Washington County named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People

Washington County named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America's Promise Alliance and ING U.S.
Annual Competition Recognizes Communities that Prioritize Youth Education and Well-Being

September 12, 2012, Hagerstown, Maryland-Washington County today was named one of America's Promise Alliance's 100 Best Communities for Young People presented by ING. The national award was given to Washington County to recognize its outstanding and innovative work in addressing the high school dropout crisis and for its programs and services that make it an outstanding place for youth to live, learn and grow.
Washington County, a first-time 100 Best winner, was recognized for its commitment to youth and to lowering the dropout rate with programs that support academic success and health. The local nonprofit which coordinated this multi-agency effort, Teens Have Choices, seeks to reduce teen pregnancies and help youth lead more productive lives by educating them about healthy relationships and other issues, including underage drinking and bullying. Another program cited as an example was the County's three school-based Health Centers, which provide extensive health services for free to any student whose parent enrolls them.
Washington County is dedicated to ensuring its students are graduating high school ready for college and the workforce. The Advancement Via Individual Determination is a college readiness system for students that help students prepare for honors and AP-level coursework by teaching them organizational and study skills. In addition, the ESSENCE Program, a partnership between the Washington County Public School System and Hagerstown Community College, provides high-performing students opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school.
Board of County Commissioners of Washington County, Maryland, President Terry Baker notes, "Through our strong government, nonprofit, education, business and other important partnerships, Washington County is able to make young people a priority in our community. We are so honored to be chosen for this award and will indeed continue to live up to its standards - to ensure a bright future for our youth."
"Being named one of America's Promise Alliance's 100 Best is an incredible honor for our entire community," said Shalom Black Lane, Executive Director, Teens Have Choices. "The people and agencies who work with youth in this community have formed such a strong collaborative network over the past few years. This recognition shines a spotlight on our exceptional youth, as well as the exceptional adults who are working on their behalves, including parents, teachers, grantmakers, and local government leaders."
"As young people across the country go back to school, it is especially timely to recognize communities like Washington County that have come together to make supporting young people a top priority and that are committed to helping young Americans reach their full potential," said John Gomperts, America's Promise Alliance president and CEO. "The 100 Best winners are doing outstanding work delivering the Five Promises that create the conditions for all young people to have the best chance for success. We hope the example set by these communities provides inspiration for others to take action."
At noon EST on Sept. 12, Gomperts will join America's Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and ING Foundation President Rhonda Mims at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to officially announce the 100 winning communities during a live webcast. A delegation from Washington County will travel to Washington DC to take part in the official announcement.
"The increase we have seen in graduation rates over the past few years is due, in large part, to the hard work communities such as Washington County have done to make sure their youth have access to an outstanding education and support services," said Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and head of the ING U.S. Office of Corporate Responsibility. "It is also important for ING to partner with organizations such as America's Promise Alliance so we can share these best practices and play a role in improving student achievement and the nation's economy."
Washington County will receive a $2,500 grant, signage identifying the community as one of the nation's 100 Best Communities for Young People, and access to America's Promise Alliance's community development resources. The grant will be used in part for a community celebration at the Valley Mall on October 19 from 4-8:30 p.m., when an America's Promise representative will award the County's trophy.
The 100 Best competition is part of the Grad Nation campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end the dropout crisis. The goal of Grad Nation is to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time.
All communities entering the 100 Best competition completed a rigorous application where they provided details on how their existing programs and initiatives help deliver the Five Promises-resources identified by America's Promise as being critical to the development of healthy, successful children: caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; effective education; and opportunities to help others. Applicants also were asked to describe how different sectors of their community work together to help children and families overcome challenges. Most importantly, communities were judged on the strength and innovation of their efforts and programs to help young people graduate from high school prepared for college and the 21st century workforce.
In its sixth year, the competition experienced its greatest interest to date with nominations from more than 320 communities representing all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S.
Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges that included 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Superintendent of the Year Heath Morrison, National Urban League President Marc Morial, and GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard.
Two youth representatives also were named as selection panelists. These include Austin Bargmann, 15, from Brighton, Colo., a two-time 100 Best winner, and Ashley Levanduski, 17, from Paso Robles, Calif., who serves as a volunteer coach with an America's Promise partner organization, The First Tee, an international youth organization that introduces golf and its inherent values to young people.
A list of all 2012 winners can be found at AmericasPromise.org/100Best.
The webcast can be viewed at AmericasPromise.org/100Bestwebcast.

MAKE BOTTOM STUFF MUCH SMALLER
About America's Promise Alliance America's Promise Alliance is the nation's largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. We bring together more than 400 national organizations representing nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, educators and policymakers. Through our Grad Nation campaign, we mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. Building on the legacy of our Founding Chairman General Colin Powell, America's Promise believes the success of young people is grounded in the Five Promises-Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others. For more information, visit AmericasPromise.org.
About ING U.S.
ING U.S. constitutes the U.S.-based retirement, investment management and insurance operations of Dutch-based ING Groep N.V. (NYSE: ING). In the U.S., the ING family of companies offers a comprehensive array of financial services to retail and institutional clients, which includes life insurance, retirement plans, mutual funds, managed accounts, alternative investments, institutional investment management, annuities, employee benefits and financial planning. ING U.S. holds top-tier rankings in key U.S. markets and serves approximately 13 million customers across the nation. For more information, visit http://ing.us.
About the ING Foundation
The ING Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in communities where ING operates and its employees and customers live. Through charitable giving and employee volunteerism, the Foundation focuses on programs in the areas of financial education, children's education and physical education. For more information, visit http://www.ing-usafoundation.com or connect with us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/act2impact) and Twitter (@INGact2impact).
About Teens Have Choices
Teens Have Choices, also known as the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, brings together concerned parents, youth and individuals from the business, education, faith, medical, social service and non-profit communities to create and implement strategies to impact the County's high teen birth rate and incidence of sexually transmitted infections. Additional information can be found at TeensHaveChoices.org.