Congratulations to recipients of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund•
According to the Opportunity Index, regions that experience high levels of youth disconnection tend to score lower on the Index, which measures key economic, educational and civic factors needed to promote social mobility. In fact, a high number of 16 to 24-year olds who are neither in school nor working is a strong indication that these communities are struggling to offer equal access to opportunity to their residents. That’s why we’re thrilled when we see major investments designed to reconnect young Americans to school and work. We know it will take multiple players working across sectors to get these 5.8 million “opportunity” teens and young adults back on track.
The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions, chaired by Opportunity Nation Leadership Council member Melody Barnes, recently announced its second year of grants through the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund – an initiative to reconnect some of the millions of young Americans who are currently disconnected from education and career pathways that will lead to economic security and thriving communities.
Congratulations to our Opportunity Nation coalition members in the 21 communities across the country who will benefit from these grants, and who exemplify how powerful cross-sector collaboration can achieve lasting results. From rural Maine to the heart of downtown Los Angeles, these dedicated groups and leaders are bringing together K-12 school systems with community colleges, local governments, philanthropies and businesses to help young adults “who have extraordinary barriers to success” find their way to a better future.
It’s great to see dynamic Opportunity Nation coalition partners named as grantee organizations that are leading the on-the-ground work to reconnect youth in these communities, including the Philadelphia Youth Network and the United Way of Greater Atlanta.
We know that this work will have a positive impact on Opportunity Scores.
For example, the Opportunity Grade for Baltimore City, Maryland, one of the areas receiving support from the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, is a C- on an A to F scale. The percentage of teens and young adults ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working is nearly 20% in Baltimore — significantly higher than the national average of 14.9 percent.
Similarly, Navajo County, Arizona, home to the Hopi Reservation that is also receiving Aspen funding, earned a D. This dismal score is linked to the area’s extraordinarily high number of youth who are neither in school nor working – nearly 35 percent.
Until we can ensure that all young Americans have access to the economic, educational and community supports that make upward mobility possible, we will all be held back. That’s why cross-sector initiatives like the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund are so critically important, and why we all must continue to work together to expand opportunity and jumpstart the American Dream for the next generation.