Opportunity Nation kicks off Restoring the American Dream series

by Opportunity Nation   •  

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced their bipartisan bill, the LEAP act, on February 15 at Opportunity Nation’s first Restoring the American Dream series event. Co-convened by Gap Inc. and The Forum for Youth Investment and supported by AT&T and USA Funds, the two-hour event at the Capitol hosted 100 cross-sector leaders and young adults and had a reach of about 8,000 more via multiple Facebook Live videos. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) also spoke, sharing her vision for working families.

“There are currently 5.3 million Opportunity Youth – young adults not in school and not working. They are talent on the sidelines that we can’t afford to lose,” said Monique Rizer, Executive Director of Opportunity Nation. “Their talent must lay early foundations for their — and their future families’ economic prosperity.”

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Leader Donovan Hicks discussed the importance of connecting young adults to their communities through opportunities like mentoring and apprenticeships with Senator Scott (pictured above). The Senator acknowledged that we are living in difficult times, but encouraged all of us to “be part of the solution, not part of the problem….and make this nation better for the next generation.” He added, “Opportunity Nation provides a platform to help young people to see their full potential.”

Senators Scott and Booker demonstrated their bipartisan relationship — both referencing their genuine friendship — and commitment to re-engaging Opportunity Youth by re-introducing the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill to increase apprenticeships through a new federal tax credit for employers. The LEAP Act will offer a $1,000 federal tax credit to companies for each new apprentice they hire.

The Opportunity Nation policy plan, “Our Opportunity Nation,” recognizes that promoting apprenticeships as a pathway to a career serves a dual benefit in helping Opportunity Youth prepare for success in education, career options and providing employers with the trained employees they need to develop a highly-skilled workforce to meet their labor requirements.

‘Restoring the American Dream’ isn’t going to be easy. “We must do so much more to connect young people to opportunities to succeed and prosper,” said Sen. Booker (pictured below). “By focusing on closing skills gaps and providing apprenticeship opportunities, we can equip younger workers with the on-the-job skills they need to find a good-paying job in today’s knowledge-based economy.”

“We applaud the work of Opportunity Nation and its partners to create opportunities for young people,” said Kelem Butts, Director, Charitable Operations at AT&T. “Through AT&T Aspire, we are doing our part to help opportunity youth develop the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of today and the future.”

Other cross-sector leaders shared what they do to re-engage Opportunity Youth. Carrie Sheffield, Founder, BOLD and Senior Contributor, Opportunity Lives moderated a cross-sector panel conversation (pictured above) on programs that have a track record of proven success using evidence-based strategies to reconnect Opportunity Youth to education and jobs. Panelists included Kelem Butts; Cassius Johnson, Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Year Up; Stephanie Nellons-Paige, Vice President, National Engagement, USA Funds; Kimberly Pham, Opportunity Leader; and John Valverde, CEO, YouthBuild USA.

“We’re committed to seeing more students, whether graduating from high school or returning from many years away, pursuing the educational path that will lead them to success,” said Nellons-Paige.

Following remarks from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a panel highlighted Gap Inc.’s paid store internship program, This Way Ahead (pictured above). Kumari Adams, a This Way Ahead alum from New York City; Troy Dunmire, Vice President, Old Navy; and Gail Gershon, Executive Director, Community Leadership, Gap Inc. provided an update on the impact this program has had on empowering teens and young adults from low-income communities.

“While we are a divided country. . .there is much more that unites us than divides us,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, pictured below), Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, as she shared her opportunity story and told young adults that education is the best investment you can make in yourself.

Thank you to our event sponsors AT&T and USA Funds and our event partners Gap Inc. and The Forum for Youth Investment for making today possible.

Watch the event here. Additionally, one of our Opportunity Leaders, Anjonette Hall, blogged about her experience.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America. Opportunity Nation envisions the United States as a nation where everyone – regardless of where they were born – has equal access to opportunity, economic mobility, and success at all stages of life.

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