John Bridgeland coined the term 'opportunity youth' in his 2012 report "Opportunity Road:the promise and challenge of America's forgotten youth". Opportunity youth refer to disconnected youth ages sixteen to twenty-four that are not in school and not working. John Bridgeland stated when talking to disconnected youth he saw "extraordinary untapped potential. ... They saw the benefits of finishing school and getting a decent job. They were extremely hopeful, notwithstanding their challenges".
Opportunity Youth are White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian. They are middle class and poor, native born and immigrants. They live in urban, suburban, and rural communities. These young people have become disconnected from traditional pathways due to personal and systemic challenges (retrieved from www.opportunitynation.org) . The process of becoming disconnected from traditional school settings occurs over time the decision is not spontaneous. Some of the factors that influence the decision to drop out of school are: https://opportunitynation.org/
When young adults are disconnected from school, job experiences, and civic engagement, the costs are high.
The Frontline video tells the stories of young people at risk of dropping out of high school. Their stories highlight the deeper personal challenges impacting disconnected youth. Youth without supports, confidence, sense of purpose, information, and guidance become part of the 5.5 million disconnected youth in America.
Opportunity youth fall into three categories:
- Young high school dropouts (aged 16 - 18)
- Older high school dropouts (aged 19 - 24)
- Youth with high school diplomas and GEDs but who are disconnected from postsecondary education and unable to gain a foothold in the workforce.
(Corcoran,M.,Hanleybrown,F., Steinberg,A. & Taliant,K, 2012)
Opportunity youth are more likely to experience
- 63 times higher incidents of correctional institutionalization than young college graduates.
(Sum,A.,Khatiwanda,I., & Palma,S., 2009)
- 48 percent likely to have their highest degree to be a high school diploma equivalent
(Lewis, K & Burd-Sharps,S., 2015)
- young women are 31 percent more likely to have a child and be a single parent
(Lewis,K. & Burd-Sharps,S.,2015)
- more likely to be public aid recipients, have poor health, low wage, and intermittent work with few benefits.
(Belfield, C.R., Levin, H.M., & Rosen, R., 2012)
Factors Associated with Youth Disconnection?
Lewis,K & Burd-Sharps, S., 2015)