Youth-initiatives : learn to earn

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Southern New Hampshire University
In early 2001, the Citizens League Board of Directors established a committee to examine the alarmingly low high school graduation rate of students in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul school systems. The report, A Failing Grade for School Completion, "We Must Increase School Completion in Minneapolis and Saint Paul" states: Statewide school completion rates remain high in Minnesota; however our core cities continue to lose an unacceptable proportion of students, especially students of color, before graduation. People without a high school education are unlikely to earn a family living wage. An economy short on labor cannot afford to leave anyone behind. The youth that disappear from our schools can show up in the criminal justice and social service systems (Chadwick & Wray, 2001). A follow-up report discovered Minnesota has an increasing percentage of minority and low income students with inadequate or uneven educational achievement in high school. Over 30 percent of high school graduates needed remedial classes to begin post-secondary education and in the past ten years, the percentage of higher education graduates has dropped by 7 percent (Citizens League, 2004). How can this be occurring in a state where almost 90 percent of the population is a high school graduate (U S Census Bureau 2000)? Why are we failing our inner-city minority and immigrant students, who represent a rapidly growing portion of the population? Why are thirty-four percent of Minneapolis youth not graduating from high school in four years? Why are 37 to 70 percent of the students who do graduate, taking remedial college classes (McKinsey & Company, Inc, 2007, p. 4)? Apparently, Minneapolis is not the only city or state facing this dilemma. In 2005, nearly 20 percent of Black Americans, 18 years and older had not completed high school, compared to 11 percent of White youth, ages 18 years and older (U. S. Census Bureau, 2005). Why is a rich nation, such as ours, failing this generation of low-income, minority and immigrant kids? In the Twin Cities, hundreds and maybe thousands of organizations--foundations, governments, schools, faith-based organizations, non-profit and for-profit groups--are working to reverse this trend. My Master's Project contributed to this larger effort. It built upon the notion that knowledge is power by supplying a critical and often missing component of power, information. More specifically, I conducted a survey that found that many people were unaware of the Minneapolis Teen Job Fair, already in its third year; and I did other research that revealed that most households and even some city staff were unaware of several key summer youth education and employment opportunities. This led me to assist selected Minneapolis nonprofits working with teens by providing them with summer youth employment information. (Author abstract)