Missoula couple named Foster Parents of the Year

Wow, congratulations – and thank you – to Kim and Tyson Moore. The Missoula couple are this year’s Montana Foster Parents of the Year.  So if you see them around town with their kids – they have two bio kids, a foster kid and are adopting a 1-year-old foster child – give them a round of applause.

Another Missoulian you’ll want to applaud: Cori Stern, who is being given the CASA Volunteer of the Year award.

Read on for more details on the awards ceremony this Monday, as well as the full list of Montanans receiving awards for their work preventing child abuse and neglect:

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Tune in tomorrow for state graduation and dropout report, plus an award for MCPS!

Tomorrow morning in Helena State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will officially release the latest Graduation and Dropout Report for Montana.

Her office will also use the occasion to celebrate the Graduation Matters program and the progress made by various Graduation Matters efforts around the state. Five communities and one “community partner” will be recognized with an award.

Here’s a no-brainer preview: Graduation rates in Montana have gone up, dropout rates have gone down – and Missoula’s Graduation Matters effort, which started the whole statewide program, will be among the communities getting an award.

Here’s the official statement from Juneau:

“Through the work of local Graduation Matters communities, hundreds of students’ lives have been changed for the better. When you take a statewide view of the efforts to raise graduation rates and improve college and career readiness, you can see that the economic future of Montana will be forever impacted as a result of local communities and schools working to make graduation matter.”

Details to follow tomorrow!

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Students choose Big Sky HS social studies teacher for excellence award

This here is Cameron Johnson:

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Johnson is a social studies teacher at Big Sky High School, and he was just voted the 2013 Exceptional High School Educator by his students.

The Montana Education Foundation Student Board choose him for the honor, but Johnson was quick to share the love:

“This is a huge honor, especially coming from students,” Johnson said. “But I truly believe that I am just a representative of the incredible teaching staff here.

“There are so many great teachers here, and so many great teachers in the district.”

In that case, congratulations to all – Johnson and his fellow teachers, and all their lucky students!

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Montana Mentor of the Year dies

Del KeyDel Key played an instrumental role in the lives of untold numbers of Missoula kids. While a relative newcomer to the area, having moved to Missoula only six years ago, his time here made a big impact.

He spent hours upon hours at Russell Elementary School, where he volunteered in several different capacities. Del Key was especially irreplaceable in the school’s homework club. And he also volunteered at other organizations around town, including the Missoula Food Bank and Missoula Aging Service.

But it was his work at Russell that earned him the statewide honor of being named Montana Mentor of the Year.

Last Friday, Jan. 21, Del Key died at St. Patrick Hospital, and all of Montana is poorer for this loss.

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Win free gas and other goodies at the Family Connections event on Tuesday

As I mentioned earlier, the Tuesday evening event known as Family Connections will be free and open to the community – free to attend, plus free eats and door prizes.

Now comes word that attendants may just snag a free gas card as well, courtesy of the Town Pump Foundation.

Apparently the foundation gifted the Missoula Forum for Children and Youth with $500, with which it bought 20 gas gift cards worth $25 each. One of those would be about enough to top off the tank in my Jeep.

But that’s not all. Event organizers are planning on giving away plenty of other goodies, including, for instance, $25 gift cards to local grocery stores, thanks to the Montana Educators Credit Union and Orange Street Food Farm.

Once again, the event will take place in the Home Arts Building at the fairgrounds. It is meant to mark the fact that Missoula was again named one of the best communities for young people.

A 3 p.m. press conference will kick off the event, with doors opening to the public at 4 p.m. sharp.  Call the forum’s youth development coordinator, Nina Cramer, at 721-3000, ext. 1023, or send an e-mail to ncramer@co.missoula.mt.us, for more info.

And good luck snagging one of those gift cards!

– MM

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Missoula is an awesome place for young people. Let’s celebrate that.

Got dinner plans for Tuesday? If not, then pencil in these plans for Oct. 19: free dinner, door prizes and community camaraderie from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

Here are the details from the city of Missoula:

Please join us in spreading the word about this free public event, Family Connections, celebrating Missoula’s 100 Best Communities for Young People Award, to be held next Tuesday, Oct. 19, at the Home Arts Building at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

Dinner will be served, and more than 35 organizations that provide services for families will be available to network with parents and kids.

The event is sponsored by the Dropout Prevention Workgroup of the Missoula Forum for Children and Youth and the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants.

Note that this is Missoula’s fourth time – count ’em again, four – being named one of the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People.

For more information about Tuesday’s event, call the Missoula Forum for Children and Youth‘s Nina Cramer at 721-3000 ext 1023.

– MM

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First-ever Montana Mentors of the Year

Monana’s Attorney General, Steve Bullock, was scheduled to do this a while back but unexpected emergencies delayed the awards. The awards? Yeah, for “Outstanding Mentor of the Year,” a new recognition created just this year “as a way to recognize outstanding individuals who have made a positive difference in the lives of children.”

At a ceremony today at the Russell Elementary School Library, he honored Missoula’s own Del Key, who joined Butte college student Cory Sonnemann in being the first two Montanans to receive the new award. I guess the award-givers couldn’t decide between the two, and so had to award them both.

Key, who is retired, is well-known at Russell, where he has been an after-school volunteer for several years.

Congrats to both, and special congratulations to the kids who are lucky enough to have these mentors in their lives!

– MM

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