When Gloucester High School sociology teacher, Rich Francis, wanted his students to learn more about Essex County's changing demographics, diversity and challenges, he knew there was a one-stop place where they could find it all.
Last fall, Essex County Community Foundation launched a brand new website, www.impactessexcounty.org, a clearinghouse of comprehensive data on nearly 100 community indicators on education, health, the economy and more. Originally intended for use by community leaders, government, nonprofits and funders, local teachers have discovered that the website is a useful tool that can be used in the classroom and for student research projects.
"The website was great for the kids to get a look at the county," said Francis. "Most of them aren't aware of the diversity of the county until they look at it and realize what cities and towns are here in Essex County."
Francis' students were tasked with choosing a specific indicator – say homelessness rates in Essex County or percentage of children living in poverty – and examining its cause, its impact on Gloucester and the region, comparing it to state and national data and brainstorming solutions to the problem presented by the data.
Francis' students presented their findings in front of their class.
"We are thrilled that students are learning more about our county by digging into this data," said Julie Bishop, ECCF's vice president for philanthropy. "This is a great community resource, one that we think is useful to anyone with an interest in the health of Essex County."
The new data website is part of ECCF's community leadership project, Impact Essex County, a multi-phase initiative that will tackle some of the most critical needs in the region and focus on making a long-term, measurable impact on the quality of life in Essex County.
Data for www.impactessexcounty.org was compiled by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), a leader in community indicator projects based in Rochester, NY. The data will be updated every two years.