Miami Youth Hiring Days | Miami, FL

 

Every new year presents an opportunity for honest reflection. As the foundation transitions into a new decade, it’s important for us to understand where we’ve been, what we’ve learned, and how we can go forward, especially in the context of today’s realities.

It’s easy to assume that the country’s low unemployment rate and high job growth mean we’re living 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—and disproportionately youth of color—continue to fall through the cracks, unable to access, secure, or retain meaningful jobs. Junior enlisted service members and their families struggle as they transition from military to civilian life. And one in 10 young adults ages 18-25 experience some form of homelessness over the course of a year. While the economic data points to widespread well-being, the reality is a growing disparity that continues to penalize young people based on their background and circumstances.

This is unacceptable, which is why we continue to explore how we, as a family foundation, can have the greatest impact on young people’s lives and livelihoods.

As our foundation has grappled with these tough issues, two core tenets have emerged:

  1. Inequality of opportunity is one of the biggest issues of our times; and
  2. Young people are our country’s greatest untapped assets, and there is no better investment into 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.

Spending time with young people who are in the midst of realizing their potential is an extraordinary experience. To see a flash of joy in someone’s eyes, or to witness a timid but proud smile always moves my heart. I recently had the privilege of experiencing such special moments at a celebration for YouthBuild. The event brought together teenagers who were just beginning their journeys to graduate high school or learn a new trade, recent high school and college graduates who were starting jobs, and older men and women who were forging their own paths to financial stability and were eager to give back to YouthBuild as mentors. Witnessing multiple generations begin to realize their potential—by reaching out for support and by providing it—was a powerful testament to the immeasurable determination of America’s youth.

YouthBuild 40th Celebration | New York City, NY

Over the years, we have learned that dreams are made possible, in part, by support received during critical transitional moments in a young person’s life. It is during these unstructured “in between” times—between high school and college, between military service and civilian life, searching for a first job, or seeking stable housing—that people either move forward or lose momentum. Through our work, we have learned how hard “in between” moments can be, which is why we focus on ensuring all young people have opportunities for development and growth and the supports they need to take advantage of them by:

  • Fueling innovative upstream efforts to help young people avoid hard times in the first place;
  • Using data to drive continuous improvement in our work, and sharing our learnings; and
  • Pioneering new forms of collaboration, and engaging unexpected partners across all sectors.

Bunker Connect event | Chicago, IL

Everyone has a story—every young person, every veteran, all of us. At the Schultz Family Foundation, our story is unfolding as we develop a better understanding of what an equitable future looks like for all. As we begin this new decade, our foundation remains 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.

Howard and I remain honored to do the work we do, and all of us at the foundation look forward to continuing to ask the hard questions, even in times of discomfort, and to learning alongside our partners to better support the people we serve. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

With gratitude and optimism,Sheri Schultz
president and co-founder
Schultz Family Foundation

 

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