For the third time in 41 years, Spokane has been named an All-America City.
The award from the National Civic League went to 10 U.S. cities. Spokane, which previously won the award in 1974 and 2004, was recognized this year for focused efforts to boost high school graduation rates.
Mike McGrath, a spokesman for the National Civic League, said an All-America City is “viewed as a city that gets things done, that works together.”
Winning cities were selected from 14 finalists after a conference two weeks ago in Denver, where a panel of about a dozen National Civic League members judged presentations on community projects.
Spokane Mayor David Condon and other community leaders announced the win Monday morning at City Hall.
“The reality is it’s a community effort,” Condon said. “It’s not just city government.”
Spokane’s entry highlighted three school programs for at-risk youth:
• Spokane Public Schools’ Community Attendance Support Teams, which are groups of volunteers who work with students and parents to help reduce truancy.
“More and more unexcused absences puts a student at high risk of not graduating,” said district Superintendent Shelley Redinger.
“So we have had Community Attendance Support Teams at all six of our middle schools, where we’re bringing communities, school staff, partners who are able to provide resources to the student and parents, and sitting and having a supportive conversation.”
• Communities in Schools, a dropout-prevention program that connects students with needed services to enable them to stay in school.
• Youth Police Initiative, a five-day course that introduces high school students to Spokane police officers.
About 150 students have completed the course, and about 70 law enforcement officers have participated, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, who has led the monthly course for about a year and a half. Some of those students now are preparing to help officers reach out to younger children through the Spokane Police Activities League, or PAL, which will take place weekly during the summer.
Since 2010, when only six in 10 students were finishing high school on time, Spokane Public Schools has raised its on-time graduation rate to 83 percent, well above the state average of 77 percent.
The city soon will begin replacing signs with ones that bear the All-America title.
“It positions Spokane on a national level as a really great city,” said Jeanna Hoffmeister, chief marketing officer for Visit Spokane. “This year’s All-America honors were all about supporting vulnerable youth. That’s a philosophical statement, that’s good advertising that you really can’t buy.”
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