Preparing Youth to Compete in Today’s Economy Header

Opinion

Preparing Youth to Compete in Today’s Economy

President & CEO, America's Promise Alliance

In 2015, the Citi Foundation and America’s Promise selected 12 organizations as inaugural grant recipients of the Youth Opportunity Fund. Organizations working in innovative ways to place low-income young adults on a path toward college and career success can apply for new funding from the Fund. The Fund will award one-year grants up to $250,000 to nonprofit organizations in 10 cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, St. Louis, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The deadline for applications is May 2. 

Our youth are not only full of potential; they are eager to unlock their talent and connect with the right opportunities and support networks to help them succeed. 

Just three years ago, Peter was involved in a gang and employed as a janitor at 23, making minimum wage. He didn’t own a computer and was constantly getting into trouble.

Now Peter works full-time in user experience and design at a major tech company, serves on the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is working toward a college degree. He attributes “every single positive thing” in his life to Year Up Bay Area, which provides low-income young adults with hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships in a variety of sectors, such as technology, healthcare, and financial services.

Year Up Bay Area is one of 12 organizations across the country funded in 2015 through the Youth Opportunity Fund that is preparing young people for an ever-changing 21st century workforce. With support from the Fund, programs like Year Up are helping to break down barriers for young people like Peter, who face great challenges in their lives.  

The current Fund grantees are working in schools, recruiting mentors from local businesses, partnering with local agencies to support youth, providing young people with opportunities to serve others – and so much more. They’re not just helping young people – they’re empowering them and lifting them up to succeed. Just look at Naya’s story.  

Naya grew up with a love and knack for technology. Her uncle taught her how to build her first computer at just 8 years old, and she went on to open her own cell phone repair business at 16.

Naya was on a path toward her ultimate career goals until she had to drop out of college to work multiple part-time jobs to help support her family. Then she found Per Scholas, which prepares low-income youth in New York City for careers in STEM by providing free, hands-on, full-time instruction and job placement.

Most students start the Per Scholas program making $7,000 a year and often end up landing jobs earning nearly six times as much. Now 21, Naya is working in the tech department of a successful cosmetic line and has re-enrolled in college part-time. 

Youth Opportunity Fund grantees, including Year Up Bay Area and Per Scholas, are helping thousands of young people like Peter and Naya get a leg up and a fresh start on their educations and careers. The solutions and interventions they’ve created provide a dozen different lessons in how to supply hands-on training for jobs in healthcare, technology and entrepreneurial industries – and how to help low-income young people succeed.

We’re proud of our investment in the first cohort of grantees, and we’re thrilled to continue a legacy of partnering with organizations that give young people the opportunity and support they need to achieve their full potential and lay the groundwork for economic success. 

Read about other Youth Opportunity Fund grantees, including Communities In Schools of Miami and Youth Venture in Boston. The deadline to submit your program idea for a Youth Opportunity Fund grant is May 2. Apply here

Spread the word via social media with #YouthOppFund.