Press Release: Aspen Institute Convening Explores Educational and Employment Opportunities for Opportunity Youth

ASPEN, Colo., Oct. 27, 2014 — The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions (AFCS) kicked off its second annual Fall Convening for the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF) today, gathering grantees, strategic partners, funders and guests to share emerging lessons and strategies in reconnecting opportunity youth to education and employment through collective impact. Opportunity Youth are the 6.7 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market, In addition to highlighting the collective efforts of the OYIF communities, the key goal of the Convening is to share successful methods for reconnecting opportunity youth and to build momentum for national efforts around the cause.

Speakers include Melody Barnes, chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jim Shelton, deputy secretary at the US Department of Education, who will deliver a keynote address.

“We’re excited to be participating in this effort which has the potential to help millions of young people — who might not otherwise have had the opportunity — achieve the American dream. And, we’re honored to address this forum and pay tribute to the people and organization, who day in and out, serve young people across the country,” said Jim Shelton, deputy secretary, US Department of Education. “Education has always been key to better jobs and brighter futures; and we appreciate all the many people who are involved in this noble effort and look forward to following their progress in the months and years ahead.”

Since its launch in 2012, the OYIF has provided awards to 21 communities to focus their efforts on reconnection of opportunity youth through community collaboration that brings together K-12 systems; community colleges and other postsecondary providers; municipal and state governments; national and local philanthropy and nonprofits; and private sector leaders. The OYIF communities range from rural to urban, span from coast to coast, and have a diverse set of challenges to overcome. The awards will total an investment of up to $13 million in grants over the five-year course of the Fund.

“Reconnecting opportunity youth across systems and sectors started off as an ‘approach,’ but what we’re seeing now is a full-scale movement,” said Steve Patrick, executive director of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. “We are learning about the emerging strategies that work in reconnecting opportunity youth, and we are also working in partnership with many others across the field to create an adaptable playbook for other communities to look to for planning and inspiration.”

The Forum, in collaboration with implementation partner Jobs for the Future, designed and launched a national learning community across the grantees that includes two annual convenings. The Fall Convening will offer sessions on bringing system leaders to the collaborative table, national models in reengaging youth and promoting postsecondary and career success, engaging employers in developing career pathways, and more. Also of note is the youth leadership track, which is designed to spotlight the voices of current and former opportunity youth and to support the development of community organizing and leadership skills of young people. There are 24 participants in the youth track this year.

“It’s impossible to have a movement for change without representation from the core constituency,” said Blair Taylor, executive vice president & chief community officer at the Starbucks Coffee Company. “AFCS deeply understands this and is giving young people tools that could affect the economic success of an entire generation. Leading opportunity youth back to education and employment will help close the skills gap, and potentially reduce the $250 billion the country loses each year in lost revenue, earnings, and increased social services.”

The Fall Convening will begin on October 27 and adjourn on October 29, 2014. For additional information, please visitwww.aspencommunitysolutions.org. For more perspectives from the OYIF community, read the Pathways to Aspen blog series, which can be found here.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC;Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org