Celebrating the Launch of DC’s ReEngagement Center

Community Foundation staff joined representatives of DC government and the local nonprofit community Monday, October 20th to celebrate the launch of the DC ReEngagement Center, or “REC.” A new initiative of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) supported by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education and the DC Department of Employment Services, the REC will address the needs of “disconnected” youth, i.e., young people ages 16-24, who are not employed, not currently enrolled in school, and have not yet earned a high school diploma or GED.

From left to right, Jesús Aguirre, State Superintendent of Education; DC Councilmember David Grosso; Henry Douglas; DC Mayor Vincent Gray; DOES Interim Director Tom Luparello; and Director of the DC ReEngagement Center, Ja’Sent Brown.

From left to right, Jesús Aguirre, State Superintendent of Education; DC Councilmember David Grosso; Henry Douglas; DC Mayor Vincent Gray; DOES Interim Director Tom Luparello; and Director of the DC ReEngagement Center, Ja’Sent Brown.

Currently there are an estimated 7,500 disconnected youth in the District of Columbia, with over 40% living in Wards 7 and 8 and 60% eligible to receive financial assistance. Individuals who do not have a high school diploma earn, on average, $10,000/year less than someone with a diploma and around $30,000/year less than someone with a bachelor’s degree. “We cannot afford, financially and morally, to lose our young people and they cannot afford to have us give up on them,” said Mayor Gray. “Part of ensuring that young people have multiple paths to graduation is to build stronger stairways and routes that will help them reconnect with an educational path that will prepare them for successful adulthood – and this is exactly what the youth re-engagement center aims to accomplish.”

The REC will help youth identify goals, enroll in education, and connect to different support services, including at least one year of follow-up. “Graduating from high school or earning the GED is one of the first and most important steps on the path to meaningful employment and it’s critical that our workforce and education systems are coordinated, streamlined, and intentional in its reach to support the educational and workforce needs of District residents,” stated Director Luparello. “The DC Youth Re-Engagement Center is a shining example of this kind of coordination in action.” The Center will work with individuals to remove all barriers preventing them from furthering their education goals, including transportation, employment, and childcare.

The grand opening ceremony included a featured speaker, Henry Douglas. Mr. Douglas arrived at the REC looking for assistance nearly a month ago as the staff were still unpacking their boxes. At 19, he was roaming the city unemployed, without a degree or housing. Staff took time away from setting up the office to assist him and he’s now employed and getting ready to start school at Ballou STAY. “After my meetings with the ReEngagement Center, success came from every direction,” he told the crowd.

Through Raise DC, the Community Foundation, our grantees, and other community partners have all had an opportunity to provide input on the design of the REC and its soon-to-be-launched companion, a second, “virtual” re-engagement center. Raise DC is a public/private partnership formed to promote a culture shift from competition over District resources to collaboration, in providing every youth with opportunities to succeed from cradle to career. The Community Foundation serves as the anchor institution for the Raise DC initiative.

To support the Community Foundation’s efforts to assist disconnected youth throughout the region, please visit the Community Leadership section of our website to learn more about our work and consider making a gift to The Fund for Greater Washington today.