It's Time to Give Youth More Opportunities to Succeed

Mar 04, 2010

Community youth leaders hold a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss Youth Opportunities with congressional staffers, federal agency representatives and policy makers

Not so long ago, Kendrick Campbell, Sharon Jackson, Special Sanders and Madeline Vasquez weren’t sure where they were going in life.  In many ways, the odds were stacked against them – they were among the more than five million young people ages 16-24 in the U.S. living in high poverty communities who knew they wanted more from life and wanted to do better, but didn’t know where to begin.  Fortunately, each of them lived in a community that had applied for and received a grant as part of a bold and innovative federal program to provide comprehensive services and support to keep in-school youth on track and reengage youth disconnected from education and employment.

Instituted in 2000, under the Workforce Investment Act, the Youth Opportunity Grants program provided $5 billion to 36 communities across the United States to develop and implement youth service delivery systems.  Federal funding for the program, which served more than 90,000 young people, ended in 2005.  Today on Capitol Hill, community leaders, program directors and graduates of those systems discussed the successes and lessons learned through the Youth Opportunity program and urged Congress to reinvest in youth services targeted to reconnect high school “dropouts” to education and workforce options.

"In the first half of the past decade, thousands of disconnected youth nationwide were able to continue or complete their education and enter the workforce thanks to Youth Opportunity programming," said Linda Harris, Director of Youth Policy for the Center for Law and Social Policy.  "Unfortunately, funding was discontinued in 2005 despite the increasingly difficult economic environment for our nation's youth - the worst since before World War II.  Reinvesting in a Youth Opportunity approach and the Campaign for Youth's job strategies would reverse these trends and ensure that we have the skilled, competitive workforce necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy."

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