St. Petersburg, Fla. (September 21, 2010) - The efforts of St. Petersburg 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 fourth win for St. Petersburg 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, St. Petersburg 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. "St. Petersburg 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."
St. Petersburg was named one of the nation's 100 Best because of its commitment to the success and development of the city's most vulnerable young people. The entire community has awakened to the importance of supporting at-risk youth, banding together to provide first-rate mentor programs, service-learning initiatives, and parental involvement activities. The Mayor's Mentors & More program is one example of the St. Petersburg community reaching out to students in need of support.
Through this program, the City of St. Petersburg School Programs Department facilitated the recruitment and training of more than 1,200 city employees and community members to work as mentors for the area's most needy students. Since 2001, through a collaborative fundraising effort between St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Education Foundation, $10 million has been raised to purchase college scholarships for 1050 low-income students.
Parental involvement is viewed as a key to success in St. Petersburg. Area parents have the opportunity to access pcsPORTAL, an innovative online system that allows parents to monitor their student's progress by accessing homework and due date information. pcsPORTAL also serves as a conduit between parents and teachers. In the system, parents can submit inquiries and teachers are required to respond, creating valuable parent-teacher relationships. Connection to the community is also a priority in St. Petersburg, with several service opportunities available to young people. Teen Arts, Sports and Cultural Organization (TASCO), for example, invites young people in St. Petersburg to perform a yearly "Scrubbin da Burg," where teens plant trees, clean yards and beautify neighborhoods and schools across the community.
"We are thrilled to be chosen as one of the 31 four-time winners of 100 Best! By providing meaningful support and opportunities for our students, the City of St. Petersburg continues to make youth and education one of its top priorities," said Mayor Bill Foster.
On September 21, 2010, St. Petersburg 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, St. Petersburg 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 St. Petersburg 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 http://www.americaspromise.org/.
ING is a global financial institution of Dutch origin offering banking, investments, life insurance, and retirement services to over 85 million residential, corporate and institutional clients in more than 40 countries. With a diverse workforce of about 115,000 people, ING is dedicated to setting the standard in helping our clients manage their financial future. In the U.S., the ING (NYSE: 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, direct banking, institutional investment management, annuities, employee benefits, and financial planning. ING holds top-tier rankings in key U.S. markets and serves nearly 30 million customers across the nation. ING's diversity management philosophy and commitment to workplace diversity, diversity marketing, corporate citizenship and supplier diversity fosters an inclusive environment for employees that supports a distinctive product and service experience for the financial services consumer. For more information, visit www.ing.com/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 literacy, children's education, diversity, and environmental sustainability. For more information, visit http://www.ing-usafoundation.com/.