Innovative High School Engineering Program Wins First Place in ING Unsung Heroes® Awards Program:Students to Invent Solutions For Those With Cerebral Palsy

September 8, 2009 Atlanta Share: Print Subscribe to Email Alerts

ING, a global financial services company and leading provider of retirement plans and programs for teachers, announced today that the team of Leslie Kaplan, Richard Kurtz, and Catherine Nolan, educators at Commack High School in Commack, NY, has been selected to receive the top prize in the national 2009 ING Unsung Heroes awards program. As the first-place winning team selected from more than 2,000 applications — a record number of applications to date — Kaplan, Kurtz and Nolan will collectively receive an additional $25,000 to their initial $2,000 grant, bringing their grant total to $27,000 to help fund “Real Problems/Real Solutions: Service Engineering Program,” their award-winning program they plan to implement at Commack High School.

Many teachers find themselves personally having to cover the costs to fund their programs. This can be especially challenging in the economic climate of today. Yet many teachers still heed the challenge even though their efforts sometimes go unnoticed. That’s why ING has taken notice of these “unsung heroes.” ING is committed to helping make it easier for educators to engage their students by recognizing and rewarding them for their innovation and hard work. The ING Unsung Heroes awards program recognizes Kindergarten through 12th grade educators nationwide for their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and ability to positively influence the children they teach. Since honoring its first “unsung hero” 13 years ago in 1996, ING has awarded $3.2 million to nearly 1,400 educators across the United States.

“We are elated that the team of Leslie Kaplan, Richard Kurtz, and Catherine Nolan has been selected as this year’s ING Unsung Heroes first-place winner,” said Russell Stewart, principal of Commack High School. “What an honor it is for three of our very own ‘unsung heroes’ to receive such an award as they encourage our students to provide real solutions for people throughout our community and our world. Their work will ensure that our students are not only prepared to better themselves for the future but to also help make a better life for others.”

Kaplan, Kurtz, Nolan, and several strategic community business, social and educational partners, created the winning program, “Real Problems/Real Solutions: Service Engineering Program,” to encourage students to apply their engineering knowledge to solve real problems for people who are “differently-abled.” The community service program offers students at Commack High School a hands-on experience to design and construct devices to improve the lives of those who face specific physical and mental challenges. Last year, the program began when a group of students designed and built a device to modify a workspace to help a staff member at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). To expand the program for this year, students will first learn about specific physical and mental challenges individuals encounter daily. Then, they will interview persons with cerebral palsy at UCP, professional engineers, and teachers to determine the specifics for an invention to assist UCP participants. In addition, students will draft designs for adaptations to existing electronic devices that hinder use by those with challenges. By working directly with those who are differently-abled, the students will have the opportunity to apply their classroom studies to the real world. This project is fueled by the diverse groups collaborating toward one goal — finding solutions to real problems affecting members of the community. Kaplan, Kurtz and Nolan will enter the students’ project into the National Engineering and Design Challenge.

“We are honored to recognize the work of educators like Leslie Kaplan, Richard Kurtz, and Catherine Nolan whose tireless efforts and dedication often go unnoticed,” said Brian Comer, president, Public Markets, ING U.S. Retirement Services. “Each day these heroes make the investment in the lives of America’s schoolchildren to help prepare them for the future. The return on the investment is priceless because it will be in the success of our children as future leaders and in the foundation of our world for years to come.”

To learn about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes Web site at Applications for the 2010 ING Unsung Heroes awards are available on the Web site, or by calling 800.537.4180 or e-mailing

Press inquiries

Jemia Kinsey, BLH Consulting on behalf of ING, 404.433.9614 or

About ING

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.

ING is a leader in providing 403(b) plans to Kindergarten through 12th grade educators and other employees of nonprofit organizations in America. 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, financial planning, and reinsurance. 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 workforce 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.

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