Opportunity Works Sites

Back on Track Designs

Reengaging Opportunity Youth

Reengaging youth and young adults who are off track to graduation, or disconnected from both education and work, and putting them on a path to postsecondary credentials.

Lili Allen
Associate Vice President, Reconnection Strategies and Designs
617.728.4446 x105

Opportunity Works Sites

Boston, Massachusetts:
Boston Private Industry Council and the Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative

The Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC), convened by the Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Private Industry Council, is addressing a gap in services for older opportunity youth in Boston who have a high school credential, but have not taken the next steps to college or career. The OYC has launched a Connection Center where these young people can get started on their education and career pathways. Through Opportunity Works, Boston is implementing a postsecondary and career bridging strategy that offers these youth, 40 percent of whom are boys and men of color, supported transitions from the Connection Center into postsecondary education and training. Navigation coaches transition these young adults to and through postsecondary education and training, and ultimately, to the start of a career. This effort aligns with and builds upon a citywide campaign to help all Boston youth transition successfully to postsecondary education—allowing this campaign to reach a far more challenged population.

The Boston collective impact collaborative has selected four high-performing partner programs to provide the postsecondary and career bridging, along with navigation supports; it also has MOUs with nine other programs that have agreed to both refer to and accept referrals from the Connection Center. Boston has multiple strategies to achieve scale, including launching a collectively shared data tracking strategy, systemic changes to increase student support and connections at the community colleges, and expanding the number of programs that are using the Back on Track model.

Hartford, Connecticut:
Capital Workforce Partners and the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative

Capital Workforce Partners and the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative are supporting older underserved youth through a full pathway approach including postsecondary/career bridging, technical training, and work experience. They are serving opportunity youth – two-thirds of whom are young men of color – in two pathways comprised of partnerships between youth-serving nonprofit organizations and community colleges.

Blue Hills Civic Association and Our Piece of the Pie, in partnership with Asnuntuck, Capital, and Manchester Community Colleges, deliver credit-bearing academic skill development, youth development, and internships in health care and manufacturing. The programs provide career development activities and training in college preparation skills (test taking, time management, math/language remediation, etc.) with an onsite college experience at a local campus to transition youth from successful high school completion to a postsecondary program at one of the community colleges.

Because of its expertise in leveraging public funds, 100% commitment of WIOA Youth (public workforce funds) to out-of-school youth, and engagement with employers to assure relevance of skills and credentials, Capital Workforce Partners and the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative are in a strong position to use a collective impact approach to sustain and grow the pathways.

New Orleans, Louisiana:
The Cowen Institute and the EMPLOY Collaborative

The Cowen Institute and the EMPLOY collaborative are leveraging and coordinating education, training, and job placement services to enable youth to enter postsecondary career pathways in the region’s high-growth industries. Partners include a high-performing community-based youth development organization with extensive experience serving opportunity youth along the pipeline to career-track employment; a community college with a strong integrated ABE-to-credentials model; and Tulane University, the city’s largest employer, which is modeling for other employers the benefits of partnering with community organizations and training providers to create earn-and-learn pathways to career-track employment for opportunity youth. The majority of youth served by these programs are youth of color, and over half are young men.

For those without a high school credential, Delgado Community College’s Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program and the Youth Employment Project provide High School Equivalency programming along with life coaching, case management, and career-focused technical and academic skills training. For those with a high school credential, the initiative offers several options including youth enterprises and Tulane’s Earn and Learn, which offers young people co-enrollment in Delgado Community College, as well as paid apprenticeships at Tulane in fields related to their program of study. Bard Early College of New Orleans (BECNO) will provide technical assistance support on curriculum and instruction with the goal to create a “playbook” of the most effective practices for developing pathways to postsecondary education and careers for opportunity youth.

Additionally, members of EMPLOY are creating a data network that allows for streamlined intake, assessment, and referral of youth across youth-serving organizations and educational institutions. This network is expanding EMPLOY’s understanding of the causes of local disconnection as well as promising reconnection strategies, and informing decision-making at the practitioner and systems levels.

Partners are currently targeting the following sectors: skilled crafts, creative digital media/IT and health care. They expect to scale through engaging additional anchor employers in the initiative.  

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
Philadelphia Youth Network and Project U-Turn

The Philadelphia Youth Network and its partners in the Project U-Turn collaborative are implementing and expanding postsecondary bridging services at four “E3 Centers” to increase postsecondary persistence and success for a very challenged population. E3 Centers are neighborhood-based service sites designed to help lower-skilled out-of-school youth and youth returning from juvenile placement to build literacy, numeracy, and 21st-century skills, attain a high school credential, and prepare for postsecondary education and careers. These Centers serve a high concentration of boys and men of color.

Through the OYIF SIF, the Philadelphia partners are creating a structured postsecondary bridging program to ensure a smoother pathway from secondary to postsecondary credential attainment. Specific features include supported dual enrollment, a focus on college knowledge and success strategies, and personalized guidance and connection to “best bet” postsecondary programs of study that lead to credentials that will pay off in the labor market.

Philadelphia Youth Network and its partners expect to scale the effort by creating a replicable model for postsecondary preparation and bridging in the context of the E3 Centers, and by leveraging the partnership’s collective impact approach to ensure that local, state, and federal resources are allocated to programming for opportunity youth. 

San Francisco, California:
Bay Area Community Resources and Road Map to Peace

The Bay Area Community Resources and its partners in the Road Map to Peace collaborative are providing education, workforce, and wraparound services to 18 to 24 year-old youth of color, in particular Latino males, who are gang-involved/violence-exposed. Outreach is conducted by youth leaders and through community organization partners and the justice system; reengaged youth enroll in Five Keys Charter School, a Sheriff’s Office sponsored state charter school that offers GED and diploma-granting programming, or the local Gateway to College program.   Community-based organizations provide wraparound support and case management, as well as self-efficacy, violence prevention, and career/ employment readiness training, to the young people as they work toward their secondary credential and transition into postsecondary career training. Young people also participate in selected training programs that offer accelerated paths to credentials in ‘in demand” sectors. Core collaborative partners are also creating subsidized employment opportunities to help young people develop work readiness skills and get prepared for further or more structured technical training. 

Five Keys is a robust education option with locations at 21 sites across the city including in jails; through Five Keys and its state funding stream, the partners will be able to scale this carefully designed approach to ensure that youth transitioning from the criminal justice system persist toward a high school credential and into training leading to a credential with value in the labor market. 

Santa Clara, California:
Kids in Common and the Santa Clara County Opportunity Youth Partnership

Kids in Common and its partners in the Opportunity Youth Partnership have three key strategies: 1) strengthen and expand reengagement options at the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School and the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Reengagement Academy for high-risk opportunity youth including transition age foster youth, homeless youth, and court-involved youth; 2) co-locate Navigators at these sites to help remove barriers to engagement for youth transitioning out of foster care, homeless youth, and justice-involved youth, and to promote pathways with a clear connection to postsecondary education and careers; and 3) develop an employment coach position who will support young people to obtain internships and jobs through TeenForce, an innovative youth-focused employment agency.

Partner agencies include community organizations experienced in working with foster youth, youth involved in the justice system, and other youth facing barriers to success. The Santa Clara partners expect that 70 percent of those served in these programs will be young men of color.

Santa Clara partners will utilize collective impact to scale these strategies through aligning and integrating programs and systems to ensure that youth can get on track for academic and career success regardless of where they enter a pathway, and through expanding numbers served at core programs. For example, the Reengagement Academy currently serves 100 youth per year but will expand to up to 500 youth per year in three years. 

South King County, Washington:
United Way of King County and the Road Map Project

United Way of King County and the Community Center for Education Results, with their partners in the Road Map Project collaborative, are implementing a postsecondary bridging program in reengagement centers that are currently focused on helping youth attain a high school credential. They are bringing in Seattle Education Access (SEA), which has a set of postsecondary bridging services that have shown success in helping youth—especially youth of color—succeed in college. SEA’s College and Career Success model addresses barriers often faced by opportunity youth by providing them with student-centered college access and navigation services, including creating a college funding plan, facilitating career exploration, fostering self-advocacy, preparing for postsecondary placement tests, connecting youth to broader networks, and supporting students as they transition to and through college. SEA education advocates will work closely with case managers at the reengagement centers, and supplement their supports through partnering with AmeriCorps members and college counseling services.

Area reengagement centers are supported by “Open Doors” state policy that drives per-pupil funding to dropout recovery programs. South King County collective impact partners expect that once the SIF evaluation demonstrates the effectiveness of postsecondary bridging, they will have powerful evidence for an advocacy effort focused on enhancing the per-student funding model, enabling this bridging support to be offered to all recovered dropouts in the state.