The ING Foundation and Girls Inc. have launched a program to give girls investing experience while allowing them to keep their gains in the form of college scholarships.

Girls Inc. staff and ING employee volunteers will help teams of girls ages 12-18 to build and manage diversified, real-time portfolios as part of an investment- and economic-literacy curriculum. The program will begin with a one-year pilot in New York and Denver, as well as in Los Angeles and Alameda counties in California.

Teams of 13 to 16 girls in the four cities have completed eight weekly financial-literacy lessons designed to focus them on the basics of saving, investing and financial planning and to familiarize them with the investment challenge guidelines. On March 1, the girls will begin investing with $20,000 virtual portfolios, which will be supplemented monthly over the course of the year until each team has received a total of $50,000.

"The earlier we can engage girls in the capital markets, the more likely we will be able to grow a generation of smart, empowered investors. But it's hard to make investing meaningful when you have nothing to invest in the first place," says Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and senior vice president of ING's Office of Corporate Responsibility and Multicultural Affairs. "For many young people, the stock market might just as well be in another galaxy. That's why we think the investment challenge is so powerful; girls are not just observers of the stock market but participants, who will, presumably, reap the economic rewards of their efforts."

All portfolios will be managed and tracked using a state-of-the-art online-trading platform that will allow the ING-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge participants to track their performance, absolutely and relative to the other challenge teams.

After three years, 75 % of any gains in the portfolio will be paid by the ING Foundation to the girls in the form of Girls Inc. scholarships for post-secondary education; 25% of the gains will be given to the local Girls Inc. affiliate to support local programming. The original $50,000 principal will then be re-assigned to the incoming team.

Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. In 2007, Girls Inc. reached more than 900,000 girls through Girls Inc. affiliates, its website, and educational publications.

ING is a global financial institution with 130,000 employees worldwide and 85 million customers in 50 countries. In the U.S., it provides financial services to 17 million customers. The ING Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities where ING operates and its employees and customers live. Through charitable giving and employee volunteerism, the foundation focuses on sustainable programs in the areas of financial literacy, children's education and diversity. For more information, visit