August 5, 2016
By Curtis Wackerle
Helping millions of young people disconnected from school and jobs is priority for nonprofit
Filling the gaps in a system that has left nearly 6 million kids between the ages of 16 and 24 out of school or out of work has emerged as one of the “most pressing moral, political and economic” issues of this era, Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson said this week.
The selection of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and wife Sheri, co-founder of the Schultz Family Foundation, as recipients of this year’s Aspen Institute Public Service Award, reflects the emphasis on creating more opportunities for disenfranchised youth. The Schultzes, through their family foundation and work with Starbucks, have emerged as leaders in the field, corralling dozens of companies to support the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative to provide that many feet through the door for young people by 2018.
Howard and Sheri Schultz will appear in conversation with Isaacson on Saturday from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at Greenwald Pavilion in an event titled, “Values Based Leadership: The Relationship between Philanthropy and the Private Sector,” with tickets available for $25 through AspenShowTix.com. The presentation will feature a one-song musical performance by the artist Common, a friend of the Schultzes. Common, and Academy and Grammy award winner, will then present the couple with the public service honor at a dinner to follow at Doerr Hosier Center; tickets for that are sold separately through the Aspen Institute website, www.aspeninstitute.org/summercelebration .
The newest division of the Aspen Institute, the Youth and Engagement Program, was created to extend exchange-of-ideas programing the nonprofit is best known for to the next generation. An institute program in existence since the beginning of the decade, The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, is also focused on brining more services connecting jobs and education to so-called “opportunity youth” — the 6 million 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in school or working.
Steve Patrick, the Seattle-based vice president and executive director of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, said his team works in cities across the country to support the programs that lift up opportunity youth. Doing so requires a “whole systems” approach, he said, involving K-12 education, higher education, the judicial system, social services, government, the private sector and philanthropy.
Getting young people at the table with decision makers in their community is important in shaping the effort, he said.
“Nothing about us without us is kind of the mantra,” he said.
Finding and funding programs that work and are scalable is this critical goal. The best programs provide “wrap around support,” he said. For kids without strong family backing and social contacts, it’s critical that these programs provide both encouragement and accountability through the trajectory of a young life, he said.
Supporting opportunity youth is a social justice issue he said, citing a statistic that some 60 percent of black males without a high school diploma will be incarcerated for some amount of time before age 30.
Patrick credited the Schultzes with rallying corporate America around the cause and “building pathways” he did not think were possible three years ago. Some 40 companies are now involved in one way or another with the 100,000 Opportunities Program, he said.
Starbucks has walked the talk as well, Patrick said, offering a shot at a free online college education through Arizona State University to any employee working 20 hours a week.