June 23, 2017  

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Southern Miss School of Social Work Contributes to Hattiesburg Ranking

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Youth education initiatives – that included guidance from The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work – helped the City of Hattiesburg earn recognition as a “Most Livable” City in America by the 2015 City Livability Awards Program.

Mayor Johnny DuPree received the award on behalf of the city during the U.S. Conference of Mayor's 83rd Annual Meeting in Dallas. The award recognizes mayoral leadership in developing and implementing programs that improve quality of life, focusing on leadership, creativity, and innovation.

Hattiesburg was selected by former mayors from more than 200 applicants. Hattiesburg was awarded first place for cities with populations less than 100,000 and Boston was selected among cities with populations greater than 100,000.

The Hub City Access-Hattiesburg Area Youth Master Plan, a collaboration between The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work, the City and the community, helped Hattiesburg earn the award. The Youth Master Plan outlines how the community can further support youth and families.

Dr. Laura Richard, assistant professor in the Southern Miss School of Social Work, was appointed by the city to write the Youth Master Plan. “I worked with youth and youth communities in the area to pinpoint the areas needing attention,” said Richard.

The plan addresses five areas of focus; early childhood development, health, safety and recreation, out-of-school time, and youth developments and transitions. For each area the steering committee and task force evaluated what was existing, what was missing, and proposed evidence based programs that could be put in place to address service gaps.

“We are currently in the transition process from document to implementation,” said Richard. “We are offering to coordinate with community agencies that want to take part in the plan and help them with grant writing and program development.”

The vision of Hub City Access is to enhance and create environments that are safe and healthy and to build programs that enhance the developmental assets needed by youth of all ages to become responsible, productive adults and leaders in the community.

“We want community agencies to take on projects where there are service gaps and to address them through their existing organization,” said Richard. 

Other education initiatives contributing to the award include the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council and "Take a Look, Find A Book," a reading initiative intended to further develop a culture of literacy among youth.

“Our community is absolutely thrilled to win this prestigious award,” said DuPree. “It is a salute to the many individuals within our community who tirelessly lend their time, expertise, and creativity towards the mission of inspiring and educating our youth. Furthermore, this special recognition challenges us to remain innovative, inclusive and consistent in our quest to rid our nation of its disparities.” 

For more information about the Hub City- Hattiesburg Access Youth Master Plan visit, http://hubcityaccess.com/.

For more information about the School of Social Work in The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Health visit, usm.edu/socialwork.