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New initiative targets disconnected youth

DETROIT, MI ­— Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2014 —
Representatives of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF) will visit Detroit January 16 and 17 to review progress being made in identifying and providing services to disconnected youth.

The initiative, which is in the planning stages, aims to improve educational attainment and employment among 16-24 year old Detroit youth that are neither in school or employment, and are considered to be “disconnected” and at risk.

Armen Hratchian
Armen Hratchian of Excellent Schools Detroit

The OYIF, which is funded by Washington, DC-based Aspen Institute, awarded grants to 21 U.S. cities in 2013 totaling $2 million.  The awards included a planning grant of $100,000 in response to a proposal developed by Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) and Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. (DESC) that called for for closer cooperation between youth partners, schools and government departments to improve methodologies for early identification and support of at-risk youth.

“It is critical that educators, parents and other caring adults are able to identify youth that are in danger of disconnecting from the school” said Armen Hratchian, Vice President for K12 Education at Excellent Schools Detroit. “Early identification allows resources to be brought to bear that will help get these students reconnected with the education system and back onto a college and career path. The longer we allow these students to go unnoticed and drift, the more we let them down.”

Pamela Moore of DESC

“There are many partners doing excellent work in this area, but not all the efforts are aligned” added Pamela Moore, President and CEO of DESC. “We need closer collaboration between partners, including a way of tracking youth across different systems. If those systems don’t talk to each other then the gaps are wider than they ought to be. Inevitably, people slip through those cracks.”

There are estimated to be over 18,000 16-24 year old youth in Detroit who are neither in school nor employed. Statistics show that 17% of Detroit youth are disconnected, but they account for 28% of all youth crime.

The planning phase that is currently underway seeks to build on the original proposal that was funded last July by developing a strategy for identifying, connecting and providing services to disconnected youth.

EAA and DESC are working with numerous partners to develop the proposal, including Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, Detroit Public Schools, Wayne County Community College District, the Skillman Foundation, Detroit Regional Chamber, Don Bosco Hall, Covenant House, Department of Human Services and the Juvenile Justice Center for Wayne County Courts.

If approved, further funding of $500,000 from the Aspen Institute will be made available over two years for implementation.