Opportunity Youth

The Corps Network believes that youth corps can provide "On Ramps" for Opportunity Youth to reconnect to the mainstream. We help provide a voice and assistance to this group of people who must overcome more barriers than others to have success in life.

Who are Opportunity Youth?

Opportunity Youth - sometimes referred to as "disconnected youth" - are defined as people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. Out of the 38.9 million Americans who fall into the 16 - 24 age range, about 6.7 million can be described as Opportunity Youth. These young men and women represent a social and economic opportunity: many of them are eager to further their education, gain work experience, and help their communities. Not investing in the future of these youth means 6.7 million missed opportunities.

Opportunity Youth are a diverse group...

  • Women and men each make up roughly half of the Opportunity Youth population.
  • Studies show that about half the population of Opportunity Youth is white, meaning minority groups - particularly African Americans and Latinos - are disproportionately over represented.
  • About 30 to 40 percent of Opportunity Youth lack a high school diploma. In comparison, only 10 percent to 13 percent of "connected youth" lack a diploma.
  • 3 out of every 5 Opportunity Youth say they grew up in a poor or working class family, meaning 2 out of every 5 are on a downward slope from a middle class upbringing.

Why should we care about Opportunity Youth?

With every high school dropout, we lose future doctors, teachers, business leaders, and scientists. America cannot compete globally if a significant portion of the next generation is left behind. Investing in education and job training for Opportunity Youth is far less expensive than paying for the social services these young people otherwise need. Opportunity Youth cost the United States billions of dollars every year in lost productivity, lost revenue, increased demand for welfare services and crime-related expenditures. Over 60 percent of all youth crime can be attributed to disconnected young men and women. These crimes translate into billions of dollars spent annually on incarceration and victim services.

What can be done to help?

Studies show that about 75 percent of Opportunity Youth are hopeful or confident they will eventually achieve their life goals. More than half see themselves one day earning a college degree. The majority of Opportunity Youth are eager to find a way to advance their education while also earning money or learning job skills. Many service and conservation corps - like those advocated for by The Corps Network - offer youth participants mentors, work experience, job training and educational possibilities. Youth who participate in corps gain leadership skills, earn their GEDs or high school diplomas and go on to become successful, productive adults.

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