Connecting Youth to Opportunity: Press Conference Recap

On Friday, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region in partnership with Montgomery College conducted a press conference highlighting a groundbreaking report which examines the disconnection from work and school among Black and African American youth in Montgomery County, Maryland.

image001The report, Connecting Youth to Opportunity: How Black and African American Youth Perspectives Can Inform a Blueprint for Improving Opportunity in Montgomery County, Maryland, presents the findings and implications of a study that looked at disconnection from the perspectives of 1,210 youth, ages 14 to 24, who were high school students, high school graduates, and youth who left high school before graduating.

Anna Hargrave, Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Montgomery County opened with remarks highlighting the importance of addressing the needs of young people in Montgomery County, and stated “Our first job is to listen to the youth.”

Later, Dr. LaKeesha Woods, lead researcher and writer on the report, presented key findings which identified the youths’ assets and needs, as well as the factors associated with the risk of being disconnected from school – some of which included the following survey findings:

  • Those who dropped out were more likely to have failed a subject during their last year of school, get low grade-point averages and feel sad or hopeless.
  • Dropouts were less likely to feel encouraged by their parents to do well in school or to feel their parents expected them to go to college.
  • Dropouts were more likely to be arrested at some point or placed in juvenile detention or jail; and they were more likely to be in a gang or have a sibling in a gang.
  • Only 31 percent of youths who dropped out had jobs, and nearly half of that group said their economic conditions were bad or very bad.

The press conference also featured a video with heartfelt testimonies of former Montgomery County youth who experienced disconnection during their time in school, but who have since turned their lives around and sought full-time education and employment.image005

Many County residents, educators, and supporters were in attendance including several county leaders who made remarks: County Executive Ike Leggett, Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President of Montgomery College and Community Foundation in Montgomery County Advisory Board Member, and President of the Montgomery County Board of Education, Patricia O’Neill, and Interim Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, Larry Bowers, all of whom identified the need for more to be done to achieve zero disconnected youth in Montgomery County.

image003The Community Foundation affirmed its commitment to actualize the recommendations made in the report by announcing an investment in the work of Identity, Inc. and Making a New United People to mobilize Latino and African American parents and youth and key stakeholders to work collaboratively to establish the polices, practices and programs that will guarantee every young person the support, education, and traning he or she needs to achieve lifelong success.

Click here to read The Washington Post article.