Our Evolution from a Council to a Movement
In June 2012, the White House Council for Community Solutions issued a report on Opportunity Youth.
The report included a recommendation to form a national council of young leaders. A special grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enabled us to do just that. The National Council of Young Leaders was formed, comprising former Opportunity Youth from urban and rural communities across the country, each one nominated by a national sponsoring organization that provides education, employment, and service programs for young adults ages 16 to 24.
In August 2012, the Council came together for three days to learn from each other and define our vision. The result was a comprehensive set of Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. We presented these at the OpportunityNation Summit in September 2012. They were well received. We were invited to speak at many events over the next two years. The Opportunity Youth Network (organized by the Forum for Youth Investment) asked us to serve as their steady youth leadership group.
In 2014, the Council decided to turn the momentum for our work into a national grassroots movement that would have greater influence through its numbers, would provide leadership opportunities for large numbers of low-income young people, and would generate dynamic civic engagement locally and nationally. We named the new movement Opportunity Youth United and launched it publicly at Citizen University’s annual summit in Seattle in March 2015.
In August 2015, we successfully organized CEO Roundtables at the Chicago launch of the 100K Opportunities Initiative creating a deep conversation across age, class, and race that impressed the CEO’s with the talents of opportunity youth. The many corporations in the 100K Initiative had then committed to hiring 100,000 opportunity youth; they have now committed to one million. We continue to support their job fairs and hiring efforts in the cities they have prioritized.
In 2015 we began to organize locally through the creation of Community Action Teams, starting in Boston with Teen Empowerment as the anchor organization to test the concept. Then we spread steadily to new communities, establishing 12 CATs in 2017. There are currently 19 CATs, expanding steadily. These CATs are organizing locally and continuing to grow. (Learn more about our CATs.)
We worked with Forum for Youth Investment, YouthBuild USA, and CLASP to launch a national campaign in 2017 to generate federal investment sufficient to reconnect one million youth, consistent with our Recommendations. This campaign is growing daily. (Learn more about the Reconnecting Youth Campaign).
Opportunity Youth United is made possible due to the commitment and support of our members, staff, national Sponsoring Organizations, Community Action Team anchor organizations, partners, funders, and Tides, our host organization. Learn more: Who We Are