3 reasonable goals county can adopt

Iola and Allen County should set goals, Richard Zahn told an overflowing Thrive Allen County audience last Thursday evening at its annual meeting.
He had some in mind.
“I can see this place as one day being a model for the nation — where all kids are safe and healthy.
“Can you imagine a magazine article hailing Allen County as the best place for senior citizens in the world? I can.
“How about a ‘Project Graduate’ with 100 percent high school graduation as its goal?”
Zahn, a native of Iola who became the chief executive officer of Schering-Plough pharmaceutical company, complimented Thrive for its “amazing achievements” in the few years it has been in existence, and went on to assure those present that they could do much more to stimulate growth and progress by working together with imagination.
Take them one at a time:
Iola’s SAFE BASE program has been hailed statewide for providing stimulating and safe activities for Iola youngsters from the time school adjourns until early evening when working parents return. It is a very successful alternative to the “latchkey” life they might otherwise lead. SAFE BASE has depended on large federal grants, which may or may not be continued. The community has a huge stake in keeping it in place. Thrive puts a high priority on helping that happen.
A 100 percent graduation rate for entering Iola High School freshmen would be overreaching. But Iola, helped by Thrive, could reduce the dropout rate and increase the percentage of IHS graduates who continue their educations and better prepare themselves for a world of work that becomes more knowledge-oriented with every passing year. Perhaps success must start at the preschool level. Certainly success requires changing the mindsets of parents and their youngsters. Cutting the dropout rate in half — a reasonable goal —would put Iola on the map and, more important, would lift the lives of those rescued youngsters to a new level.
Iola and Allen County have a head start on becoming a geriatrics leader. As Zahn pointed out, we have a higher percentage of those over 65 than Florida, a state distinguished for its retirement communities. What Florida is not noted for, however, is affordable living. It has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation because the cost of housing zoomed into the stratosphere before the housing bubble burst.
There is an affordability niche open for rural areas such as ours. If ways can be found to marry affordability and desireabilty, a growing, thriving (there’s that word again) retirement community could become a growth industry here.
As Zahn said, “imagine the possibiliities.”

—Emerson Lynn, jr.