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Huckleberry huckleberries

Huckleberry keepers to TRIO Student Support Services, a program that has been at the University of Montana for more than 40 years and that boasted an 88% student persistence rate at UM at last count, notably higher than the 79% rate across all of Montana. Over the past two decades alone, the program has helped nearly 4,000 students overcome disadvantages to succeed at UM — which is why President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal deserves a bushel of chokecherries. It proposes a 12% reduction in overall funding for the U.S. Department of Education, including slashing the budget for TRIO by one-third and consolidating it with a college readiness program under a single state-administered block grant formula.

One hundred huckleberries apiece to the five local century-old businesses honored by the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission this week. Bob Ward’s Sports and Outdoors, Caras Nursery and Landscape, Missoula’s Office City, Missoula Textile Services and the Union Club Bar and Grill each received a Heritage Business Award in recognition of the “important role they’ve played in shaping our community," as historic preservation officer Emy Scherrer put it.

Smoked chokecherries to Missoula’s persistent air pollution, which earned it the title of fifth-most polluted city in the United States for short-term air quality, and 11th-most polluted for annual particle pollution, according to the latest “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association. Missoula’s poor air quality can be directly linked to the unhealthy abundance of smoke from wildfires, which are increasing in both frequency and severity due to climate change.

Healthy huckleberries to Montana’s progress on providing health insurance for its children, as captured in the latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2018 data book notes that Montana has made steady progress on reducing the rate of uninsured children — from 16% in 2008 to just 5% at last count. Not coincidentally, 2008 was the year Montana voters passed an initiative to establish the Montana Healthy Kids Plan, providing health insurance coverage for children in families earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level. In fiscal year 2017, the program covered 126,180 children in Montana, including 11,606 in Missoula.

A mortarboard decorated with huckleberries to the graduating class of 2019, who will showered with congratulations tomorrow during the University of Montana’s 122nd commencement ceremonies in the Adams Center, and will also be the first class to compete in the inaugural Griz Grad Cap Decorating Contest. UM graduates have long decorated their caps for a variety of reasons — to honor a loved one, draw attention to a cause or just for fun — and now they have an additional incentive from their soon-to-be alma mater. The winners will be announced tonight after a panel of students and employees evaluate the entries for creativity and design.

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