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Brown Deer — Thirteen people from Brown Deer will head to Denver this month to get the village recognized as an 'All-America City.'

Brown Deer is one of 20 finalists for the All-America City award, which the National Civic League gives to 10 communities every year. The focus of this year's award is on communities that have 'taken innovative action to engage residents in ensuring that all children are healthy and supported to succeed in school and life.'

The contingent from Brown Deer will tell the village's story during an event June 17-19.

The Brown Deer delegation includes Brown Deer School District Superintendent Deb Kerr, Community Development Director Nate Piotrowski, Brown Deer High School Principal Tosha Womack, drama teacher Patrick Schmitz, band director Tyler Brownfield and eight Brown Deer students.

The trip will be financed with $25,000 in donated funds, which far surpasses the group's $15,000 fundraising goal. They received donations from Badger Meter, Milwaukee Bucks player and Brown Deer alum Steve Novak and a matching contribution was made by the NBA Players Association. They also raised funds from the community.

Funds that aren't spent during the trip will be used to celebrate or promote the award upon their return home, Piotrowski said.

Three projects were highlighted as part of Brown Deer's application for the award: the creation of Badger Meter River Park, the renovation of Brown Deer schools and the school district's award-winning character education program.

The creation of Badger Meter Park is significant because it provides green space to the North River Corridor, which is north of Brown Deer Road between Green Bay Road and the Milwaukee River. Piotrowski said this area has the highest concentration of apartment developments in the village, and has a lower median income than the rest of the community.

In addition to the park, the village has also made the area more accessible in recent years by the expansion of the Oak Leaf Trail and by collaborating with the Milwaukee County Transit System to create new east-west bus routes.

As the second project, Brown Deer School District highlighted its master campus plan. The district underwent a $22 million renovation in 2012, with the consolidation of three schools into two schools and the addition of a high school fieldhouse. As part of the renovation, the district planted hundreds of trees, shrubs and other vegetation with 19 informational signs to encourage botanical education in the schools and community.

Seventy percent of Brown Deer students are children of color, and the district highlighted its work to close the achievement gap between white and non-white students. The district also highlighted its 98.6 percent graduation rate, which is high compared to other majority-minority school districts.

Third, the district highlighted its character education program. The program is centered around a moral code called 'The Brown Deer Way,' which teaches students the values of acceptance, trust, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Brown Deer school officials were inspired to improve its positive behavior modeling efforts after receiving a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction five years ago saying the district had an unusually high percentage of suspensions for African-American students.

Brown Deer's character education efforts have resulted in a decrease in the number of disciplinary referrals every year since the program started. Brown Deer Middle/High School was also recognized as a National School of Character by Character.org, a non-profit organization that supports the advancement of character development in schools.

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