Connecting Disconnected Youth
This past June a nonpartisan organization called Measure of America issued a report entitled, "Zeroing in on Place and Race - Youth Disconnection in America's Cities." It begins, "Disconnected youth are teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven young adults (18.8 percent) - about as many people as live in Minnesota. The national disconnected youth population is larger than the populations of thirty U.S. states." It continues, "The costs of disconnection are high, both for individuals and for society." Disconnected youth are cut off from the people, institutions, and experiences that would otherwise help them develop the knowledge, skills, maturity, and sense of purpose required to live rewarding lives as adults. And the negative effects of youth disconnection ricochet across the economy, the social sector, the criminal justice system, and the political landscape, affecting all of us."
Several people sent me the link to this report because they know that I am the executive director of Spectrum Youth & Family Services, which works with this very population every day. Based in Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, we work with young men and women ages 14 to 24, and "disconnected" is an adjective that well-describes the predicament in which most find themselves.
Founded in 1970, Spectrum is recognized both locally and nationally as a nonprofit organization that works in terms of how to assist disconnected youth. When I describe Spectrum to people, I portray it as having an "open door" approach. By this I mean that young people come to us with a wide range of needs, but once they are "inside" Spectrum, they can take advantage of a multiplicity of services.
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