By: Amalia Chamorro
August generally marks the end of summer as students and parents, filled with a sense of excitement and expectations, get ready for the school year ahead. For many, back to school is an annual tradition of shopping for new clothes, school supplies, and getting one year closer to high school graduation.
But not all students are heading back to school this month. While high school graduation rates are rising, California’s dropout rate in 2014 was 11.6 percent, with high dropout rates among youth of color and those living in poverty.
High school dropouts earn 14 percent less than high school graduates, 23 percent less than those earning a postsecondary credential, and 36 percent less than those earning an associate degree. Furthermore, research by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds that if only one-half of students from a single year who have dropped out were to earn a diploma, the economic benefits to California would include an additional $1.4 billion in earnings annually for these pupils and an annual increase in state and local tax revenues of $167 million.
It is in California’s best interest for the future of its young residents and the state’s economy to develop a comprehensive strategy to address this challenge.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR 102), introduced in the California Legislature by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, declares August 2017 as Opportunity Youth Reengagement Month. The goal of ACR 102 is to bring awareness and attention to the estimated 700,000 youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and out of work in California.
The resolution calls for the development of a statewide strategy that brings justice and equity to opportunity youth by providing pathways to high school diplomas; community based partnerships to meet the myriad needs faced by trauma infused youth; evidence-based strategies with demonstrated outcomes; and resources to maintain the strategy.
Most importantly, the resolution honors the schools and staff who work to re-engage pupils who have previously dropped out of school and recognizes the pupils who have overcome significant personal challenges to re-engage in high school and continue to pursue education to prepare for college and careers.
In Santa Clara County, there are more than 20,000 opportunity youth. Roughly, 1 in 10 young adults are functionally locked out from the globalized knowledge economy of Silicon Valley. Opportunity Youth Partnership (OYP), a grantee of United Way Bay Area, is a collective impact initiative focused on developing education to career pathways for opportunity youth in Santa Clara County. Formed in 2013, the OYP convenes public systems, community-based organizations, education providers, elected officials, and the business community in order to better coordinate supports and resources across Santa Clara County.
Joe Herrity, Associate Director of Opportunity Youth Partnership, recently shared his experience working with opportunity youth.
“We know that despite being dealt a bad hand in the luck department, and despite being impacted by poverty, toxic stress, and biased laws and policies, opportunity youth continue to seek support and a path forward,” said Herrity. “I am determined to be a part of a system which meets that resilience with meaningful, supported, and well-built pathways to prosperity. If we do our work well, and in authentic partnership with young people, we will be blessed with some of the most experienced, competent, compassionate, and resilient human beings on the planet working and living side by side with us, and ready to lead us into the future. These young people are our best and most untapped resource.”
ACR 102 is supported by advocates including United Way Bay Area, PolicyLink, SIATech, The Education Trust-West, and California Association of Local Conservation Corps. ACR 102 unanimously passed out of the Assembly Education Committee on July 12 and is expected to be voted on the Assembly Floor on August 24.
Contact your state Assembly Member today and urge them to support ACR 102. Find your Assembly Member and contact information here.