In our yearly roundup of perfect places to raise kids, we salute these communities for their affordable homes, green spaces, blue-ribbon schools, and giving spirit.
By Seema Nayyar
Median Income: $66,888
Median Home Price: $177,000
Households with Children: 47%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 20:1
Great Schools Rating: 7
The population has quadrupled in the last decade, but for Debbie and Mark Bennett that just means there's more Meridian to love. "It's still a place where people value a low-key, no-fuss lifestyle," says Mark, 54, a real estate agent. "Everything is comfortable here."
Along with sons Tyler, 20, and Dustin, 18, the Bennetts like to kick back at Settlers Park, where families gather round with lawn chairs and blankets for free Friday night movies in summer. Debbie, 50, who co-owns a construction firm, gives the schools rave reviews. "The high schools let kids focus on specific interests, whether it's a vocational trade, computers, or the culinary arts," says Debbie. "The opportunities for students are tremendous, whether or not they want to go to college."
The Bennett boys attended a charter institution specializing in medicine. Dustin, who graduated in June, has already passed the state EMT exams and will start at the University of Idaho this fall, and Tyler is enrolled in a pre-veterinary program there. "The education system here doesn't just make people better students," says Debbie. "It also prepares them for the real world and helps each kid find a way to contribute."
Good Deeds: Meridian's Promise, a coalition of local businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, and churches, sponsors events year-round, from town cleanups to job fairs, to teach kids the value of volunteering and help those at risk get the guidance and support they need to graduate from high school and succeed in life.