Fighting Poverty with Passion
I realize there has been an underlying (albeit unintentional) theme to my past few blog posts. That is the unique nature of New Orleans and of its set of problems and proposed solutions. Remember how I mentioned that New Orleans needed some long-term investment after the groundswell that was GiveNOLA Day? My apologies, but I’m not quite done yet. New Orleans is beset with a set of problems that, while fairly common in the majority of American cities, have manifested themselves in particularly stubborn and interconnected ways. There’s that pesky violent crime rate; a decentralized educational system with high teacher turnover and poor school performance; and poor public health scores with high rates of obesity, mental health disorders and diabetes (YouthShift Blueprint, 4). Another issue, the scope of which is garnering increasing attention, is the prevalence of youth disconnection. At this given moment, there are approximately 14,000 young New Orleanians, ages 16-24, who are neither in school nor working (“High School Disconnection,” 3). While there are a variety of reasons for this disconnection, all of these young adults “have the potential to work, learn, and achieve,” and thus, are considered “Opportunity Youth” (OY) (“High School Disconnection,” 3). Not only does New Orleans have the highest concentration of OY in Louisiana, but OY are also “more likely to be unemployed or un- deremployed, to rely on government assistance and health care, and to be the victims or perpetrators of crime” (“High School Disconnection,” 1). See the connection between OY and those pesky problems I mentioned before? Well, PYD envisions a healthier, safer, more prosperous New Orleans; one in which all young adults are included in this outcome.
To this end, PYD has teamed up with fellow TU AmeriCorps VISTA site, Cowen Institute, to spearhead the Employment and Mobility Pathways Linked for Opportunity Youth collaborative (EMPLOY). The EMPLOY collaborative is comprised of youth service providers, members of the funding community and representatives from K-12 and postsecondary education systems. PYD and Cowen Institute lead the charge as these entities design and execute long-term strategies for engaging Opportunity Youth in New Orleans. The EMPLOY collaborative is still in the early stages of refining and executing these engagement strategies. In order to see EMPLOY’s plans for reconnecting Opportunity Youth with education and training pathways in real-time, be sure to connect on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up-to-date on the endeavors of the EMPLOY collaborative to see how you can take part in ensuring that every young adult in New Orleans has access to fulfilling and family-sustaining careers.
In the meantime, get caught up on all things Opportunity Youth.