ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- There's a new movement in town focused on transforming Rockford into a better place to live. More than 1,300 people showed up to the first Transform Rockford meeting, and on Saturday, the enthusiasm is still there.
Hundreds showed up to Saturday's meeting to add their voice in the conversation over what it will take to change our city. The crowd overflowed into several rooms, around 600 people in all, showed up for Saturday’s meeting at Ellis Elementary.
"I am willing to transform Rockford," says Rockford mom Sarah Coyne.
Education is what Coyne and other parents say is at the top of their list of needed improvements for the region.
"Having programs in the schools, even in the elementary schools, they're going to be the young professionals when 2025 gets here. They need to know what Rockford can do and what they need to get their degrees in so they can stay here and be successful,” says Coyne.
The meeting highlighted the assets in the Rockford region, such as the parks and the airport, while drawing attention to similar cities like Elgin and Boulder, CO, two cities ranking higher than Rockford in areas including public health and crime prevention.
"Even in those areas where we know we are statistically struggling even in those areas, there are some small shining lights that are there and we need to lath upon those and build upon them," says Anqunette Parham. She says she’d like this effort to address the food desert problem in sections of Rockford.
Many parents say it's important to begin building a better community now so their children have a solid future in the Rockford region.
"My hope is that my children and my children's children, that they will want to continue to live in Rockford because it’s been a blessing in my life and I want it to be in theirs as well," says Rev. Mark Williams.
“We need the kids to know why it can be great and why they need to stay here and work harder for Rockford to be great,” adds Coyne.
An open mic session during the meeting allowed neighbors to toss around and share ideas, including what it will take to bring more jobs and businesses and how to make this an inclusive conversation for everyone who lives in the region.
There are 7 sessions planned in January to collect more community input. Those dates can be viewed here: http://transformrockford.org/communityevents/