Aspen, Colorado — Newark was recently added to the list of Aspen Institutes’ Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) communities. As a newly designated OYF city, a team of Newark leaders is convening at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado to create solutions and strategies centered on career readiness and workforce training throughout Newark. 

“As the founder of YouthBuild Newark, we have been laying the groundwork for this citywide strategy with our partners for more than 15 years. This is an exciting time to see Newark’s efforts be recognized on a national stage and become a part of such a preeminent learning community,” said Robert Clark, Chief Executive Officer of the Newark Opportunity Youth Network.

The Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum was launched in 2012 as a community-based, collaborative, solution initiative to reconnect 6.7 million disconnected opportunity youth to school or employment. The OYF network includes more than two dozen communities from Seattle to Atlanta to Southern Maine to San Francisco, all seeking education and employment pathways for opportunity youth. 

As an OYF community, a coalition of leaders is tasked with creating community-wide opportunities for their respective communities.The Newark delegation has selected workforce training as its central focus. Organizations across Newark independently conduct research on workforce training and job readiness, however, the systems aren’t always in communication or collaboration. With the help of Aspen, leaders from across the city are tasked to create more systems alignment, including adopting quality standards for youth workforce development; creating pathways for career exploration through internships and apprenticeships; and addressing wraparound support needs for youth as they transition into the world of work. With a city-wide strategy, Newark leaders hope to create a system that shares information across local networks in order to mobilize the community on a unifying accord. 

The Newark delegation includes three OYN staffers — Robert Clark, Chief Executive Officer; Jasmine Joseph-Forman, OYN Director of Network Services; and Khaatim Sherrer El, OYN/MBK Director of Policy and Advocacy – alongside Marsha Armstrong, Director of Youth Services at the Newark Workforce Development Board; Stephen Hernandez of the Newark Alliance; Kevin Callaghan, Newark’s philanthropic liaison; and Mateus Baptista, Deputy Director for Strategy & External Affairs at the Panasonic Foundation.

“We look forward to bringing together leaders from backbone organizations and their collaborative partners, including youth leaders and those representing school systems, institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, foundations, the private sector, and government,” said Melody C. Barnes, chair for the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. “Once again, we are excited to welcome new communities into the OYF, increasing representation from rural and tribal communities while also expanding the geographic footprint of OYF to new urban locales.”

United Airlines, with its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, awarded a generous grant for travel vouchers to the Newark Opportunity Youth Network that will be used to cover the costs of the delegation’s airfare.


About Opportunity Youth Network

Opportunity Youth Network (OYN) is a community-based organization that aims to improve outcomes for 16- to 24-year-olds who are disengaged from traditional schools and employment. Established in 2016, OYN provides alternative education programs, on-the-job training, and a support system for opportunity youth in Newark, a population of approximately 7,000 individuals. Together with its network of national and local partners, OYN also advocates for policy and legislation that creates pathways for underserved young people to reach their full potential.