These form a bond with the a person or a community, which leads to healthy beliefs and standards, which ultimately result in healthy behavior.
It works if a child is taking part in a group like America’s Promise, given the opportunity and skills to do things like swim, bowl or ride horses, are recognized by the group, bonded to the school and the community and they go on to graduate from high school. It also works if a child is brought into a gang, given opportunities and skills to commit crimes, is recognized by being allowed to wear colors, bonded to the gang, adopts the gang’s beliefs and standards and ultimately becomes a criminal.
Where adult and teen mentors come in is influencing which way children will go.
For more information about America’s Promise Alliance, the “100 Best Communities for Young People” designation and the Grad Nation program, visit

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