By SARA KENNEDY – skennedy@bradenton.com

HERALD FILE PHOTO ManaTEENs perform a safety assessment of a private home in Sunset Village in Bradenton while giving away fire extinguishers.

HERALD FILE PHOTO ManaTEENs perform a safety assessment of a private home in Sunset Village in Bradenton while giving away fire extinguishers.

MANATEE — Bradenton/Manatee County has again been named among the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People because of its abundance of leadership and service opportunities for youth, according to America’s Promise Alliance, a partnership organization dedicated to youth and children.

“Through its innovative and far-reaching programs, Bradenton/Manatee County 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 chief executive officer, in announcing the winners.

The 2010 recognition marks the fourth win for Bradenton/Manatee County in the competition. Sarasota also this year was named among the top finishers.

The “100 Best” designation recognizes communities that make their youth a priority by supporting programs that help to keep children in school and to prepare them for college and the workforce, according to a press release about the alliance, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Ceremonies honoring winners were slated for today at the Washington Monument on the National Mall, it said.

“It’s not that we’re saying we’re the best,” explained Adraine McKell, executive director of Volunteer Services of Manatee County, a community-based nonprofit organization. The organization also hosts the ManaTEEN Club, one of the largest locally based youth programs in the nation, and among the reasons the area was cited for excellence, she added.

“We recognize there are issues facing young people in our community, but we work together with one another on many ventures to make it better,” she said. “The community works together to identify and address challenges and opportunities for young people.”

AmeriCorps volunteer Ashley Bower compiled information and gathered partners in order to com- plete the complex contest application, which took about two months, McKell said.

The competition also has another advantage: “It’s a useful tool for partners and everybody to be able to use to document services we all do for children,” McKell said.

Among the programs lauded in the application was Teen Court, where young people serve as jurors or attorneys to determine a fair sentence for their peers, who are guilty of committing minor crimes.

Another was Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based program that helps low- income youngsters stay in school. Writing on its be- half was Lakewood Ranch High School grad Liliana Ibarra, daughter of a mi- grant farmworker, who credited the program with helping her to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and attend college.

This year, more than 350 communities in 50 states registered online for the 100 Best distinction at http://www.americaspromise.org/100best.

Bradenton/Manatee County was one of seven winners in Florida. Others included Sarasota County, St. Petersburg and Tampa/Hillsborough County.

http://www.bradenton.com/2010/09/21/2592287/area-again-named-among-best-for.html