White House Rolls Out Summer Opportunity Plan

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From left to right top to bottom, Alec Lee, Beth A. Unverzagt, Bill Hanawalt, Laura Huerta Migus, Lauren Reilly, Olis Simmons, Victor Francisco Lopez, Riya Rahman, Chekemma J. Fulmore-Townsend

White House

From left to right, top to bottom, Alec Lee, Beth A. Unverzagt, Bill Hanawalt, Laura Huerta Migus, Lauren Reilly, Olis Simmons, Victor Francisco Lopez, Riya Rahman, Chekemma J. Fulmore-Townsend

WASHINGTON — The White House this week rolled out a multi-agency plan to help more teenagers land summer jobs.

The plan aims to give youth who lack work experience and connections to employers a leg up through public investments and partnerships with the private sector.

Summer jobs can keep teens and young adults safe and engaged at a time when school-based services are not always available and provide exposure to careers and money management skills, said the administration.

“Summer is a critical time for young people, and it can make the difference between a life in a prison cell and a career in a corner office,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president.

The “Summer Opportunity Project” includes a commitment from LinkedIn to connect small and medium businesses with young people who are seeking jobs in 72 cities, including those who are out of school and work. In addition, during the next three years, the Corporation for National and Community Service will launch a summer opportunity project through AmeriCorps that is expected to reach 20,000 people.

The project, in partnership with the National Summer Learning Association, also aims to encourage summer learning and summer meals. NSLA will create a best practices network that helps communities provide summer learning, meal and employment opportunities to children and who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals at school.

The project also includes a federal resource guide that helps local governments and nonprofits to find programs to support summer programming.

The plan builds on the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, which calls for $5.5 billion to boost employment for young people, especially those who are not in school or employed.

A 2012 report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the White House Council for Community Solutions estimated there are 6.7 million “opportunity youth,” young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school.

Researchers have said that while employment prospects have declined for all teens and youth, those with the lowest levels of education and previous experience tend to fare the worst.

Monique Rizer, executive director of Opportunity Nation, a national campaign dedicated to expanding economic mobility, said the project’s emphasis on commitments from government, non-profits and private companies is encouraging.

She said out-of-school-time organizations play a valuable role in understanding youth and connecting with opportunities.

“They know their communities best, they know these young people really well. They’re essential to this effort,” she said.

Rizer said summer opportunities are one piece of a bigger puzzle to ensure economic opportunities for youth.

“We’re looking at the long game. We’re hopeful this will be summer jobs and more — that this will be the spark that connects them to something long-term,” she said.

At a White House workshop launching the project on Friday, the administration also named nine “Champions of Change” for summer opportunities. They are:

  • Chekemma J. Fulmore-Townsend, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network
  • Bill Hanawalt, executive director of the Peace Community Center in Tacoma, Washington
  • Alec Lee, co-founder and executive director of Aim High in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Victor Francisco Lopez, founder of Learners Chess in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Laura Huerta Migus, executive director of the Association of Children's Museums in Arlington, Va.
  • Riya Rahman, a senior political science student at Baylor University who works with the Texas Hunger Initiative and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign
  • Lauren Reilly, program director at Practice Makes Perfect in New York
  • Olis Simmons, founding President and CEO of Youth UpRising,  in East Oakland, Calif.
  • Beth A. Unverzagt, director of OregonASK