A Guide to Reconnecting Boys and Young Men of Color to Education and Employment

This playbook highlights promising practices, strategies and resources to help communities support 16 to 24 year old boys and young men of color who are neither in school nor employed. Such young people — commonly referred to as “opportunity youth” or “disconnected youth” — have distinct talents and needs, and require dedicated strategies above and beyond those targeted at boys and young men of color more generally. There are more than 1.5 million disconnected young men of color in the United States. And while overall rates of disconnection are likely to go down as the country continues to recover from the economic recession, history suggests that disconnected young men of color may never fully recover.

Research has found that young men of color are disproportionately likely to be disconnected from school and work. The disparities are driven by the interplay of gender, race and inequities among the communities in which boys and young men of color grow up. Boys and young men of color are resilient but as leaders we have to do more than hope that disconnected boys and young men of color “make it” despite the adversities they are up against.

The Opportunity Youth Network developed this playbook to help communities take action to reconnect disconnected boys and young men of color. The toolkit begins with a set of cross-cutting strategies and then is organized by the six critical milestones enshrined by the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge: entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing postsecondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and reducing violence and providing a second chance. Each section includes an overview, strategies for taking action, and links to key organizations and resources.

This playbook highlights promising practices, strategies, and resources to help My Brother’s Keeper communities support boys and young men of color who are 16 to 24 years old and are neither in school nor employed. Such young people — commonly referred to as “opportunity youth” or “disconnected youth” — have distinct talents and needs, and require dedicated strategies beyond those targeted to boys and young men of color more generally.

PLAYBOOK SECTIONS

The playbook is organized by the six critical milestones enshrined by the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge. Additionally, this playbook includes a section that outlines Strategies and Resources that Span the Milestones.

SECTION A: STRATEGIES THAT SPAN THE MILESTONES

SECTION B: PREVENTING INTERGENERATIONAL DISCONNECTION BY ENSURING BOYS OF COLOR ENTER SCHOOL READY TO LEARN AND READ AT GRADE LEVEL BY THE THIRD GRADE

Milestone 1: Entering School Ready to Learn

All children should have a healthy start and enter school ready – cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally.

Milestone 2: Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade

All children should be reading at grade level by age 8 – the age at which reading to learn becomes essential.

SECTION C: ENSURING DISCONNECTED YOUNG MEN OF COLOR GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL READY FOR COLLEGE AND CAREER

Milestone 3: Graduating from High School Ready for College and Career

Every American child should have the option to attend postsecondary education and receive the education and training needed for quality jobs of today and tomorrow.

SECTION D: ENSURING DISCONNECTED YOUNG MEN OF COLOR COMPLETE
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION OR TRAINING

Milestone 4: Completing Postsecondary Education or Training

All Americans should receive the education and training needed for quality jobs of today and tomorrow.

SECTION E: ENSURING DISCONNECTED YOUNG MEN OF COLOR SUCCESSFULLY ENTER THE WORKFORCE

Milestone 5: Successfully Entering the Workforce

Anyone who wants a job should be able to get one that allows them to support themselves and their families.

SECTION F: REDUCING VIOLENCE AND PROVIDING A SECOND CHANCE FOR
DISCONNECTED BOYS AND YOUNG MEN OF COLOR

Milestone 6: Reducing Violence and Providing a Second Chance

All children should be safe from violent crime. And individuals who are confined should receive the education, training and treatment they need for a second chance.

TYPES OF CONTENT CONTAINED IN THE PLAYBOOK

Within each section, you will find:

Overview // An introduction to the topic and relevant research.

Strategies for Action // Concrete steps to help boys and young men of color reconnect to education and employment pathways. Includes detailed hyperlinks to allow you to learn more about each type of action.

Field Favorites // Excerpts from some of the most influential publications in the field.

Spotlights // Leading examples of places that are already implementing one or more strategies for action effectively.

Voices // Quotes from young people sharing their lived experience.

ACRONYMS USED IN THE PLAYBOOK

BMOC // boys and men of color

BYMOC // boys and young men of color

KEY TERMS CONTAINED IN THE PLAYBOOK

Disconnected Youth or Opportunity Youth

“Disconnected youth” was popularized by Douglas Besharov and others around the turn of the century, as a more accurate and less pejorative term than “idle youth.” “Opportunity youth” was first widely used by John Bridgeland in 2012 as a more positive and optimistic way to refer to these young people, since they “represent enormous untapped potential for our society.”

In general, we prefer the term opportunity youth. At times, however, when using the term opportunity youth leads to an awkward sentence structure, we may use disconnected youth instead. Throughout this playbook we use the terms “disconnected youth” and “opportunity youth” interchangeably.

For simplicity, we generally define and measure this population in the manner employed by Measure of America. Their methodology defines this population as “people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working.” Young people in this age range who are working, who attend school part-time, or who are in the military are not considered to be disconnected. Youth who are actively looking for work are considered to be disconnected. Not being in school means that a young person has not attended any educational institution and has not been home-schooled at any time in the three months before the survey date. Not working means that a young person is either unemployed or not in the labor force at the time they responded to the survey.” When we use these terms in this playbook, we are generally not referring to high school and college graduates living with affluent parents, even though they are not filtered out using Measure of America’s methodology.

Disconnected Boys and Young Men of Color

Disconnected boys and young men of color are defined as the intersection of two populations: opportunity youth and boys and young men of color:

• Males
• Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and/or Native American
• 16-24 years old
• Neither in school nor employed

Since saying “opportunity youth boys and young men of color” is awkward, in this report we often use the phrase “disconnected boys and young men of color” instead.

THE PLAYBOOK COMPANION

Because no single document can do justice to the full range of extraordinary organizations and publications in the field, we created the online Playbook Companion which provides additional links to key organizations and resources. You can access both the playbook and the Playbook Companion at forumfyi.org/OYN_MBK_Toolkit.

Accordion Sample Description

Accordion Sample Description

Section A: Strategies That Span the Milestones

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Section B: Preventing Intergenerational Disconnection by Ensuring Boys of Color Enter School Ready to Learn and Read at Grade Level by the Third Grade

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Section C: Ensuring Disconnected Young Men of Color Graduate High School Ready for College and Career

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Section D: Ensuring Disconnected Young Men of Color Complete Postsecondary Education or Training

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Section E: Ensuring Disconnected Young Men of Color Successfully Enter the Workforce

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Changing the odds for young people has never been more important