past event
Community Development

Creating Entrepreneurship Pathways for Opportunity Youth

About this Event

As opportunity youth – the 4.6 million young people ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working – continue to struggle to connect to the economy, entrepreneurship programs may offer a chance to learn the skills and mindset needed to thrive in today’s economy. How do we create entrepreneurship programs tailored to the strengths and the circumstances of opportunity youth?

Through the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund (YEF), three communities across the country have launched programs to explore entrepreneurship as a pathway to economic self-determination and wealth-building in low-income communities. The programs take a collaborative approach that brings together entrepreneurship education with wraparound supports and additional services from partners that facilitate access to key elements of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in these communities – including mentorship, business pitch competitions and seed funding, accelerators and incubators, hands-on workplace experience, and internships.

This event will feature two panels, one with leaders from the programs and a second with young adult entrepreneurs from these communities. The conversations will explore emerging learnings from the YEF implementation, including strategies for adapting entrepreneurship curriculum to the unique strengths and needs of opportunity youth; how projects were designed with an equity lens; and strategies for engaging youth voice in the design and implementation of the collaboratives.

Learn more about the work of YEF by reading our paper, Creating Entrepreneurship Pathways for Opportunity Youth: Early Experiences from the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund Grantees, co-written by AIFCS and BOI:

Read the Paper
Employment and Jobs
Creating Entrepreneurship Pathways for Opportunity Youth: Early Experiences from the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund Grantees
January 29, 2019 • Joyce Klein & 1 more


About the Opportunity Youth Forum

Through the Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF), the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions works with a network of over two dozen urban, rural, and tribal communities seeking to reconnect opportunity youth to pathways to education, family-sustaining careers, and successful adulthood.

Communities in the OYF network are bringing together multiple stakeholders and system leaders – including those from schools, community-based programs, postsecondary institutions, employers, government agencies, and, importantly, youth themselves – to remove barriers and improve systems that serve opportunity youth.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Fund (YEF) was launched in 2017 as a response to interest expressed by OYF communities and youth leaders to explore entrepreneurship as a pathway to economic self-determination and wealth-building in low-income communities. There are now entrepreneurship initiatives in three OYF communities: Del Norte County and Tribal Lands, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and San Francisco, California. The Forum for Community Solutions has partnered with the Aspen Institute Business Ownership Initiative to document and disseminate learnings from YEF.



Join the conversation on Twitter by following @AspenFCS and @Aspen_BOI and tweeting with the hashtag #OpportunityYouth.

As #opportunityyouth struggle to connect to the economy, entrepreneurship may offer them a chance to thrive.

How do we create entrepreneurship programs tailored to the strengths and circumstances of #opportunityyouth?

Through the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund, three communities explored entrepreneurship as a pathway to prosperity in low-income communities.



Joyce Klein

Joyce Klein
Director, Business Ownership Initiative, Economic Opportunities Program

Joyce Klein is the director of the Business Ownership Initiative at the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, which works to expand economic opportunity through business ownership. Joyce assumed the leadership of BOI in 2012, after working as a senior consultant since the program’s inception in 1998. She is recognized as a leading expert on the field, speaking at national and regional industry conferences and being quoted in a variety of news media including The New York Times and National Public Radio’s Marketplace. Joyce has more than 20 years of experience studying and supporting microenterprise and entrepreneurial development programs in the United States, and has authored or co-authored numerous publications, including funder brief and strategy guides, evaluation and research reports, case studies and policy briefs. She has also designed and managed grant programs aimed at supporting innovation in the practice of microenterprise development in the United States.

Under Joyce’s leadership, BOI has launched the Microfinance Impact Collaborative, helped to create the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights and the Responsible Business Lending Coalition, and launched new research into the role of platforms and networks in expanding the scale and impact of the US microenterprise field. BOI has also expanded its work in examining the potential role of business ownership and the microenterprise field in addressing the challenges of financial inclusion, the racial wealth gap, and career development for youth.

Joyce also has worked as a consultant in the microenterprise field, providing assistance to clients including the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund of the US Department of the Treasury, and Prosperity Now.

Yelena Nimoy

Yelena Nemoy
Senior Program Manager, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions

Yelena Nemoy is the Senior Program Manager for the Opportunity Youth Forum at the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Prior to joining AIFCS, Yelena was the project manager at the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC), overseeing NYEC’s expanding education options work with a focus on issues of policy and practice that promote quality secondary and postsecondary education and training options leading to living wage careers. Yelena began her career in youth services by providing crisis intervention support and transitional living case management to homeless and marginally housed youth at Urban Peak Denver and, later, by providing dropout prevention and workforce readiness services to Denver Public Schools students at the Goodwill Industries of Denver.



Ruth Barajas-Cardona
Ruth Barajas-Cardona
Director of Workforce, Education and Reentry Services, Bay Area Community Resources

Ruth Barajas is the Director of Workforce, Education and Reentry for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR). Ms. Barajas, a former opportunity youth, brings over 20 years of experience as a collaborative leader, program planner and systems thinker. Barajas is strongly committed to promoting youth leadership and passionate about helping young people avoid violence, gain skills, build confidence, reach economic self-sufficiency and stay alive and free. Ms. Barajas hold a degree in sociology and urban education from Mills College and also serves on the board of the National Youth Employment Coalition.

Michelle Carillo

Michelle Carrillo
Initiative Director, Building Healthy Communities, Del Norte and Tribal Lands, Wild Rivers Community Foundation

Michelle Carrillo learned to navigate many perspectives and worldviews coming from a family of Dutch immigrants, Chicanos, and Native Americans growing up in a remote coastal town on the border of Oregon and California. She has dedicated her academic and professional career to fostering unity and collaboration across the Wild Rivers Coastal Region. Carrillo spent five years working for Oregon State University’s School of Public Health in the field of youth development where she helped start the first ever surfing and outdoor stewardship camp in the nation with the 4-H youth program. She has over 10 years of experience in prevention, grant writing, fund development, systems and policy change, storytelling, and facilitation.

Dornella Harvey

Dornella Harvey
Project Manager, Year-Round, Philadelphia Youth Network

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Dornella Harvey has always had a passion for helping others. As the project manager, year-round programs at the Philadelphia Youth Network, Harvey continuously works to help create opportunities for youth within the city. Harvey manages the year-round programs where she provides programmatic assistance to ensure programs are successful and hopes to help other young people find their path in life. Harvey graduated from Temple University, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Harvey still lives in the city of Philadelphia and enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Mali Linton

Mali Linton
Young Adult Entrepreneur, Bay Area Community Resources

Mali Linton, also known as SIRE, is an artist/creator of Royal Soul Apparel, and R$Productions. She got the name SIRE from the belief that if she wanted anything to happen for herself, she was the one who would have to make that happen. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she has always been fascinated with songwriting since the age of six. In 2010, SIRE formed her first music group called “KZLE” short for “KidzLife”. In 2015, Sire and her head videographer/co-founder Jess Tarantino brought together a group of five talented Bay Area artists, engineers, and producers to form “Royal Souls”, which in 2018 became SIRE’s urban apparel brand in San Francisco. Aside from working to build her brand, SIRE trains other aspiring youth entrepreneurs. Currently, SIRE is leading a cohort of youth entrepreneurs through a summer internship program that combines over 80 hours of training with another 80 hours of work experience through which youth learn to build their business, their skills and their social capital.


About the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions

The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions promotes collaborative, community-based efforts that build the power and influence of those with the least access to opportunity, and support communities to come together to expand mobility, eliminate systemic barriers, and create their own solutions to their most pressing challenges.

Launched in 2012 at the Aspen Institute, the Forum for Community Solutions envisions a future where communities create their own vibrant and lasting solutions to the social and economic problems that they face. The Forum for Community Solutions believes that if communities have more power to lead change, we will create a more just and equitable society. Learn more at


About the Business Ownership Initiative at the Aspen Institute

The Business Ownership Initiative works to build understanding and strengthen the role of business ownership as an economic opportunity strategy. We work closely with micro- and small business practitioners and the institutions that invest in them around the US to build knowledge and strengthen practice by exploring innovation, conducting research, evaluating new ideas, and supporting leaders. The initiative houses EOP’s longstanding work to support the US microenterprise and small business development industry. BOI also serves as a resource to donors and investors interested in microenterprise in the United States. BOI is an initiative of the Economic Opportunities Program. Learn more at

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice. For over 25 years, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. For more information, visit

Event information
Thu Jul 25, 2019
11:30am - 2:00pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
2300 N Street NW, Suite 700
Washington DC 20037