Maine Youth Transition Collaborative one of 21 sites nationwide to receive funding from Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund
In Maine, an estimated 11.8 percent of the state’s youth ages 16 to 24 are disconnected from school and the workforce. Of the state’s high school graduates ages 18 to 24, 15 percent are not in school or working; of Maine teens who did not complete high school, 80 percent are unemployed or not in the labor force. Preparing these youth – often referred to as “opportunity youth” – with the skills, pathways, and support to succeed benefits this struggling demographic and strengthens the economic vitality of the state.
A new initiative, funded by the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions and led by the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC) at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, will bring together representatives from Maine’s educational system, child welfare system, juvenile justice system, philanthropic organizations, and private sector employers to create genuine pathways to success in education and employment for southern Maine’s opportunity youth.
The MYTC is one of 21 founding partners – and one of only a few rural sites – to receive funding from the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund (OYIF), designed to support collaboratives across the country that, according to the Aspen Institute, “harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to make substantive progress for opportunity youth.” The MYTC joins recipients from the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Detroit, among others.
“Organizations like the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative have been instrumental in creating new partnerships and opportunities for Maine’s most vulnerable youth,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), co-chair of the legislature's Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future. “The state legislature, governor’s office, community, and university system have been working together to address the obstacles that youth face in finding work or earning a degree. We are excited that Maine was selected.”
The OYIF grant, coupled with matched funding from private and public sector funders, will support expansion of the MYTC’s current work with opportunity youth. The collaborative has worked with community partners and youth leaders for more than 10 years. In that time, MYTC has experienced substantial progress in successfully engaging hundreds of Maine’s young people to improve outcomes, practices, and policies that affect some of the state’s most disconnected youth. The collaborative has worked to give youth a voice throughout all its efforts, including briefing the legislature about youth issues or designing and implementing programming to support financial, educational, and career success.
“We’re excited and honored to work with the Aspen Institute and our community partners on this initiative,” said Marty Zanghi, director of youth and community engagement programs for the Muskie School of Public Service. “We look forward to building on the foundational work of the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative to expand our collective impact in the southern Maine region and across the state to build pathways to success for Maine’s young people.”
With the OYIF grant, the collaborative will focus on those youth in Cumberland and York County transitioning into adulthood from the foster care or juvenile justice systems or homelessness. Last year, there were 1,800 youth in the custody or care of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and 2,014 youth in the juvenile justice system; as of 2009, there were an estimated 2,103 homeless youth in Maine.
“We live in a small state with trusted partners working on solvable issues,” said Andrea Paul, vice president of Neighborhood Engagement and Partnership Development at The Opportunity Alliance, a MYTC community partner. “We’re poised to make great strides in improving pathways for opportunity youth. This is an occasion for the community to support its youth and to address the issues they face. The Maine Youth Transition Collaborative has a unique opportunity to bring key players from all sectors together to enhance the lives of these young people. We’re proud to be a part of this initiative.”
The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund builds on the work and recommendations of the White House Council for Community Solutions. Based in Washington, D.C., the Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization with a mission to foster leadership and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical social issues.
For more information on the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative, visit: http://maine-ytc.org/