Chicago Nonprofit Sees Opportunity in Youth

Apr 17, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Roughly 60,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 in Chicago are neither working nor in school. Now, a new initiative from nonprofit Thrive Chicago aims to get 10,000 of them back on track by the year 2020, according to a recent report from The Chicago Tribune. Here’s a closer look at the innovative and ambitious 10,000 Reconnected campaign.

Introducing “Opportunity Youths”

Thrive Chicago has a name for the thousands of disconnected young people it’s endeavoring to reach with 10,000 Reconnected. Dubbed “Opportunity Youths,” they fall into a “perilous situation believed to increase their risk for poverty, long-term unemployment, substance abuse and criminal behavior,” says The Tribune.

While many organizations in the city already attempt to serve this population, their efforts have so far been unsuccessful due to a shortage of resources and lack of manpower. As Thrive president and chief impact officer Sandra Abrevaya told The Tribune, “We really have to do things differently if we want to move the needle. We have to address the challenges with a unified voice.”

Getting Reconnected

Enter 10,000 Reconnected. This bold initiative brings together more than 300 people -- including everyone from educators and community leaders to executives and elected officials -- in a collective effort to reverse the trend by joining forces.

The stakes are high, reveals The Tribune: “A youth who is disconnected from school or work incurs a social burden cost of $37,000 a year, taking into account lost earnings, lower economic growth, lower tax revenues and higher government spending, according to a 2012 report by economists from Columbia University and the City University of New York. For Chicago's 60,000 opportunity youths, that works out to more than $2 billion.”

But hopes are high, as well, says Liz Dozier, who heads up a youth education and safety nonprofit. She said, "Thrive started with (collaboration) as their north star. No one entity, no matter how well-funded, can solve this alone."

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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