Last spring, when Braintree officials were putting together an application for a contest featuring the best places in the nation for young people, Sarah Murphy was asked to write a testimonial.
"In Braintree, the bar is set high by teachers, but they help us get there," Murphy said. "They make teaching not only their job, but their life."
Murphy, a freshman and Braintree's Project 351 Ambassador, spoke on Friday at Braintree High School as part of an event to commemorate the selection of the town by America’s Promise Alliance’s as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People.
She was joined by John Londergan, a student in Braintree High's alternative program. Londergan said that at the start of high school he was completely unmotivated, but that the extra attention he received from educators – the program has a low student-to-teacher ratio – turned him around and he is now exploring options in higher education.
"I can finally see myself being a success in the near future," Londergan said.
While Braintree's overall academic quality was one of the reasons for its selection – more than 99 percent of students graduate high school and 92 percent go on to higher education – the alliance examined several areas.
The fact that Braintree has adults who take an interest in the youth was another factor, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said. He pointed as examples to the Special Education Parent Advisory Council and the Braintree Fund for Education. Young people also have safe places to spend time in town, such as the Braintree Community Youth Center, and get a healthy start through programs like preschool screening.
"It really is a community effort," Dr. Kurzberg said.
There are also many opportunities for youth in Braintree to help others, which was the final piece of the selection process for the award. The BHS Student Council holds food drives and other fundraisers, the Interact Club is a young version of the Rotary Club, and Best Buddies provides peer support for the developmentally challenged.
The youth center and the Braintree Alliance for Safe and Healthy Youth each received $1,000 from a $2,500 grant provided as part of the award. America’s Promise Alliance partnered with ING, which recently opened a location in Braintree. Barbara Mello, the town's new grant writer, was vital in the effort to obtain the award, Mayor Joseph Sullivan added.
"It is a great award," Sullivan said. "It's about us as a community taking that extra step to be recognized among communities throughout the nation."