Aspen Institute Funds Opportunity Youth Grants in 21 US Communities

June 28, 2013

Contact: Monique Miles
Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Deputy Director
The Aspen Institute

Aspen Institute Funds Opportunity Youth Grants in 21 US Communities
Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Launches Fund for 6.7 million Young People Cut Off from Education and Employment

Washington, DC, June 28, 2013 –– The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions announced 21 grants to founding partners for the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund in communities across the United States, supporting cross-sector collaboration to bring 6.7 million young people back into education and the workforce. The Fund (OYIF) makes a $6 million initial commitment and will award grants of up to $500,000 for collaboratives that harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to make substantive progress for opportunity youth, defined as Americans 16-24 who are disconnected from education and work. The work will begin in cities and towns across the nation from The Hopi Reservation, Arizona to rural Maine; they include Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Detroit.

“Imagine a community where K-12 and higher education leaders, foster care programs and the justice system, philanthropy and the private sector all came together to build successful pathways for our forgotten youth,” said Melody C. Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. “Today we are making 21 grants to communities that are committed to pulling together these different sectors, to create genuine second chance opportunities for our nation’s most vulnerable young adults. We applaud each and every one of these communities for tackling the challenge and building collaborations that can change the life trajectory for opportunity youth.”

Each year the overall cost to the United States from opportunity youth is over $250 billion – including lost revenue, earnings, and increased social services. In 2011 the lifetime societal cost of opportunity youth was $4.75 trillion according to research conducted by Queens College, City University of New York and Teachers College, Columbia University.

The OYIF will fund collective impact work that brings stakeholders together from all sectors of the community to improve education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth. Simultaneously, the Aspen Forum will convene roundtable discussions around the country with mayors, community leaders, philanthropies, and businesses to explore successful community collaboratives and share best practices. Learn more about the Fund and the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions at

“Once an opportunity youth myself, I am now a voice for them” said Jamiel Alexander, President of the YouthBuild USA Alumni Council, who joined Barnes in making the announcement. YouthBuild USA provides education, counseling, and job skills to unemployed youth in America. “It’s come full circle for me, first a recipient of support, now I’m obligated to give back.” Alexander is a member of the OYIF Leadership Council.

Barnes and Alexander made the announcement at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, an annual gathering of leading thinkers and policymakers to explore the values and ideas that define a good society.

The Aspen Forum has partnered with Jobs for the Future to build and support key components of the OYIF collaborative framework. The OYIF partner communities include:

Atlanta, GA | United Way of Greater Atlanta – Atlanta Ready by 21

Austin, TX | Workforce Solutions Capital Area – Austin College Access Network

Baltimore, MD | Family League of Baltimore – Success by 21 Collaborative

Boston, MA | Boston Private Industry Council and Boston Opportunity Agenda

Chicago, IL | Mayor’s Office of Education

Del Norte County, CA | Wild Rivers Community Foundation – Building Healthy Communities

Denver, CO | Rose Community Foundation

Detroit, MI | Excellent Schools Detroit

Greenville, MS | Mid-South Delta LISC – The Greenville Sustainable Communities Initiative

Hartford, CT | Capital Workforce Partners – Capital Region Education Council

Hopi, AZ | Hopi Community Foundation

Los Angeles, CA | Unite LA – LA Compact

Maine, Southern Rural | Muskie School of Public Service – Maine Youth Transition Collaborative

New Orleans, LA | Partnership for Youth Development

New York, NY | JobsFirst NYC – Bronx Opportunity Network

Oakland, CA | Urban Strategies Council

Philadelphia, PA | Philadelphia Youth Network – Project U-Turn Collaborative

San Diego, CA | San Diego Workforce Partnership

San Jose, CA | Kids in Common – The Children’s Agenda

South King County, WA | Community Center for Education Results – The Road Map Project

Tucson, AZ | United Way Tucson and Southern Arizona – Youth Development Coalition

Video of the announcement by Ms. Barnes and Mr. Alexander is on YouTube at Follow and @AspenFCS on Twitter to stay up to date.

Support for the Aspen Forum and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund is made possible by contributions from the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Bloomberg Philanthropies; California Endowment; Carnegie Corporation; Casey Family Programs; Ford Foundation; Greater Texas Foundation; Helios Education Foundation; Hewlett Foundation; Hilton Foundation; James Irvine Foundation; John S. & James L. Knight Foundation; Joyce Foundation; Marguerite Casey Foundation; Nancy & Miles Rubin; Nellie Mae Education Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund builds on the work and recommendations of the White House Council for Community Solutions. The Forum is chaired by Melody C. Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and run by Executive Director Steve Patrick. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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