Building Local: Lessons from Massachusetts Communities on Reengaging Opportunity Youth

July 2019

In the United States, one in nine young people is neither in school nor working. That’s 4.5 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. This population, known as Opportunity Youth (OY), is disconnected in a way that can lead to lower lifetime earnings and a higher likelihood of social isolation.

While this is a national challenge, innovative solutions often come from local organizations working in their communities in partnership with schools, government offices, and employers. OY are, by definition, disconnected from major public and private institutions, often turning to smaller community providers for assistance with navigating systems and accessing resources. With so many independent components, it can be difficult for local leaders in the OY field and beyond to know how to begin building a more aligned system of supports.

With generous support from the Clipper Ship Foundation, we created this blueprint to serve as a starting point for communities looking to address the needs of OY. In seeking to move toward a more streamlined and effective model for serving OY, this guide focuses on three phases:

  • Prevention: Keeping students on track to achieve postsecondary success, including efforts to encourage high school completion, a smooth transition to college, and a connection to a career offering a family-sustaining wage.
  • Intervention: Helping young people already disconnected from public systems and the workplace access and participate in education- or career-focused resources and opportunities, which may vary widely.
  • Retention: Ensuring that youth persist once they forge a connection with an intervening program or institution and are able to confront any obstacles on the way to (and through) a college or career pathway.

This report highlights programs supporting Opportunity Youth in communities across the Commonwealth. It also provides a framework that city leaders interested in bolstering supports for OY can use to evaluate and improve services.

Report Year