Don't Let At-Risk Youth Slip between the Cracks

By Pletan-Cross, Punky | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, February 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Don't Let At-Risk Youth Slip between the Cracks


Pletan-Cross, Punky, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


The past year has seen nonprofit organizations weathering sea changes in the way the government and the community look at social services, particularly for teens and young adults.

As social service provid-ers, we are facing new realities that demand new solu- tions for our clients -- ones that we believe will help them get a toehold on a good life. These are rooted in our understanding of what works best with young people, what resources are still available, and what the community will stand behind.

When everything is changing in the community, from expectations to funding, it is important for organizations like Hale Kipa to find ways of adapting so our youth get the help they need. For us, that adaptation has taken a greater focus on academic and vocational education, so our youth can benefit from the skills we teach them and be sent off into adulthood on a healthier trajectory.

In 2013, Hale Kipa will be expanding its focus on academic and vocational education with a specific independent living skills curriculum and career planning tools to assess more youth. Various forms of alternative education also are being evaluated, since most of the youth we work with are at tremendous risk for homelessness. Without the education, skills and training needed to get a good job, they are doomed to minimum-wage jobs or unemployment.

We must secure a place in society for the so-called "opportunity youth," the population of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither in school nor employed. Depending on estimates used, 20 to 25 percent of Hawaii's youth are at risk of dropping out of school. For older youth, 28 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds and 14 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds are neither employed nor enrolled in school. When they fail in school or in the workplace, we all lose.

That's the key finding of a report by the Hawaii Community Foundation, entitled "Analysis of the Fiscal Resources Supporting At-Risk Youth, Ages 13-24, in Hawaii." The estimated cost, such as lost wages, for just one year of dropouts (2008) is $1. …

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