In Focus: Youth of Color

Jun 30, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

The Complex Challenges of Working Out-of-School Youth

By Andrew Mulinge

When teens are exposed to work through summer and year-round employment, internships, and service opportunities, they are far more likely to stay in school, graduate on time, and be consistently employed as adults. Youth who have been employed also earn higher wages in young adulthood. However, despite the long-term advantages of access to early employment, the challenges facing  youth ages 16 to 19 who are employed but not in school are often overlooked.

There are many factors that lead young people to drop out of school. Chief among them is family financial obligations. Working youth typically live in households that are more likely to have lower combined income than unemployed youth who have dropped out of school. Additionally, working youth’s households have less access to federal safety net programs that could help meet basic needs and reduce the pressure to drop out.

A recent report by the Urban Institute highlights the complex challenges faced by out-of-school youth who are employed. This population is mostly male, Latino and immigrant, and working in low-skill, low-paying jobs. The majority (63 percent) are working more than half the year, and 51 percent are working at least 40 weeks a year. The American Community Survey estimates that 60 percent of working youth ages 16 to 18 contribute over 10 percent of their household income.  Additionally, among working poor households, one-third exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) as a result of youth earnings.

Young people should not have to choose between staying in school and going to work to help support their families. Under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states and communities have an opportunity to better address the workforce development and employment needs of low-income youth, particularly those who have dropped out of school. WIOA requires that 75 percent of youth funds be spent on out-of-school youth—an increase from 30 percent under the previous law. Furthermore, WIOA encourages states to develop career pathwaysthat integrate progressive levels of education and training. This will help working youth move into jobs that provide higher wages and more stable careers while increasing their education and skill attainment.

Losing out on a high school diploma has severe implications for youth’s future outcomes.  Looking forward, we must provide poor and low-income youth more opportunities to gain critical employment skills and earn wages while also strengthening the safety net to help their families meet basic needs.

Learn about CLASP’s resources on WIOA impacting youth and adults.

Read CLASP’s issue brief on employment for young men of color.

Read the Urban Institute’s report on working youth.

Apr 8, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Celebrating Native American Youth: Leadership and Resiliency

By Andrew Mulinge

Recently, the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth held its fourth annual Champions for Change celebration. The event recognized the extraordinary work of resilient young men and women in Native American, Alaskan native, and Native Hawaiian communities across the country.

The young leaders’ inspiring work is a constructive response to the hardships and tragedies they have experienced. They discussed channeling their challenges and pain into innovative programs that address suicide, sexual abuse, cultural preservation, and mentorship for their peers. These programs are critically important; too often, communities perpetuate trauma instead of supporting those who experience it.

Chronic trauma and adversity are key public health issues with major implications for the wellbeing of youth—especially those in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Barriers to positive youth development  include violence, abuse, and neglect, as well as chronic stressors like unemployment, racism, lack of adequate health care, and social isolation. Chronic trauma and adversity in childhood can interrupt normal brain development; this has long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

To read more click here >>>

Feb 11, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin ninth grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school four years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization: 

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems, and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery.

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

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