Roughly 7,000 16 to 24 year olds in Newark are not employed or in school. 7,000 youth face the challenge of becoming stable adults who can provide for their families, own a home and other assets, and participate in Newark’s economy. The “disconnectedness” of these youth results in devastating personal economic loss that negatively affects families, communities, the local workforce talent pool, and municipal revenues. To address this call to action, the Opportunity Youth Network was formed, a collective whose name underscores the great social and economic impact of local youth.
Comprised of the City of Newark, Newark Public Schools (NPS), Rutgers UniversityNewark and several community based organizations, OYN has the goal of disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. The OYN framework is based upon YouthBuild Newark’s (YBN’s) proven youth development principles and the evidence based practices YBN has used to serve Greater Newark opportunity youth for over 12 years. YBN’s Founding Executive Director is lead visionary.
OYN will serve as an innovator, convener, and backbone for the opportunity youth sector in Newark. The collective has developed a comprehensive strategy to ensure the broad network of programs available throughout Newark are effectively working together to reengage youth. The core goals of this strategy include:
OYN is working with six partners to expand the current offerings available to opportunity youth across the city. These organizations include: La Casa De Don Pedro, Urban League of Essex County, New Community Corporation, Rutgers TEEM Gateway, Mayor Baraka’s Street Academy and Leaders for Life. Each organization will become a full service provider for up to 50 students in both high school equivalency and workforce development programming – each with their own unique offerings. These offerings will supplement the two alternative education high schools at NPS, Newark Leadership Academy and UPLIFT Academy. In addition, Mayor Baraka’s Street Academy – a new program created to reengage disconnected youth through social-emotional learning, civic proficiency, community outreach and volunteerism – will help connect OYN staff with disengaged youth.
On Thursday, November 3rd, OYN announced the launch of the Reengagement Center (REC), a one-stop shop for disconnected youth looking for re-enrollment and transfer services. The staff there, a combination of OYN, NPS, and Newark City employees, will conduct an academic and social assessment in order to determine the best school placement for each student. REC staff will then ensure that all students are matched to a school or program that meets their academic, social-emotional and professional needs. Once placed, the REC will follow students throughout their transition to their new school or program for a period of 90 days.
OYN is addressing the critical needs of opportunity youth – defined as youth who are either two (2) or more years offtrack to graduate (severely overage and undercredited); are incarcerated; and/or are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market. OYN will serve as the intermediary for this collaboration – coordinating partners, providing backbone support and convening. In addition to supporting the improvement of programs, OYN will support the creation of a better system of service for opportunity youth.