Convened by the Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Private Industry Council, the Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) is a group of more than 80 stakeholders who have been working together for the last five years to expand and better connect education and employment pathways available to Boston’s opportunity youth— the 7,000 young people in Boston who are 16-24 years old and are not in school or working. Over the course of its existence, the OYC has conducted research, shared data and mapped programs and pathways designed to support youth in their education and careers. Currently the Collaborative is focused on ensuring that lessons learned through our initiatives, focus groups and research over the past five years become part of the larger systems that touch Opportunity Youth (OY).
For young people ages 16-21 who are still enrolled in the Boston Public Schools system, the OYC is engaged in BPS efforts to end the school to prison pipeline. Youth and adult OYC members are active participants in two committees: BPS Attendance and Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline, which are focused on increasing student attendance by expanding whole-school approaches to both social emotional learning and school discipline.
For older OY with a high school credential, the OYC launched the Connection Center, run by X-Cel Education. It serves as a one-stop resource center that reaches out to young people, assesses their skills, challenges and interests and then refers them to postsecondary and career pathways that will lead to long- term success. Since its inception, the Connection Center has
screened close to 500 young people and connected approximately 200 with education and training programs. In December of 2017, the Connection Center co-located with Boston Career Link in a partnership that will allow both entities to provide expanded services to Opportunity Youth.
Working in collaboration with the Rennie Center, the OYC published a report on Opportunity Youth and College Success. The report compiles findings from both a literature review of best practices for supporting Opportunity Youth in postsecondary education and focus groups of local students, coaches and postsecondary leaders. Its recommendations for colleges, nonprofit partners and the state focus on increased alignment of resources and curriculum across systems, as well as coordinated support for students.
Finally the Youth Voice Project, facilitated by Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, continued to represent the voice of Boston’s young people in the Collaborative’s work by helping them to develop their own initiatives. This year the Youth Voice Project hosted five intergenerational conversations designed to spark dialogue, deeper understanding and greater collaboration between youth and adults. It will be expanding these conversations over the next several months, culminating in a publication about lessons learned by the participants during the conversations.
The Collaborative will continue to engage and elevate the profile of Opportunity Youth of Boston and scale pathways through data collection, convening activities and research.