You can help Northfield's Healthy Community Initiative make a difference - Northfield MN: Guest Columns

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You can help Northfield's Healthy Community Initiative make a difference

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013 1:27 pm | Updated: 9:06 pm, Tue Feb 19, 2013.

Last fall, the America’s Promise Alliance named Northfield one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People” in America for the fourth consecutive time.

In many ways, Northfield is a “resource rich” community with resources such as two outstanding colleges, the Northfield Arts Guild, excellent public schools and numerous organizations and agencies committed to serving youth and families.

What makes Northfield stand out from among many other communities is the powerful collaboration that is this community’s hallmark.

And what is at the heart of that collaboration is the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI). Begun more than 20 years ago, HCI holds as its mission “to foster a collaborative environment in Northfield that empowers youth, strengthens families, and builds community.”

HCI serves effectively as “the convener,” constantly striving to build stronger partnerships and alliances all for the benefit of our community’s young people and their families.

HCI does not operate any specific programs, but rather functions as the “umbrella organization” that supports a variety of community programs and initiatives. As a retiring board member of HCI, I would like to share some examples of the great work HCI does.

• PRIMEtime is a collaborative of several out-of-school time programs including TORCH (Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hope); PLUS – an afterschool and summer program for youth in grades kindergarten through eight; Connected Kids, a mentoring program for kids in grades kindergarten through grade 12 operated by Northfield Public Schools Community Services; and the Northfield Union of Youth/The Key. More than 1,100 children and youth participated in the partner programs of PRIMEtime during the past year.

• TORCH, an award-winning program that addresses the graduation rate of our community’s minority and low-income students, has increased Northfield’s Latino high school graduation rate from 36 percent to over 90 percent in the past six years. More than 300 youth in grades 6-12 now regularly receive services and support through TORCH.

• Take It to The Box, a prescription medication collection program, has collected over 8,000 pounds of medications locally since it began in 2009. Today, communities from across the state look to Rice County’s Take It to The Box as the model when designing similar efforts in their communities.

Over the past 20 years, HCI has repeatedly been recognized for its creative and tireless efforts to serve children, youth and families. However, that work does not happen without resources.

Since 2004, HCI has helped secure over $4,000,000 in state and federal grants for local efforts. In addition, HCI’s work is the recipient of support from several local funders like the Northfield Area United Way, the Rice County Family Services Collaborative, and WINGS.

Now HCI is seeking community support in order to continue to make a difference in our community. You can learn more about how you can help by going to www.northfieldhci.org. You can make a difference, too.

Hannah Puczko is the retired director of Community Services for Northfield Public Schools and former member of the board of directors of the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (2001-2012).

© 2014 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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