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Welcoming the First Cohort of Opportunity Youth Congressional Liaisons

November 3, 2021

“Wow,” my young colleague said, his voice echoing off the high marble walls in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. “I didn’t know what to expect when I came here, but now that I have done it, I realize this is what I have wanted to do my whole life: share my story with people who can make a difference.”

I live for these moments, working in partnership with Opportunity Youth United to help Opportunity Youth—young people ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to school or the workforce—meet with their elected officials. Of all the advocacy activities we do, these are the most likely to change hearts, minds, and policies, and have been the most important driver of the Reconnecting Youth Campaign’s greatest successes: securing a cumulative $195 million additional federal funding for Opportunity Youth programs over two years; securing $518 million in the COVID recovery packages; and potentially billions more in the Build Back Better Act making its way through Congress.

A Reflection on the Derek Chauvin Verdict

April 23, 2021

On April 20th, the jury returned their verdict – guilty as charged on three counts for the murder of George Floyd. Moments before the judge read the verdict, my heart was pounding, hoping for the “best”, but fearing more of the same– a country that consistently fails to hold those who murder Black bodies accountable for their crimes. And knowing that my hope for a guilty verdict – even as it was realized – does not represent justice. As Brittany Packnett Cunningham has consistently reminded, justice would be George Floyd still alive. The fact that this was not justice was amplified by the murder of another child, Ma’Khia Bryant, at the hands of police mere minutes after the verdict was read. The brokenness of our systems is breaking our children, especially Black children, and in turn our future.

Equity and Evaluation Policy: Making Good on the Biden Administration’s Commitment

The Biden Administration has taken clear steps to make racial equity a governmentwide priority. What should that look like for evaluation policy?  

 The January 20th Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government (EO) cited the urgent need to address entrenched disparities in US law and public policy, acknowledging long-standing inequities that exacerbated the converging economic, health, and climate crises. One week later, the Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (Memorandum) emphasized “the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government,” including the role of evidence-based policymaking. The direct language of racial equity, accompanied by President Biden’s January 26th remarks explicitly naming racial injustice as a nation-wide equity agenda, promises a new level of unpacking how federal government operates and engages people and communities historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.  

Personal Reflections from Karen Pittman on the First Week of 2021

January 11, 2021

When my phone's emergency alert alarm went off at 3 pm Wednesday, I knew it wasn't a weather emergency. The Mayor was shutting down the city. I assumed that the violence many of us dreaded had started. It wasn't until I finished my virtual meetings and turned on the news, however, that I saw the scope and seriousness of the events. It did not take long to process them: White nationalists had successfully breached the U.S. Capitol. I am still working to fully understand the motivations of the leaders - from elected officials to law enforcement - who fueled that rage and then let this happen. This was not a natural disaster. This was a man-made disgrace.

What I am really struggling with is how to respond to them. What can I do? What should I do?

Changing the odds for young people has never been more important