A group of young adults, some of whom faced the challenges of being out of school and out of work, are pushing for expansion of the kinds of youth programs that helped them move forward.
They are among the 16 members of the National Council of Young Leaders. Council members are alumni of youth-serving organizations such as Public Allies, Year Up and Youth Leadership Institute.
“We have experienced what works and doesn’t work for individuals like ourselves,” the council said in a report, "Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America."
At a congressional briefing on Oct. 3, they asked for action in six areas.
Philan Tree, a council member affiliated with The Corps Network, urged an expansion of the kinds of comprehensive programs that worked for council members. Tree, 27, is a member of the Towering Clan of the Navajo Nation and lives in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“There’s a limited access to jobs,”in the rural area she is from, she said. Young people face obstacles —they may have child care and family responsibilities, they may lack transportation —as they seek to pursue an education or get ahead in a career. Programs like the Corps Network offer job training, academic programming, leadership building and other support to young people.
Deon Jones, affiliated with Be The Change, urged an expansion in national service. Engaging kids in AmeriCorps or YouthBuildempowers them, he said, and they learn they can become the “architects”of their communities.
Ladine “J.R.”Daniels, affiliated with The Corps Network, urged reform of the criminal justice system. He said it is nearly impossible to get a job for those coming out of prison. Daniels was able to build skills and get experience through national service after he was incarcerated. He now works for the Sustainability Institute in Charleston, S.C. He is also part owner of IMSEI Weatherization Company and is an active community volunteer.
Additional recommendations were:
- Expand private internships that pay young people while providing an entry into jobs.
- Increase mentoring and put it in all programs that serve low-income youth.
- Make sure college and registered apprenticeships are attainable and affordable for low-income youth.
Origin of the council
The recommendations were first created in 2012, when the council was formed and the initial report written.
“Too many of our peers are expected to be dead or in jail before they are 25,”the report states, “and many internalize this expectation for themselves. We see evidence all around us that this is what happens in our neighborhoods when young men and women fall off track.”
Begun at the recommendation of a White House task force in 2012, the council was first funded with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. It is now funded by the Skoll Foundation.
It is sponsored by seven organizations: Jobs for the Future, National College Advising Corps, Public Allies, The Corps Network, Year Up, Youth Leadership Institute and YouthBuild USA.