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  3. Programs and Initiatives Working To Reconnect Youth and Prevent Disconnection

Programs and Initiatives Working to Reconnect Youth and Prevent Disconnection

Federal Initiatives

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a community-based program that leads, trains, and mentors young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are unemployed and have left school, so that they may become productive citizens in America's future. Results from a three year evaluation showed that ChalleNGe participants are more likely than their control group counterparts to have obtained a GED certificate or high school diploma, to have earned college credits, and to be working. Participants’ earnings are also 20 percent higher than control group members’ earnings. Collaboration between the ChalleNGe program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) supports leadership opportunities for disadvantaged and out-of-school youth serving in their programs.

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more. Supported by the federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors, AmeriCorps offers service opportunities in classrooms and communities that are designed to engage adults in "helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”

Apprenticeship.gov from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration provides information and resources on apprenticeships. An apprenticeship includes a combination of on-the-job training and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Applicants for apprenticeship programs must be at least 16 years old and meet the program sponsor's qualifications. Youth Apprenticeship is a program that connects youth to apprenticeship programs for high school students combine academic and technical classroom instruction with work experience through a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP). It provides the foundation for students to choose among multiple pathways after high school – to enroll in college, to enter an apprenticeship program, begin full-time employment, or a combination.

YouthBuild programs give at-risk youth ages 16-24 the opportunity to transform their lives by earning their high school diploma or state-recognized equivalency degree, learning to be community leaders, and preparing for college and other post-secondary training opportunities. YouthBuild programs provide occupational skills training in construction and other in-demand industries and include a focus on increasing the supply of low-income housing in their local communities. By providing low-income young people with both education and occupational skills training leading to industry-recognized certifications, as well as the opportunity for community service, YouthBuild programs can help disenfranchised youth to become successful adults.

SBIRT/YouthBuildan employment and training program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), partnered to address alcohol and drug use among students. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a tool developed by SAMHSA to identify people who have or are at risk for substance use problems, and to identify people who need further assessment or referral for treatment. The “SBIRT” was adapted to best suit the young people, ages 16-24, served within the YouthBuild program, and was piloted in 15 YouthBuild programs.

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) offer a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth. Pilot sites will commit to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes in exchange for this new flexibility. For P3, statute defines disconnected youth as individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 who are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Formula Program is a comprehensive youth employment program serving eligible youth, ages 12-24, who face barriers to education, training, and employment. Funds for youth services are allocated to states and local areas based on a formula. The WIOA Youth Program focuses primarily on out-of-school youth, requiring local areas to expend a minimum of 75% of WIOA youth funds on them. The program includes 14 program elements that are required to be made available to youth participants. WIOA prioritizes work experience through a 20% minimum expenditure rate for the work experience program element. Local programs provide youth services in partnership with American Job Centers and under the direction of local Workforce Development Boards.

Job Corps is the nation's largest and most comprehensive residential education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Private companies, state agencies, federal agencies, and unions recruit young people to participate in Job Corps, where they can train for and be placed in jobs. At Job Corps, participating youth receive basic living benefits to make life easier and the opportunity to become a part of a community that encourages growth and success.

State and Local Initiatives

Youth Reengagement Network Run by the National League of Cities, the Reengagement Network Hub connects municipal leaders to share effective strategies for reconnection and equity. The Resources section of the website includes data, guides and tools to support reengagement efforts across the country.

State and Local Corps Corps are locally-based organizations that engage young adults ages 16 to 25 and veterans up to age 35 in service projects that address recreation, conservation, disaster response, and community needs. Descended from the Civilian Conservation Corps, the federal Depression-era work relief program, modern Corps are public-private partnerships, with some operating as nonprofits and others run as units of state or local government.

Project U-Turn is a citywide collaborative effort to address the dropout crisis in Philadelphia. Project U-Turn identifies and examines the problem, promotes the crisis as a system-wide issue rather than an education issue, involves and sustains a diverse array of partners, and works to both prevent students from dropping out as well as re-engage those who have already dropped out. Learn more.

Partnership for Results is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000. Evaluation results indicate reductions in substance abuse, arrests, juvenile detention expenditures, and foster care placements. Partnership for Results has been associated with increases in standardized test scores, particularly for elementary schools serving low-income children.

The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development coordinates and aligns state policies and practices to support positive youth development and increase high school graduation rates.

Non-Profit Initiatives

Opportunity Youth United This youth-led movement brings together leaders from urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities across the United State to decrease poverty and increase opportunity. Its strategic direction is set by the members of the National Council of Young Leaders, who are each sponsored by a national non-profit.

National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC) Unique in the opportunity-youth space, NYEC represents organizations that serve and study opportunity youth, bringing the wisdom of practitioners to policymakers and the fields of workforce development, education, youth development, and rehabilitation services. NYEC represents and speaks for organizations that are the leaders in serving opportunity youth – and those that are at earlier stages of the journey.

The YES Project (Young Employed Successful) is a national initiative launched by America’s Promise Alliance, and was created to support and grow the youth workforce so that every young person seeking a job can find a job. To tackle this ambitious goal, the YES Project teamed up with nonprofits, researchers, and employers and landed on three conditions for success: ready, connected, and supported (RCS). The RCS framework is the backbone of the YES Project and serves as a consensus point for everyone– from public officials, community leaders and young people themselves – to drive action towards increasing youth employment.

Navicate (formerly Linking Learning to Life, Inc.) supports a collaboration of schools, businesses, colleges, and other organizations to foster opportunities for community service, leadership development, career and college exploration, internships, and employment for youth in Vermont as they transition from school to careers and postsecondary education.

The Opportunity Youth Forum The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions launched the Opportunity Youth Forum to build a research and knowledge base that supports cross-sector collaboration to build and strengthen educational and employment pathways for young people.

Opportunity Youth Network This collaborative effort works to connect, unite, and support opportunity youth. Through its annual Opportunity Youth Summits and Opportunity Weeks, the Opportunity Youth Network brings young leaders, nonprofits, business, philanthropy and government staff together to collaborate on community-strengthening solutions.

Other Resources on this Topic

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

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.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

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

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

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.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

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.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

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 Strategies for Transition Age 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).