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Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

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The Arc Carroll County recently began a 12-week occupational readiness program for clients that mixes real-life volunteer experiences with classroom time catered to helping the four participants learn crucial skills needed for the workplace. The Arc, a nonprofit that provides services to intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, offered the program to its clients to help them with skills such as how to greet someone and learning how to fill out a job application.

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For the fifth straight year, Maryland's public school system ranked first in an annual study that examines state education policy and student achievement in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Education Week awarded Maryland a B-plus in the 2013 annual Quality Counts report card, which is a comprehensive ongoing assessment of the state of American education. It was the only B-plus to be given. Maryland received high marks for its investment in early childhood education and policies related to college and workforce readiness.

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Residents at Brightview Westminster Ridge received a visit from not one, but two beauty queens earlier this week, both of whom call Westminster home. Eleanor Nave, 19, and Emily Green, 20, are the reigning USA National Miss Virginia and Miss Maryland, respectively. USA National Miss is a national competition that crowns girls based on a variety of factors including scholastic achievements, community involvement and pageantry. They spent the afternoon Wednesday hanging out with the residents at the independent and assisted living facility, making dog treats for local pets.

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Gas prices in 2012 were the highest on record nationwide, and the New Year began with the highest prices ever on Jan. 1, with a national average of $3.29 and Maryland average of $3.38. This week, the nationwide price at the pump dropped below the year-ago price for the first time since last August, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, but a handful of Northeast states, including Maryland, are still paying more than last year due to supply aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy.

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After a nearly 20-year stint in Westminster, Mission of Mercy will stop sending its mobile medical clinics to the city once a month Feb. 28. The nonprofit, which provided free health and dental care and prescriptions to its clients, said it is ceasing the Westminster clinic because of rising costs of medical care and the inability to locally fund the clinic. Mission of Mercy will pass its hundreds of patients on to other facilities, such as Access Carroll. It will continue to serve patients in monthly visits to Taneytown and other nearby locations such as Frederick and Reisterstown, although it cannot see Westminster patients at those sites.

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