Across our nation today, 4.9 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school nor participating in the labor market. Known as “opportunity youth,” these young people and our nation suffer consequences from their disconnection, ranging from the loss in individual lifetime earnings to the increased likelihood of negative outcomes (such as incarceration) and reliance on government supports. Yet, opportunity youth represent enormous potential for our communities, and the future economic growth of our nation depends on our ability to support their educational success and economic prosperity.
The rate at which young people become disconnected from school and work — and the impacts of disconnection on their future success — is not the same for all youth. Young people of color are more likely to become opportunity youth than their white peers. According to research by Measure of America, the percentage of youth not in school or working by ethnic group is listed below.
- Native American: 25.4%
- Black: 25.4%
- Latino: 14%
- White: 10%
- Average: 12.3%
To this end, in 2012 the Aspen Institute launched the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF), a funding collaborative that supports a network of 24 urban, rural, and tribal communities with multi-year grants to design and scale efforts that achieve better outcomes in education and employment for opportunity youth. Now involving more than 30 foundations and individual donors, this collaborative also includes many of the best in class national and regional partners that work directly with opportunity youth, such as YouthBuild USA, Forum for Youth Investment, Jobs for the Future and Year Up, along with dozens of other national partners.
These solutions cannot succeed without those most impacted by the issue – opportunity youth themselves – at the forefront of the work. The sustainability of our work and movement depend on developing engaged, diverse young leaders and organizers, who can serve as experts and owners of this work for future generations.” Monique Miles
To learn more about opportunity youth and get involved:
- Get Data: Measure of America provides research on opportunity youth.
- Understand the Framework: Collective Impact for Opportunity Youth report prepared for the White House Council on Community Solutions brought increased visibility to the opportunity youth movement and defined the application of the collective impact framework to this issue.
- Support Youth-Driven Solutions: Opportunity Youth United is a solutions-oriented movement of young adults who have experienced poverty and are dedicated to creating a society with opportunity and responsibility, love and respect, education and employment, justice and equality for all. OYU released a set of six policy Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. Also, invest in funder collaboratives like the Funders’ Collaborative for Youth Organizing.
TAKE ACTION TODAY:
Through its Opportunity Index, policy platform, and advocacy activities, Opportunity Nation provides resources to educate and engage local, state, and federal officials on increasing opportunity in local communities. Additionally, the Opportunity Youth Network has embraced a policy and advocacy agenda designed to bring together national and federal actors, institutions, and organizations across the opportunity youth field for better outcomes.
Original Contribution from Monique Miles, Director of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and the Deputy Director of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions at The Aspen Institute
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