In Pima County, 13 percent of youth ages 16-24 are neither working or in school. These “opportunity youth” are the focus of Tucson Youth Development (TYD), an organization formed in 1965 as part of the national war against poverty. For more than 50 years, TYD has been providing academic and professional support for youth in a myriad of ways.
With two charter schools in operation, TYD is serving about 150 youth who otherwise wouldn’t be likely to earn their high school diploma. One of the schools, ACE Charter High, specializes self-paced digital learning opportunities. A second campus focuses on preparing youth for the workforce through a blended learning model that integrates technology and computerized curriculum with direct instruction and project-based learning. Both schools serve alternative students up to age 21 and boast the low teacher/student ratio needed to ensure success.
Beyond the brick-and-mortar schools, TYD’s biggest impact comes from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) initiatives that are serving more than 500 Pima County youth annually. The programs specifically target those who aren’t in high school and are between the ages of 16 and 24. This focus on opportunity youth is working toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter to decrease the number of these youth who are neither working nor in school to 7 percent by 2030.
The WIOA programs provide workforce development specialists who are paired with youth to help them identify their interests, aptitudes and training needs. After a group orientation process, the customized process assists in identifying career interest areas and work experience opportunities. Participants are then connected to Tucson area business contacts where they can pursue the training and work experience they need. With more than 250 employers participating, there are a wide variety of opportunities.
The outcomes speak for themselves. Nearly 80 percent of the participants are successfully placed after the program. And the team follows each participant for two years to monitor progress and assist in troubleshooting potential issues. In fact, it has been so impactful that most participants find the program through word-of-mouth. Over the years, TYD has served more than 50,000 youth and helped them to find a rewarding career.
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