by Sara Huddleston, Mason Matters
Kim Klint addressed an audience of over 75 community members.
If community spirit is an indicator of health, then Mason County is well-nourished! Last week in Shelton, Mason Matters hosted a community event to celebrate the great strides in county-wide high school graduation rates. Since the “Student Success Initiative” began in 2004, Mason County has increased its high school extended graduation rates from 60% to 92.6%! Over 75 members of the Mason County community, including school board members, students, parents, public health educators and nurses, school superintendents, Mason Matters board members, and church, Rotarian and Native American group leaders gathered to commemorate the impressive achievement.
Kim Klint, Executive Director of Mason Matters, spoke to the group and stressed that the increase is due to effective and creative partnerships between school and community. Klint recognized various members of the audience who contributed to the success of the Initiative, asking them to step forward if they had housed, clothed, fed, or generally supported students on their journey to graduation. Mason County’s state legislative representative, Kathy Haigh, was also on hand to deliver a quick speech honoring the work of the community and those involved with her efforts to secure the original “Readiness to Learn” grant, which led to the Student Success Initiative.
Klint emphasized the role of community support in creating graduation-minded youth. Klint addressed the students in the room with, “I hope that you see that you live in a community where adults have been, are and will continue to stand up and step forward. Know that we are here for you. We believe in you.”
Although the atmosphere was a happy one, complete with live music, hearty chili, and fire jugglers, the event also served to honor the work of youth advocate Fran Morgan. Morgan died unexpectedly in September, but has left a legacy of encouraging students to stay in school despite personal or circumstantial hardship. Klint noted that “Fran was the significant adult who stepped forward to support many of our community’s youth during hard times in their lives. She worked with youth moving through the Truancy County and Juvenile Detention systems. She was a strong, reliable adult who was there for those youth.”
As we all know, education is a major indicator of life-long health; the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to achieve a higher socio-economic status and with it, a healthier life. As the new data indicates, support for those students struggling to graduate is necessary and fortunately, available, in this rural county. Congratulations to Mason County for using its community to create a major pillar of health: high school graduation!
Volunteers prepared and served a healthy meal of cornbread, vegetarian chili and salad.