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An article on the USA Today website written by 24/7 Wall Street recently ranked Farmington as the worst place in America to raise a child. How ironic! I was born and raised in Farmington, NM, and as a teenager, I completely agreed. But after 10 years away, I chose to bring my family back specifically because it is such a wonderful place to raise children.  

The ranking was based on a handful of statistics that don’t tell the whole story. First, don’t confuse Farmington and its population of around 40,000, with our entire metropolitan area, with a population of over 100,000. A significant portion of those live on or near the Navajo Reservation. 

While the Reservation brings rich diversity to the area along with amazing Anasazi cultural opportunities, it also brings some challenging socioeconomic issues. As a result, there are certainly some children in the “metropolis” who live in very difficult situations.  Thankfully, Farmington and San Juan County have a robust support system, from Childhaven to The Boys & Girls Club to the Navajo Ministries Home for Children, which all work to help give these kids a fighting chance.  

But the article is talking about “RAISING a child,” not leaving one alone at home to fend for themselves. For parents who are active in their children’s lives, the opportunities are endless. The city is a youth sports mecca, with three swimming pools, three golf courses, three tennis complexes, a soccer complex, and two baseball/softball complexes. And if fishing, hunting, jeeping, hiking, skiing, or biking are your thing, it’s all right outside the backdoor.  So if your kid is bored, they need to put down the iPhone and go outside!  

Another statistic that goes hand in hand with lower socioeconomics is the low 71 percent graduation rate. Interestingly, the solution for dropouts is found at San Juan College, which provides GED training and testing as well as a multitude of vo-technical degrees leading to productive careers. However, it is not just about saving those kids that might fall through the cracks, it is about helping the stars to shine!  In that regard, the educational opportunities in Farmington are world class, with our graduates competitive in the best universities in the nation. 

We have two state of the art High Schools with Advance Placement classes in virtually any subject, as well as the first early college/high school combination in the State. If you are active in your child’s education, then he or she will find all the challenge they want in our schools.  

Ironically, the difficult socioeconomics in the surrounding area actually provide our children a unique opportunity… the chance to help someone less fortunate. The Volunteer Incentive Program of San Juan County, the only of its kind in the Nation, provides funding to youth groups and organizations who volunteer.   As a result, our youth have spent thousands of hours each year learning the value of giving back while helping make our community a better place.    

So don’t form your opinion of Farmington based on a handful of statistics driven by the outliers. Come see for yourself.  The worst place to raise a child? I think they got the list upside down.  

George Sharpe was born and raised in Farmington, and writes occasional columns for Energy magazine.

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