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: $80,576
Median Home Price: $162,052
Households with Children: 48%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 16:1
Great Schools Rating: 7
Located 20 miles outside Austin, this town calls itself the sports capital of Texas. And as Norma and Gene Saldivar can tell you, Round Rock really delivers. Old Settlers Park—just one of 34 here—covers 570 acres, with dozens of baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and tennis courts, plus miles of walking and biking trails. The Saldivars' weekends revolve around taking daughters Amron, 17, and Sammie, 16, to varsity volleyball and softball games, where a good time is had by all.
"We always see lots of people we know," says Gene, 43, a data manager who moved his family to Round Rock (aka Silicon Hills) 12 years ago because of its high-tech industries. "Sometimes a dad will bring a grill and the entire team will eat out there. Parents here are involved with their kids, whether it's sports or school." Norma, 43, a FedEx courier, is co-president the volleyball booster club, and Gene coaches Sammie's team. "My husband is somewhat shy, and I'm not the take-charge type, so this is definitely out of our comfort zone," she says. "But everyone is so supportive and makes you feel you can do anything."
Norma, in fact, has yet another nickname for her hometown. "I call it the promised land," she says. "Living here is a blessing."
Good Deeds: Some 200 businesses have joined the Partners in Education foundation, which raises $250,000 a year to support Round Rock's schools. Most of the money goes toward grants and supplies: Teachers at McNeil High, for example, recently received Wii consoles to help special education students develop coordination skills.