It’s easy to assume that the country’s low unemployment rate and high job growth mean we’re in a time of prosperity for all. Yet when we look closer, it’s clear that not all Americans are thriving. Millions of young people continue to fall through the cracks of the very systems that were built to support them—unable to access, secure, or retain meaningful jobs.
As part of our foundation’s journey, we’ve examined these systems to better understand where and when we can have the greatest impact on young people’s lives and livelihoods.
One of the most important lessons we have learned over the years is that young people in crisis need support during times of transition. It is during these unstructured “in between” times—between high school and adulthood, between military service and civilian life, searching for a first job, or seeking stable housing—when they either move forward, or lose momentum.
Consider the sheer number of young people in our country currently experiencing “in between” moments:
young people ages 16-24 are not in school and not working. Young men, youth of color, and youth with disabilities are most likely to be disconnected.
200,000 service members
leaving military service and transitioning to civilian life each year.
who age out of the US foster care system annually after reaching the age of 18. Twenty percent of these young people will instantly experience homelessness.
And the 3.5 million young adults ages 18-25
who experience a form of homelessness in a given year. LGBTQ youth and young adults are especially vulnerable and have a 120% higher chance of experiencing homelessness.
We believe that young people are our country’s greatest untapped assets, and there is no better investment in our shared future than investing in their future.
These beliefs inform our vision to create opportunities for all young people to feel valued, engaged, and inspired—in their lives as well as in their communities.
WE ARE FUELING INNOVATIVE UPSTREAM EFFORTS…
Supporting vulnerable young people earlier is essential.
Our investments in organizations like KIPP and iMentor better support high school students who will not go directly to college, as they pursue meaningful jobs. This increased capacity is a recognition that unless we create multiple pathways for young people out of high school, we heighten young people’s risk for disconnection.
For families experiencing homelessness, including young parents and their children, a small amount of financial support and one-on-one coaching at the right time can be instrumental to quickly get them off the streets and into stable housing. Through partnerships with Mary’s Place as well as the King County Centralized Diversion Fund, we’ve piloted two diversion programs that successfully helped nearly 700 families and young adults transition from the crisis of homelessness into stable housing.
WE ARE USING DATA TO DRIVE CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT…
Measuring, tracking, and sharing data can create substantive, large-scale change.
We’ve partnered with Measure of America to better understand the factors driving youth disconnection in our country and to dig deeper into the disparities between racial and ethnic groups. The demographic breakdown and examination of structural barriers fueling disconnection allows us to use data to determine who remains disconnected, and why, and identify promising interventions.
To identify trends more specifically around youth employment, Mathematica has developed a methodology that enables it to regularly report national youth unemployment data as well as youth unemployment data on a semi-annual basis from 25 metropolitan areas. Real time, specific data helps to make the case around the urgency of the youth unemployment challenge and track our collective impact over time.
WE ARE PIONEERING NEW FORMS OF COLLABORATIONS…
Creating unique collaborations and engaging with unexpected partners across all sectors is how we innovate.
We recognize that vulnerable populations, including veterans, experience professional isolation. According to a study by LinkedIn, this isolation drives veterans to concentrate in specific fields where other veterans are likely to be employed—defense, government, transportation—even though more than half of veterans say they want to do something new—marketing, entertainment, health, wellness, and fitness. We believe there is power in expanding access to a diverse professional network that offers mentorship and connection. Last year, through a partnership with Bunker Labs, we piloted Bunker Connect in six cities around the country, which aims to connect veterans to a networking platform through one-time or ongoing mentorship opportunities.
As we begin this new decade, we remain committed to furthering sustainable social change so that all people, regardless of circumstance, have a fair shot and the support they need to change their lives.
All of us at the foundation are honored to do the work we do and look forward to learning alongside our partners to develop a better understanding of what an equitable future looks like for the communities we serve.