An article published by USA Today lists the top 25 cities in the United States with the highest percentage of high school graduates. Statistics on unemployment rates are also shown.
U.S. high school graduation rates have risen steadily over the past five years, reaching 84% for the 2015-2016 school year. Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 24/7 Wall Street identified the metro areas with the highest high school graduation rates.
The importance of graduating from high school has long been emphasized by public policy experts and lawmakers. Those who graduate can expect better paying jobs and more job opportunities. The average annual income for Americans is $36,810, but it is just $20,924 for those with less than a high school diploma. Those with a high school diploma are also more likely to report better health outcomes. Of course, a high school diploma is also a prerequisite for college.
As high school graduation rates continue to improve on the national level, many metropolitan areas are far ahead of the United States in ensuring the success of high school students. In some cities, graduation rates are well in excess of 90%.
The history of Wichita Falls is vibrant and full of tales of sacrifice and endurance. Playwrights, Ed and Karen Underwood, showcase this with a moving rendition that covers it all.
Their musical, directed by Chance Harmon, “North Texas Rising” tells the exciting story of the town we call home in a beautifully crafted and entertaining piece of musical theater.
The show is narrated by “The Spirit of Texas” played by the charismatic Eric West, a Wichita Falls City Council member. It begins with the Wee Chi Tah Indian tribe, but quickly moves into the history of the settlers and tells the story of the namesakes of popular streets in town: Scott, Kell and Kemp.
There are several musical numbers interjected along with the storytelling that adds to the entertainment of “North Texas Rising.” The songs have been sampled from other musical theater works, but they fit in “North Texas Rising” nicely and do what any good theater song should do, which is add to and advance the story.
These large numbers feature an energetic ensemble with dancing choreographed by Stephanie Medenwaldt. Fun elements like tap and ballet are included and well executed, and the ensemble’s energy is the backbone of the show. Their excitement makes the history they’re telling fun and enjoyable to watch and their singing is top-notch.
Although many of the numbers involve this ensemble, several soloists also contribute. Jim Hall plays Wichita Falls legend Frank Kell and swindler J.D. McMahon, who designed and sold the plans to the infamous “World’s Littlest Skyscraper.” His performances of the showstopper “Razzle Dazzle” from “Chicago” and “America the Beautiful” as the show’s conclusion are great additions
In the second act, Mineasa Nesbit sings a heartfelt and chilling rendition of “Hairspray’s” “I Know Where I’ve Been,” in reference to integration in Wichita Falls. Her performance, which evoked a standing ovation on opening night, expresses the pain of segregation and the hope that integration brought to many families in the community. Her beautiful voice and honest performance add a powerful element to the story.
The best part of “North Texas Rising” is its heartfelt storytelling. The cast earnestly portrays this history with passion and energy. The first act is filled with fun songs about the wild west days of Wichita Falls, and the second takes on some of the more somber episodes in the history of the town.
There’s a brief, but touching memorial to the lives lost after the Terrible Tuesday 1979 tornado and a profound video clip is shown detailing the injustices of life before integration. The show ends with a rousing salute to the armed forces that honors the vibrant military community in the area.
Even with the odds stacked against it, “North Texas Rising” is a runaway success. As a non-Wichita Falls native, this show taught me so much about this wonderful town and made me appreciate the community that I live in along with its vibrant and amazing history.
This show is perfect for the whole family whether raised in Wichita Falls or from out of the area and is a theater experience that’s totally unique to the Wichita Theatre. You can’t find this show anywhere else, so head on downtown to see this great production, “North Texas Rising.”
“North Texas Rising” ran through October 20th, 2018.