Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Durham Named One of the Nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance and ING

Durham is one of only four communities in the state selected by America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People for its outstanding, innovative efforts that benefit children and youth.

The 100 Best Communities for Young People recognizes and celebrates extraordinary community-wide efforts to improve the well-being of youth and end the nation’s dropout crisis. Around 350 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia took part in the competition.

Participating in the lengthy application project was the City of Durham, Durham County, Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, Durham's Partnership for Children, Durham Public Schools, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and MDC Inc. 

For details about the honor, see the release below.

City of Durham and County of Durham Joint News Release

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2010

For Details, Contact:

Deborah Craig-Ray
Assistant County Manager, County of Durham
(919) 560-0002

Amy Blalock
Sr. Public Affairs Specialist, City of Durham
(919) 560-4123, ext. 11253

Durham Named One of the Nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance and ING

Competition Recognizes Communities Taking Action to Help Reduce Local Dropout Rates and Create Brighter Futures for Young People

Durham, N.C.—The efforts of Durham civic and community leaders were honored today when America’s Promise Alliance (the Alliance), the nation’s largest partnership organization dedicated to youth and children, announced the city had been named a winner of the Alliance’s 100 Best Communities for Young People (100 Best) competition presented by ING, a global financial services company and leading provider of retirement plans and programs for teachers. Its 2010 recognition marks the second win for Durham in the competition.

The 100 Best designation recognizes those communities that make youth a priority by implementing programs that help keep children in school and prepare them for college and the 21st century workforce. The competition is open to all communities that make children and youth a priority, including small towns, large cities, counties and school districts. In addition to enhancing local educational opportunities, most winning communities have taken steps to facilitate improved access to health care for its young people, encourage youth civic engagement and supply developmental resources that create better places for young people to live and grow. The entire 2010 list of 100 Best Communities for Young People and their accomplishments can be found at www.americaspromise.org/100Best.

“Through its innovative and far-reaching programs, Durham is taking bold and effective steps to help their young people graduate and lead healthy, productive lives,” said Marguerite W. Kondracke, America’s Promise Alliance president and CEO. “Durham serves as an example to inspire and educate other communities across the nation to tackle the challenges facing their city and children and to implement initiatives that give them the essential resources they need to succeed in life.”

Durham was named one of the nation’s 100 Best because of the community’s focus on accountability. Durham is not afraid to conduct city evaluations to determine what works best for its young people. Significant reports are demonstrating that Durham’s accountability is demonstrating results — more children are enrolled in high quality childcare, child abuse and neglect has decreased, and the dropout rate has also decreased in the last few years. The award-winning System of Care program is the cornerstone of Durham’s accountability. System of Care brings public agencies, families, health organizations and the government together to provide support networks for at-risk youth. System of Care programs are evaluated regularly, and Durham public agencies report frequently on the wellbeing of the city’s young people. Durham abides by the belief that “what gets measured gets done.”

Mentorship programs are also vital to Durham’s commitment to its young people. In 2005, Durham Public Schools partnered with area universities and foundations, businesses and community leaders to launch a year-round youth enrichment program known as Student U. Each year, 200 students participate in Student U which pairs college undergraduates with middle and high school students for tutoring and mentorship. After two years, all mentees increased their readings scores, 93 percent increased math scores, and 95 percent planned to go to college – a significant improvement from the former 70 percent. In addition to Student U, Big Brothers Big Sisters in Durham provides mentors to 350 area youth and Durham Companions links mature, caring adults to 70 at-risk youth.

Durham Board of County Commissioners’ Vice Chairman Ellen W. Reckhow said, “We are very proud to be recognized by America’s Promise Alliance for our efforts to improve the lives of our young people. Through the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI), we will also be working with America’s Promise Alliance as a new Grad Nation Community, focusing on seeing that every child graduates from high school ready for college and the 21st Century workforce.”

“For Durham to be recognized for a second time is truly an honor and I hope our innovative programs can be inspiring for other communities to adopt and implement,” said City of Durham Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell. “Our community has worked collaboratively for quite some time to help our young people lead productive lives. From our many different programs and services, such as our recently opened Durham Teen Center, we feel we’re making a significant impact and we are thrilled to be recognized for our hard work at the national level.”

On September 21, 2010, Durham and the other winners spanning 37 states were recognized at a ceremony in front of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Each of the winning communities was formally recognized with a designation on a map of the U.S., illustrating the geographic and demographic diversity of the winning 100 communities. In addition to the 100 Best distinction, Durham and the other top communities will receive two road signs identifying the city as one of 100 Best, as well as a trophy to be presented to local officials later this year.

Alliance Chair Alma Powell and President and CEO Marguerite W. Kondracke revealed the list of winners during the national celebration. They were joined by Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and senior vice president, ING’s Office of Corporate Responsibility and Multicultural Affairs and Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, who both share a passion for the development of young people.
“ING is committed to children’s education and to the advancement of education initiatives that prepare them for successful futures,” said Mims. ”Our support for 100 Best demonstrates our goal of honoring communities like Durham that produce real, measurable results for improving the lives of young people.”

The competition is one element of the Alliance’s Grad Nation campaign, a 10-year initiative to mobilize all Americans to take action in their communities to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. More than 7,000 students drop out each school day in the U.S., resulting in 1.3 million young people a year. To help decrease these numbers, the Alliance is more committed than ever to recognizing communities – regardless of size, location or history – that are taking real action to help more young people stay in school and graduate on time.

“100 Best is an essential building block of an inspiring national movement that gives everyone a chance to ensure every young person graduates,” said Powell. “These winning communities refuse to let the challenges they face be the determining factor in the lives of their children and youth. Instead, they are helping to build an infrastructure of assertive, successful and dynamic young people that are the future of this country.”

About 100 Best

First held in 2005, 100 Best honors communities large and small, rural and urban, that are making progress to help young people achieve their potential, which includes earning a high school diploma, securing a good job, and playing an active, productive role in America’s economic vitality. This year, more than 350 communities in 50 states registered online for the 100 Best distinction at www.americaspromise.org/100best.

Being a 100 Best community not only demonstrates commitment to local young people; the award fosters local pride, bolsters economic development and shines the spotlight on the people and programs that are building better communities. The competition also facilitates the sharing of best practices among communities nationwide regarding education, access to health care, reading score improvement, youth service and pre-school enrollment, among many other areas.

About America’s Promise Alliance

America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest partnership organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. Through the collective power of our partner network, we raise awareness, support communities and engage in nonpartisan advocacy to ensure that young people receive more of the fundamental resources they need to graduate high school prepared for college, work and life. Building on the legacy of our Founding Chairman General Colin Powell, the Alliance believes the success of our young people is grounded in the Five Promises—caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; an effective education; and opportunities to help others. For more information about America’s Promise Alliance, visit www.americaspromise.org.

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