On Tuesday, September 25th, disconnected youth were the focus for practitioners, advocates, and legislators alike. A Congressional briefing sponsored by the United Way Worldwide and the Campaign For Youth, entitled “Reclaiming Our Nation’s Disconnected Youth,” emphasized prevention and re-engagement strategies for individuals who were in danger of or had already dropped out from high school. The packed room (individuals had to be turned away at the door because the turnout was so great) heard from a five member panel that included representatives of the education, youth development, advocacy, and workforce development fields. Highlighting the importance of breaking down barriers between the multiple agencies, organizations, sectors, etc. that provide essential services to youth and young adults, the guest speakers were able to provide concrete examples of what was working across the country. Later, some of these successes, along with the vast challenges facing disconnected youth and service providers, were brought to life by a group of young adults. Three young men elucidated the positive impact that targeted programs had on their life courses.
The campus of George Washington University was abuzz on September 19th with the Opportunity Nation Summit 2012. Opportunity Nation is a bi-partisan, cross-sector campaign with a nationwide focus on a population labeled “opportunity youth,” which coincides with “disconnected youth.” The Summit served as an opportunity to all involved individuals (young people, service providers, policymakers, journalists, researchers, businesses, etc.) to come and rally together to promote promising practices and share challenges and lessons learned. Equally important was the opportunity to re-energize one’s passion for this work in the company of a multitude of dedicated individuals, given the challenges on this front.
The full day of events included breakout sessions that tackled issues ranging from strategies that employers can use to positively impact “opportunity youth” to the role of the media in covering this issue. In addition, the Summit served as a release event for multiple platforms. Not only did the Opportunity Nation campaign release a plan to keep the American Dream alive for all individuals, the National Council of Young Leaders promoted their Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. Finally, the 2012 edition of the Opportunity Index was unveiled. This tool evaluates opportunity at the state and county levels according to a variety of indicators within the economy, education, and community arenas.