The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solution’s (AFCS) 2017 Fall Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF) convening commenced with a screening of Langston Hughes’ Let America Be America Again. It set the tone for a searing dialogue by AFCS’s Melody Barnes and Karen Pittman, of The Forum for Youth Investment, about strategies to further equity and social justice during this tumultuous political climate. The discussion centered around the work our community partners and young adults are doing, with an emphasis on keeping young people at the center of the work locally and at the national level. Doug Wood of the Ford Foundation then took the stage to interview Jeff Edmondson of the Ballmer Group, to discuss how to deepen our commitment to rigorous data in order to achieve a greater impact on opportunity youth.
Watch the full opening plenary:
Interested in how the opportunity youth movement came about, and what it’s accomplished over its first five years? During the lunch plenary, AFCS’s Monique Miles and Steve Patrick took attendees through the genesis and history of the opportunity youth movement. Participants also designed a “journey map” that celebrated progress and specific accomplishments of the OYIF. Watch now:
Young adults took center stage at “Youth Perspectives on What Makes a Good Job – And Why it Matters to Employers.” Shawnice Jackson of Opportunity Youth United, Felix Moran of the Arizona Center for Youth Resources, and Ryan Dalton and Shanice Turner of National Council of Young Leaders-Opportunity Youth United, were among the voices sharing their experiences about securing jobs and their ideas for improving access to employment opportunities in the United States. We learned that opportunity youth were not much different than adults when listing their job requirements: professional growth, respect, scheduling flexibility and good wages.
Michael Smith, the executive director of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and director, Youth Opportunity Programs at the Obama Foundation, led a conversation during our final morning plenary with Mayor Aja Brown of Compton, California, on the importance of exposing young people to experiential learning opportunities. In her remarks, Mayor Brown noted that this is “the biggest thing you can do for kids.”
The main session featured Erik Stegman of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, Arnold Chandler of Forward Change, Juan Martinez and Kimberly Pikok of Fresh Tracks and Monica Nuvamsa of The Hopi Foundation, who spoke about effective leadership strategies for Native American youth that focuses on cross-cultural engagement. Arnold Chandler presented compelling data on both the risk and protective factors that can influence life outcomes for young Native Americans.
The Fall 2017 convening concluded with a call to action:
Greg Jobin-Leeds, the keynote speaker for the closing plenary session, emboldened youth by telling them: “young people here today, do not underestimate your role” and “leadership comes from those most impacted.” Speakers discussed the value of inter-generational partnerships, emphasizing the role of young people, and how that will lead to long-term progress and transformation in local community-based social change initiatives.
For all the OYIF Fall convening videos and more, visit the AFCS YouTube channel.