The 2011 100 Best Communities for Young People named by America’s Promise Alliance and ING

In recognition of the innovative and effective work being done in communities across the nation to ensure a bright future for young people, America’s Promise Alliance announced the 2011 winners of its 100 Best Communities for Young People presented by ING competition. The competition showcases communities that create programs and services to address the high school dropout crisis and provide support to their young people. An interactive map and list of all 2011 winners can be found at

“In a nation where 7,000 students drop out of high school every day, this year’s 100 Best winners will inspire communities across the nation to take action to solve the challenges facing their young people,” said Marguerite W. Kondracke, America’s Promise Alliance President and CEO.  “These 100 outstanding communities refuse to let the economic and other challenges they face determine the fate of their youth. Instead, they are working together to ensure that all their young people can reach their full potential.”

More than 300 communities from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico were nominated for recognition in this, the fifth edition of the competition. Twenty-two communities are now five-time winners and 29 communities won for their first time.  While winning communities came from 39 states, California and Florida each have seven communities on the list, and Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington each have five winning communities.

The 100 Best winners represent communities large and small including four-time winner New York City, home of the nation’s largest school district with a population of more than
8 million, and Lamoni, Iowa, a five-time winner with a population of just a little more than 2,000. 

“The success of our communities and our economy is directly impacted by how well our young people are doing,” said Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility. “Their success and the quality of their education are of vital importance to the nation and the business community has a unique and vitally important role in supporting the sustainability and success of our communities and children. At ING, we are committed to improving education for young people everywhere and our support for 100 Best underscores our commitment to this.”

The Alliance and ING will officially recognize the 2011 100 Best winners at an event at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum. During this event, they will also recognize two special award winners, new to the 2011 competition: 

Outstanding Local Dropout Prevention Program

Barren County, Kentucky, Success Academy

Administrators at the Glasgow Independent Schools noted that area dropout rates were increasing because students had to work to earn an income for themselves and/or their family. Through funding provided by grants and community members, the Success Academy is able to assist local employers in hiring Academy students by underwriting part of their hourly wage and provide them a more flexible school schedule so they can complete their studies.  More than 50 students have graduated from the Academy. 

Youth Testimonial Award Winner

Genine Gray, Cincinnati, Ohio

Homeless while in high school, Gray connected with Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates, which taught her employability skills and provided leadership and community service opportunities.  Gray graduated from high school and plans to attend Cincinnati State College to become a registered nurse. 

The 100 Best competition is part of the Alliance’s Grad Nation campaign, a 10-year initiative to end the dropout crisis and better prepare all youth for college and the 21st century workforce.  This year’s 100 winners have a collective average high school graduation rate of 81 percent compared to the national rate of 75 percent. Notably, 21 communities achieved greater than 90 percent graduation rates including Boys Town, Neb.; Bedford, Mass.; Hamden, Conn.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Hudson, Ohio and Northfield, Minn.

All communities completed a rigorous application, in which they provided details on how existing programs and initiatives are engaging a cross sector of individuals and organizations to help deliver the Alliance’s Five Promises: caring adults; safe places; healthy start; effective education; and opportunities to help others.

Winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of 20 judges that included: Marc Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League; Roxanne Spillett, president and CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Marc Johnson, 2011 National Superintendent of the Year; and Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president and CEO, National Civic League.

First held in 2005, the 100 Best 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 help facilitate greater access to quality health care for young people, encourage youth civic engagement and supply developmental resources that create better places for young people to live, learn and grow.

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.

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.