Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
For all individuals, education is an important aspect to being able to gain and maintain employment and to being able to support oneself, and potentially one’s family. Opportunity youth are much less likely to earn a high school or college diploma than their connected peers. Disconnected youth are nine times more likely to drop out of high school than connected youth, with one in four disconnected youth leaving high school without a diploma.
With the global economy continuing to move toward requiring a more skilled workforce, it is even more vital for youth to be supported in their educational pursuits. It is important to note that learning happens everywhere young people spend their time: in formal settings such as schools, but also in formal and informal out-of-school time programs, peer groups, and communities. There are many different methods adults in every setting can use to support opportunity youth in their education and learning. These methods range from family engagement and financial supports to emotional supports and mentorship.
- Educational Assistance. These types of programs work to support opportunity youth in the educational arena, specifically focusing on issues like education and conservation experience, tuition and application assistance, tutoring programs, and language classes.
- Mentoring Programs. Mentorship programs are able to address the more social aspects of the educational experience. Mentors can also help opportunity youth navigate the education system, while also providing guidance on career pathways.
- Practical Assistance. Programs that focus on the more practical side of the educational experience can be easily overlooked, but are immensely important. These types of programs provide assistance for things like transportation, assisting in balancing family and school responsibilities, and access to basic needs, like housing, health care, and food.
- Restorative Discipline. In contrast to punitive discipline, where students would receive a punishment such as suspension or expulsion, restorative discipline focuses on “helping students understand the impact of their actions on others” and often includes some form of peer agreement.
The Condition of Education 2019 (PDF, 356 pages)
This publication from the National Center for Education Statistics details the state of American education and outcomes tied to education. Specifically, this publication details demographics of schools and students as well as the outcomes to which they are tied.
Education and Career Toolkit
This toolkit from engage.youth.gov is a collection of resources focused on education and careers. These resources are from reputable organizations, offered free of charge, and tailored to a youth audience. The resources are also grouped by theme to make it easier for youth to find what they need in as few clicks as possible.
High School Graduation Initiative
This webpage from the U.S. Department of Education includes information about the High School Graduation Initiative (also known as School Dropout Prevention Program). This program works to support students working to earn their high school diploma.
LINCS: Career Pathways
This initiative from the U.S. Department of Education is a method for those who work in adult education, post-secondary education, and workforce development fields to explore instructional and programmatic best practices, policies, and issues in providing career pathways services.
Opportunity Youth Playbook
This guide from the Forum for Youth Investment works to help boys and young men of color, who are disproportionately represented among opportunity youth, to reconnect with education and/or employment.
Don’t Call Them Dropouts (PDF, 72 pages)
This report from America’s Promise Alliance, captures young people’s experiences gathered and reported in a way that deepens the national conversation about why some young people are still failing to graduate despite historic advances in graduation rates.
Promising and Practical Strategies to Increase Postsecondary Success
This page includes information from the U.S. Department of Education regarding information about applying to and funding a college education. Additionally, there are resources from various universities regarding different educational and career paths.
The Science of Learning and Development: A Synthesis (PDF, 132 pages)
From the Science of Learning and Development Alliance, this paper synthesizing research across diverse disciplines to build the knowledge base about learning and human development, and support personalized educational models and approaches that lead to better outcomes for young people.
Other Resources on this Topic
Webinars & Presentations
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).