Opportunity Youth

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/



Scenario I
  • Boredom, did not feel challenged by courses
  • Had life circumstances that did not align with traditional school requirements
  • Pregnant or parenting student
  • Caring for family members
  • Working to assist family


Scenario II
  • Fell behind with credits and did not believe could catch up
  • Moved around to several schools and unable to reintegrate
  • Never felt connected to anyone at school
  • Could not identify a connection between daily life and coursework


Scenario III
  • School environment felt unsafe
  • Student peer group not attending
  • Parents were not involved with children's education
  • Student is homeless or runaway
  • Student has difficulty with traditional education methods


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:

Opportunity youth are more likely to experience

Factors Associated with Youth Disconnection?
  • Disconnected neighborhoods where being out of school and work is persistent and commonplace, results in becoming the norm for young people.
  • Low human development- human development being about improving people's well being and expanding their choices and opportunities (based on indicators of health, school, and income).
  • High poverty neighborhoods, one in five youth are disconnected.
  • Parents who struggle with weak attachment to the labor market are less able to help their children.
  • Low levels of adult educational attainment is linked to youth school attachment.
  • Racial segregation- a complex combination of factors related to both race and place contributes to youth disconnection.

Lewis,K & Burd-Sharps, S., 2015)