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Hudson Valley Press

September 19th, 2012

Orange makes ‘100 Best’ list for third year

GOSHEN - For the third year in a row, Orange County was named one of America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best Communities for Young People presented by ING. The national award was given to Orange 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.

“It is my great privilege to announce that Orange County has been recognized as one of the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People for the third straight year,” said County Executive Edward A. Diana. “I am exceptionally proud of this accomplishment on behalf of our young people; it’s testament to the dedication our County and community partners have to doing what is right and necessary to help our children grow, flourish, and achieve their potential,” added the County Executive.

The annual competition recognizes communities across the country that focus on reducing high school dropout rates and providing service and support to their youth. Orange County was once again honored for its commitment to young people and implementation of programs designed to create a safe community and provide leadership opportunities for youth. To help curb bullying in schools, seven school districts have implemented the Safe School Ambassadors program, which trains and empowers youth to identify and remove conflict in their schools.

In addition, youth, families, government officials, and other community members created the Anti-Bully & Prevention Task Force in response to a surge in youth suicide attempts. A variety of programs also connect youth with positive adult mentors. The Town of Wallkill Police Youth Coalition allows youth to interact with police officers through community service and recreation activities. Also, the County Parenting Coalition works to support parents and caregivers by providing resources like parenting education classes, a resource hotline, and information on community programs and support.

The community works to empower Orange County youth through the Youth Bureau, which advocates for youth programs and services. Each year, adult leaders accompany as many as 50 young people to the state capital for Youth Legislative Lobbying Day to learn about the legislative process. 

“Being named one of America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best is significant and meaningful to our entire community,” said Youth Bureau Director Carol Chichester. “So many dedicated people and programs contributed to this win and it further reinforces our belief that a focus on youth pays dividends to the entire community.”
“As young people across the country go back to school, it is especially timely to recognize communities like Orange 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.”

On Wednesday, September 12th, Gomperts joined 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.

“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 Orange 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.”

Orange 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 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 the year 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. They are: 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.

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.

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