Monday, June 25, 2012

Rethinking the Youth Employment Field

JFNYC Executive Director Lou Miceli and Chris Sturgis, a founding member of the Youth Transition Funders Group, recently had a chance to speak about strategies for reinvigorating, refocusing and rethinking the youth employment field. 

Reflecting on how funding streams directly impact the youth employment field, Lou shared with Chris his observation that the young adult workforce field has become reactive rather than proactive to public funding streams in particular, and that the heavy reliance amongst practitioners on this slow trickle down of money has actually hurt the field by pitting organizations against each-other. 

Additionally, by prescribing standardized, rigid goals and outcomes for workforce organizations, this system actually discourages creativity, freedom, and risk-taking amongst service providers, which in effect does a great disservice not only to workforce practitioners themselves, but more importantly to the young people they serve.

Chris summarized her reflections and takeaways from their discussion in two recent blog posts on the Youth Transition Funders Group's blog, Connected by 25

Her first post, "Time to Pro-Act: An Interview with Louis Miceli", discusses how funders could help the field by "raising the investment bar" and rewriting the rule book to encourage a more proactive and creative environment.

Her second post, "Lose the Rule Book", outlines three starting points for thinking about reinvigorating the workforce system: change the rules, innovate through intermediaries, and embrace "consilience"--a strategy of working together and coordinating efforts amongst stakeholders in order to forge new paths for young people. 

It's this last idea of "consilience" that underlies the workforce partnerships that JFNYC supports, including the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON) and Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN).  By promoting and supporting the efforts of collaboratives such as the BON and LESEN, JFNYC hopes to build capacity, improve practice, and re-imagine young adult workforce services in New York City.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BON Helps Young People Access College

Transforming the Lives of Disconnected Young Adults

Shenett’s horizons have greatly expanded thanks to Grace Outreach and their participation in the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON) — a borough based partnership with Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, and eight community-based organizations.  The BON looks to systemically increase college access—and to support post-secondary retention—among dis-engaged young adults.

Like too many young people, Shenett, a 19-year-old woman from the Bronx, possessed enormous drive, but faced a daunting series of hurdles as she attempted to pursue her dreams.

Shenett & Tiffany attend a BON event at Hostos, January 2012
Those dreams were nearly dashed when she took the CUNY COMPASS Test — an entrance requirement for anyone with a GED, and a hurdle for all of the students supported by the BON.  Shenett failed all four subtest exams, but she was more determined than ever to do better. 

She specifically received support and assistance from Grace Outreach, one of the eight community-based partners of the BON, which is working in a strategic way in the South Bronx to increase college access and support post-secondary retention for young adults like herself.

The BON’s collective power to negotiate with CUNY for a re-take of the COMPASS gave Shenett a second chance. 


“Lehman is my top college choice, and I am thinking about business management.  I would eventually like to start my own business, maybe having to do with day care or something with children. But after college, I would likely go work for a larger business or corporation to learn about how things operate on that level before starting my own. I really do love kids, so I could combine this love with skills and ideas from the business world.”
Shenett did so well the second time she took the tests that she was only required to take one remedial class in her first college semester.

With encouragement and support from the BON — and a resolve to do her personal best — Shenett did well her first semester.  She worked hard in all four of her classes and earned a grade point average of 3.0. 

Shenett is on track to earn her Associates degree in May of next year — but she already has her sights on furthering her education: “I definitely plan on transferring to a 4 year college after finishing at Hostos, probably staying at CUNY.”

The BON’s mission is to assist under-prepared Bronx students that would not consider enrolling in college to improve their academic skills, overcome personal barriers, and enroll in and complete college. Working at the policy level, an immediate goal of the BON is to continue to identify barriers and opportunities that may influence the results achieved by these high-need students within CUNY.

JobsFirstNYC is proud to nurture this vital program.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Good news on NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk policy

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for a change in New York State law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view, a move that would drastically reduce the number of people, especially minority youth, who could be arrested for marijuana possession as a result of police stops. 

As noted last month, for the last decade New York City has held the unenviable position as national leader in unwarranted (in all senses of the word) stop-and-frisk searches by police.  This use of this tactic has risen from fewer than 100,000 cases in 2002 to nearly 700,000 in 2011, supposedly justified by the need to get weapons off the street -- although stops in 2011 yielded only one gun for every 3,000 people stopped.

In practice, the stop-and-frisk program has been targeted overwhelmingly at minorities, especially minority youth, who often find themselves stopped for vague reasons such as "furtive movements" (351,739 stops -- or 51% of the total -- in 2011), "suspicious bulge," and "clothes commonly used in a crime."  Once stopped, people can be arrested for any number of infractions that otherwise would not have justified police action.  The most egregious of these charges has been for possession of small amounts of marijuana, with 50,684 arrests — one out of every seven arrests made in the city in 2011, more than for any other offense.  In 2010, the city spent $75 million to put pot-smokers behind bars.

In essence, the police have created a Catch-22 for the people stopped.  In 1977 the state legislature reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.  But it left public display or public use of marijuana as a misdemeanor crime, setting a no-win situation.  When people empty their pockets at the demands of the police, any marijuana they may have is brought into "public view" and therefore opens them up to arrest; not complying with police orders, however, also puts the person at risk for arrest.   

Governor Cuomo's call for decriminalization has gained significant support across the political spectrum.  The New York Times and New York City Comptroller John Liu both published Op-Ed pieces supporting the move and calling for more significant reforms of police practice.  Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, both longtime defenders of the stop-and-frisk program, have endorsed the governor's proposal.