Providing equal access to opportunity for all Americans is among the defining issues of our time. We here at Eagle Rock believe one of the most direct and powerful ways to accomplish this is to dramatically improve education and employment prospects for teens and young adults.
With that in mind, one of the things we’re excited about and supportive of, is the Opportunity Nation Plan that is focused on restoring opportunity for young people across the United States.
For the last three years, Opportunity Nation — a bipartisan, cross-sector,
national campaign to expand economic mobility and restore the American Dream — and its partners have been working to correct the fact that today, our nation’s youngsters face enormous levels of unemployment and disconnect. In late February, staff from Eagle Rock and nearly 300 other organizations joined arms at the National Opportunity Summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss these and other important issues.
A day prior to the summit, we met with a staff member of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) and U.S. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) to talk about how Eagle Rock is moving the Opportunity Nation Plan forward. We also met with U.S. House of Representatives member Jared Polis (D, Colo.), who’s previously visited Eagle Rock and is a fan of our work.
We pointed out to our members of Congress that in order to reach the objective of a national 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020, the focus has to be on dropout prevention and the re-engagement of recent dropouts and over-aged and under-credited students.
On that note, the current draft of the Opportunity Nation Plan seeks to create an alternative accountability system for non-traditional high school students and programs, and improve and expand credit recovery programs. Examples of work in this area include: flexible schedules; a reduction in seat time barriers through adaptive models; and, increased work-based learning time and competency/mastery-based credit award.
Opportunity Nation Coalition partners like Eagle Rock all have one common goal: to enhance opportunities for youth and families by strengthening pathways to upward mobility and building strong communities.
Businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and community organizations are all represented in our 300-plus-entity coalition. As a result, we all support the notion that all Americans should have access to opportunity.
In other words, where you start off in life should not determine where you end up. And when young adults do well, communities at large do well. Not every partner endorses all phases of this commitment, but we are all joined in the push for an inclusive, consensus-oriented dialogue and the idea that all of us have a role to play in expanding access to the American Dream.
Each year, Opportunity Nation releases its annual Opportunity Index, a composite measure of 16 key economic, educational and civic factors that expand or restrict upward mobility for Americans, and provides and Opportunity Score for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and 2,900 counties. One of the indicators that correlate most closely with overall opportunity is the number of young Americans ages 16 through 24 who are not in school or are not working. When young adults are connected to school and work, communities are more likely to provide greater opportunity to their residents.
Currently, there are 5.6 million American youth who are disconnected from school and work and millions more who lack meaningful pathways to education and career. At twice the national average, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high.
Last month’s National Opportunity Summit sparked a wave of commitments from public, private and nonprofit sectors and youth advocates that will propel our shared call to action — We Got This — for months to come.
Here are a few highlights from the third summit:
Activating Communities: More than three dozen nonprofit, government and philanthropic leaders whose programs operate in 100 cities across the country have pledged to collaborate more closely to make a greater impact and create stronger educational and career pathways for youth.
Youth-led Actions: 100 Opportunity Leaders have pledged to promote, initiate and expand activities where they live that support the pillars of We Got This: Hire, Train, Graduate, Mentor and Revive.
Bipartisan Initiatives: There will be opportunities for all of us to support smart policies and programs that benefit young Americans, including the LEAP Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to increase apprenticeships through a new federal tax credit for employers.
Curious to learn more? Visit OpportunityNation.org.