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Joe's Place Outreach Lands MRH Schools $4,000 Grand Prize

The scholarship funds, given in recognition of school board leadership and commitment to student achievement, will be used by the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.

The Joe's Place outreach program for homeless teens has earned the a $4,000 grand prize.

"It is a really tremendous acknowledgement of the work the district has been doing in this area," said Dr. Linda Henke, the district's superintendent, on Wednesday afternoon. Communications coordinator Brian Adkisson submitted paperwork for award consideration in the district's enrollment category, she said, but the grand prize "transcends" all of them.

The MRH School District won the award in the under-5,000 enrollment category of the American School Board Journal's Magna Awards program, a news release states. It will be awarded in the form of scholarship money at the National School Boards Association's annual conference later this month in Boston.

Joe's Place, which accepted its first student in January 2007, . Teens get meals, a clean room and a place to sleep. House parents take students on college visits and to doctor appointments. Teens also receive support, guidance and emotional counseling.

Henke said the program represents a unique partnership among a church, the school district and the broader community. Of the 17 teens who have stayed at Joe's Place, 16 graduated from high school. None of them would have had much chance of success without it, she said.

The Joe's Place board will decide how to use the scholarship funds, though the money will likely be used to help students who stay at the house, Henke said. She described the board as a group of deeply invested people who help Joe's Place operate through fundraising and dedication.

“The Magna Awards exemplifies strong school board leadership, creativity, and commitment to student achievement in public education,” stated Anne Bryant, the journal's publisher and the executive director of the National School Boards Association, in the release. “This year’s Magna Awards recipients truly showcase the best practices and innovative school programs that are advancing student success.”

President Maria Langston of the MRH Board of Education said that the formation and development of Joe's Place has been "a journey" and that it's great to see the recognition of that work. She hopes other communities across the U.S. can replicate Joe's Place.

"We're just really proud parents of it," Langston said.

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