Momentum mounting to invigorate Valley's disconnected youth
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Momentum mounting to invigorate Valley’s disconnected youth

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  • Laurie King/Maricopa County Education Service Agency

Finding Ways To Reconnect Disconnected Youth

An event last week connected hundreds of people committed to developing strategies and actions to transform Maricopa County by engaging those youth not in school or a job.

Re-engaging Disconnected Youth Summit II last Wednesday, Oct. 15, brought together more than two hundred people invested in making disconnected or “opportunity” youth a priority, including Maricopa County Superintendent of School Dr. Don Covey, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, local youth agency leaders and others.

Momentum mounting to invigorate Valley's disconnected youth DisconnectedYouth2The morning included a roundtable discussion led by Dr. Paul Koehler of West Ed about the economic impact of dropouts and disconnected youth.

“There is a collective economic devastation on our community if we don’t get our hearts and minds and public policies around this issue,” Stanton said.

“The work that’s being discussed here today, the planning that’s being done, bringing together the best minds on this issue, it’s really important work, not just for the young people that will have better opportunities in their lives and careers as a result, but also for the long-term economic impact on our community,” he continued. “This is a very, very important issue.”

Four youths currently working with Maricopa County Education Service Agency’s juvenile transitions department also spoke at the summit about their experiences with addiction, getting along with parents, spending time behind bars and their struggles to stay in school.

After hearing overviews of multiple agencies from within the state and across the country during the morning, attendees divided into four breakout groups: re-engagement centers, educational momentum, career connections, and positive youth development. During the afternoon, each group heard directly from multiple agency leaders related to their topics and discussed ways to implement strategies in their own communities.

“Here’s the secret: it’s not easy,” Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, president and CEO of Philadelphia Youth Network told the assembled group. When looking at Phoenix-area data, “You could choose to be motivated by that data or you could chose to be defeated.”

Summit attendees are choosing to be motivated and take on the work of re-engaging these youths.

Speaking at the event Covey said, “The good news is, we have great leadership and we are starting to learn from others what we can do to overcome this challenge.”

Those four breakout groups of people will meet between now and the third Disconnected Youth Summit, Feb. 12, 2015, to continue developing a comprehensive plan to re-engage disconnected youth in Maricopa County.

The Maricopa County Education Service Agency and its staff of expert practitioners and service-oriented professionals are dedicated to ensuring that the more than 700,000 school-age children in the county graduate college- and career-ready by building alliance partnerships to provide leadership, services and programs in the areas of Educational Innovation, Economic Management and Executive Leadership. Under the direction of the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, the agency is also statutorily responsible for approximately 160 mandates related to education in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county and home to 63 percent of all school-age children in Arizona.