Introducing Our Celebratory Blog Series: Showcasing the Remarkable Achievements of Maryland’s Award-Winning Counties!
Join us on an exciting journey as we embark on a special blog series dedicated to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of the counties that triumphed in the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Achievement Awards. Each week, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few remarkable counties, delving into their accomplishments, innovative initiatives, and the profound impact they have had on their communities. Let’s dive in!
Children & Youth Program Awards
Howard County – Embedding Racial Equity Framework in Youth-Centered Mentorship
The Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity – Equity and Restorative Practice Unit (ERPU) aligned priorities pertaining to racial equity, cultural awareness, and restorative practices to implement an equity-informed and culturally responsive mentorship training program. The ERPU partnered with Ohana Howard County, Inc., a non-profit, youth-centered mentorship organization, to create a racial equity mentoring approach and provide an inclusive learning space to bring awareness and exposure to the lived experiences of Black and Brown youth attending the high schools they serve. There has been a concerted effort by the County to understand the consequences of the COVID epidemic and social and emotional stressors impacting students of color and other marginalized populations. The potential benefits of this joint effort were clear: to develop a government and community partnership to address racial disparities and the consequences of the pandemic on youth of color or other marginalized populations. This coalition has furthered its reach and impact, promoted racial justice, and advanced belonging, equity, and community engagement.
Howard County – Howard County Youth Workforce Development Program
The Howard County Youth Workforce Development Program operates for six weeks, serving youth at risk of being involved with the juvenile justice system. The specific population was identified after a year-long planning process that included a data discovery period, interviews with schools, and partners of youth engagement. This free, year-long comprehensive program focuses on acquiring foundational skills and real-life work experiences that support academic, social, and financial success. In addition, the program focuses on establishing a foundation of success in school and in life and functions as a safe haven during the summer months, holidays, and school breaks when participants are away from school.
Montgomery County – Making a Difference: 2022 Summer Reading Challenge! At Montgomery County Public Libraries
In 2022, Montgomery County Public Libraries’ (MCPL) Summer Reading Challenge! went green. In alignment with Montgomery County’s Climate Action Plan, which emphasizes reducing our footprint through waste reduction, and with the support of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, MCPL staff accomplished something special by completely reimagining the program. The Summer Reading Challenge! is MCPL’s annual signature systemwide event for children, teens, and families. Staff successfully implemented numerous changes, most notably the distribution of books to all participants at registration, the elimination of plastic prizes, and a partnership with a local non-profit supporting the theme, Oceans of Possibilities. Children and teens worked towards a communal goal to make a tangible difference in local conservation efforts by reading books, doing activities, and attending library programs. As readers completed missions, the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, contributed to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. In turn, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation planted 500 trees along the Watershed, planted 250,000 oysters in the Bay, and restored healthy wildlife habitats throughout the Watershed. These program changes resonated with the community, as evidenced by the nearly 13,000 children and teens who registered for the program, marking an 8-year high.
Montgomery County – Truck Day Featuring the “Paint the Plow” Contest
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Division of Highway Services is proud to share the success of Truck Day, featuring a student Paint the Plow contest. Engaging 14 middle schools from all over the county, the contest allowed local youth to put their creative talents to use by naming and painting their community’s snowplow. Truck Day was a family-friendly spring event allowing community interaction with MCDOT trucks. Weeks ahead of Truck Day, MCDOT organized plow deliveries to middle schools interested in the Pain the Plow contest. Schools had the autonomy to design their plow around a suggested theme. MCDOT staff picked up the plows about a week later, and they were displayed at Truck Day, where attendees viewed and voted for their favorite design. The event celebrated local youth’s artistic talent and deepened the department’s community connection during Public Works Week. Local youth worked collaboratively on a project that benefited County residents, with prizes going toward the school’s art program. In addition, the program raised climate change awareness and educated on the environment-friendly efforts the department deploys. Due to the program’s success, MCDOT will make the event annual and expand it to include additional middle schools.
Human Services Awards
Howard County – The Importance of Home
The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to light. When the federal, state, and county governments declared a state of emergency, schools, businesses, childcare centers, and more shut down. With children at home, and businesses closed, parents could not work. This was the start of a long, 3-year period of uncertainty and setbacks for families living paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development had to pivot and devise ways to meet residents where they were to provide much-needed assistance to keep families safely housed.
Together, let’s explore the remarkable stories behind these award-winning counties and draw inspiration from their passion, creativity, and commitment to making a positive difference. View all 2023 NACo Achievement Award winners through their interactive and searchable map. View our entire series of 2023 Maryland Award Winners.