Unemployed and Un-Enrolled: Re-Engaging Society’s Disconnected Youth
For youth aged 16-24, getting through school is hard enough without having to deal with additional pressure from the outside world. For too large of a section of today’s students, these pressures can interfere with a student’s ability to perform to the point of them falling into a group that is not enrolled in school or working, making them vulnerable to exploitation. From homelessness, to being a caretaker, to being a parent, to being kicked out for being a member of the LBGTQ+ community, there are a wide variety of reasons a young person may fall into this group of disconnected youth – but now, more cities than ever are looking at ways to help get these people re-engaged.
In a recent article from The 74 Million, author Bekah McNeel took a look at efforts being put forward by cities like San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Baltimore to provide services to help these young people get started moving forward again. With 75,000 people in Los Angeles alone falling into this category, it’s no easy task. Centers for re-engagement have to be prepared to offer an individualized approach to each person who enters, helping with specific needs. These centers provide a wide swath of services including mental health care, resume and SAT bootcamps, job training, food and clothing pantries, educational remediation, washers and dryers, legal services, and showers.
In San Antonio, where they are facing a crisis even denser than that of LA, with 15% of youth aged 16-24 are disconnected, the city has built the program Nxt Level. Nxt Level boasts impressive statistics, even in its first year. It is on track to have helped 600 youth, almost solely by word of mouth, and has an 80% one year retention rate. What’s more, 42% of the youth they have helped have gone on to get a GED, high school, or college degree.
According to the article, the young people that come through programs like Nxt Level get a bad reputation as being lazy, cynical, or jaded. The workers at these centers say this couldn’t be more true. Instead, the article emphasizes that it is the “magnitude of their responsibilities” that throw these youth from their original path, and not a lack of caring or trying. As proof, since the recession and the dawn of these re-engagement centers, the percentage of disconnected young people has gone down.
Nxt Level says that, for some of the kids they help, this can be the first real check in they’ve ever experienced. The program boasts an “extensive” and “invasive” triage program to figure out exactly where each person is at in life and everything that has lead up to that moment in order to best help them and get a grasp on what they may need, be it job interviews or a way to finish their education.
Read The 74 Million’s full report, including individual profiles, here.