Reclaiming Our Nation's Disconnected Youth

Sep 28, 2012

By Ariana Mozafari

This week, the Campaign for Youth, along with United Way, First Focus, Forum for Youth Investment, and the National Collaboration for Youth partnered to host the Congressional briefing "Reclaiming our Nation's Disconnected Youth." The briefing featured a cross-section of community leaders discussing their efforts to employ integrated dropout prevention and recovery approaches that support young people in achieving successful life outcomes.  Participants also heard real-life experiences from three young people who at one point were disconnected from both education and work.  With the country facing not just an upcoming election, but tough budget battles and changing priorities, the event was an opportunity for pointed questions and real discussion of racial inequality, education, and improving youth outcomes.

To bring down high youth unemployment rates, Bill Hanbury, CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area,  advocated stronger connections between  local non-profits, youth, and employers, citing the need for increased funding from philanthropic groups for programs that provide educational and vocational services for young people in order to increase the scale of impact.

State policy can also make a big difference in providing youth with increased opportunities. For example, Texas allows high school students to finish high school up to age 26, an age that is higher than any other state's policy. Dr. Daniel King, superintendent of the Parr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District of Texas, is a proponent of dropout recovery strategies and engaging youth and young adults - and is a leader in establishing a systemic effort that is working in Southwest Texas. These focus on encouraging youth who are high school dropouts to reenroll in high school, or dually enroll in high school and community college. The students who are reconnected are dealing with many issues including parenting. To assist students, the school district in partnership with the community colleges, the workforce investment board and other community resources also offer childcare and social services for lower-income or struggling adults. This strategy has removed the heavy emphasis on test-taking skills and instead focuses on helping students develop skills that prepare them for future careers.

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