Washington Co. named among top 100 communities for young people

September 12, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Bryce Ruppenthal, right, sits beside his mother, Jenny Ruppenthal, Wednesday as they wait for their bus to leave Hagerstown on a trip to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., for the official announcement that Washington County was named one of the 100 best communities for young people by America's Promise Alliance and ING U.S.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Washington County was named one of the 100 best communities for young people Wednesday by America’s Promise Alliance and ING U.S.

County officials, members of volunteer organizations, Washington County Public Schools system supervisors and four students rode a bus to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to take part in the official announcement of the 100 winning communities.

“This is really a huge honor,” Shalom Black Lane, executive director of Teens Have Choices, which coordinated the efforts to receive the award on behalf of Washington County, said before the group boarded the bus Wednesday. “There are a lot of people in the county who care about kids, and there are a lot of kids who are really trying to make the county a better place.”

The award recognizes Washington County for its work in dealing with high school dropout issues and for programs and services that are provided for the youth in the county, according to a news release. This is the first time Washington County won the award.

To be recognized, the county in May sent in an application  detailing how it makes collaboration, partnerships and youth a community priority; key supports youth receive; and statistics compared to other communities.

“The award shows that we’ve come a long way in the last few years,” Black Lane said. “We’re getting programs off the ground that are going to get our kids to graduate on time.”

Youth testimonials were part of the application, and two WCPS students who made the trip submitted essays about why they enjoy living in Washington County.

Bryce Ruppenthal, 14, a freshman at Williamsport High School, wrote one of the essays as an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School.

“I wrote about certain activities and camps I went to,” he said. “It’s been great living here, and it was important for me to write about that.”

Kaylee Adelsberger, 13, an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School, submitted an essay with the application while she was in seventh grade.

“I thought it was important to mention all the great programs that have helped people in the county,” she said. “Everybody in this community is always looking out for each other.”

The 100 Best Communities for Young People competition is in its sixth year. Nominations came from more than 320 communities across the country.

Washington County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham, who made the trip, said the award shows the support the county is willing to provide to its youth.

“We have some young people on the verge of being fantastic that are well-challenged by poverty, the temptations of things we should not do and teen pregnancy,” she said. “The honor shows that Washington County is a county that cares. We want to help not only those students who achieve and do well; we want to reach down and lift up those students who are challenged.”

The campaign is a movement of individuals, organizations, and communities working to end the dropout crisis, the release said. The goal 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.

In Washington County over the past 14 years, the dropout rate decreased from 8.5 percent in 1998 to 1.8 percent in 2011, according to an emailed copy of the application. The reduction was credited to WCPS student intervention specialists who provide support to students at risk of dropping out.

The county will receive a $2,500 grant identifying it as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People, the release said. Part of that will be spent on a celebration at Valley Mall on Friday, Oct. 19, when a representative from America’s Promise Alliance will award the county’s trophy, according to the release.

America’s Promise Alliance is a partnership of more than 400 national organizations.

ING U.S., the U.S.-based retirement, investment management, and insurance operations of Dutch-based ING Groep N.V., presented the award.

Teens Have Choices is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping reduce teen pregnancies and educating youth about healthy relationships, underage drinking and bullying.

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