School Counts!: A Model for Community Collaboration


Last week, Cumberland County College was honored to host Dr. Cynthia Bioteau, President of Salt Lake Community College, an urban multi-campus college of 60,000 students on 14 sites throughout the Salt Lake Valley. She came to learn from us.

Dr. Bioteau came specifically to learn about the School Counts! program, which has been receiving national recognition for several years as a model program for enhancing the quality of life in a community. In Cumberland County, high school students who earn four School Counts! certificates are eligible for a two-year tuition scholarship to CCC.

During her visit, Dr. Bioteau was given a thorough overview of the School Counts! program, and she learned a great deal more at our campus. She learned, first-hand, what community-based leadership and change is all about. Dr. Bioteau learned the power of significant opinion leaders coming together and developing strategies for improving their community. Dr. Bioteau left shaking her head in amazement about what has been accomplished in the last eight years of School Counts!:

• 4,000 certificates have been awarded; • 450 businesses signed up as partners; • 720 students reached their senior year still eligible for a School Counts! scholarship; • $2.8 million was raised from 530 Cumberland County residents and stakeholders; • An Attendance Counts program was developed in elementary schools across the county to introduce young people to the attributes of success; • Similar programs are being replicated in Kentucky, Arkansas and Washington.

There is no question, School Counts! is a winner. Workforce development, educational attainment, successful partnerships, community change strategies, and leveraging scarce resources are all featured in this program. And Cumberland County is leading the way.

Dr. Bioteau urged me to seek funds from a national source to share this program so that it could be replicated throughout America. She suggested that the United States Department of Labor and the Gates Foundation could be likely funders, and she volunteered to help us obtain these funds.

There is no greater attribute to a community than to have something that others see value in and want to implement. School Counts! in Cumberland County is such a model program. All the business, school and government leaders who helped create the program, and all the donors who assured that School Counts! scholarships would be available should rightfully take great pride in this success.

School Counts! has grown each year since its inception, and it will continue to grow. And this growth strengthens our community. Sounds like a win-win!