How to Transform a Community? Connect Youth to Education, Jobs

BCM Partners with Nonprofits to Lead the Way

employ3Some of the most challenging young people to reach in the New Orleans area are disconnected from school and jobs.  New Orleans has an extraordinary high number–more than 26,000–of youth ages 16 to 24 in this limbo.

Baptist Community Ministries has long recognized the importance of young people in this demographic to uplifting the entire community.  If youth slip through the proverbial cracks at this age, they become vulnerable to many other problems.

Young people in this situation are known as opportunity youth.  “These young people all need a variety of services related to stabilization, education, training, job readiness and job placement and retention,” explains Luceia LeDoux, BCM Senior Vice President for Grants.  “In other words, it’s a time when youth determine the futures of themselves and their families.”

BCM is a partner in the EMPLOY collaborative (Employment and Mobility Pathways Linked for Opportunity Youth),  a cross-sector collaborative working to coordinate and align policies and practices on behalf of and in conjunction with opportunity youth.  The aim is to create an environment in which all New Orleans young people are able to realize their educational and employment potential.  Included in the EMPLOY partnership are a number of BCM transom grantees that work directly with opportunity youth providing education, job readiness, training and placement supports.    

Working alongside its grantees, BCM has developed a strategy and plan to connect providers through the planning, implementation and utilization of a shared data system, custom built on the Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) platform, created by Social Solutions Group of Baltimore, Maryland.   This partnership, the Opportunity Youth Data Sharing Council (OYDSC), is fiscally sponsored by BCM, and managed by a network administrator on behalf of the partner organizations.

employ2OYDSC focuses on improving program quality and case management in the seven nonprofit partner organizations already working with opportunity youth.  The new data sharing and performance management initiative is designed to streamline processes and maximize data-sharing among partner organizations. This enables organizations serving the same young person to ensure services are aligned and unduplicated.

The goals are to establish seamless, consistent intake and referral processes and a common Performance Quality Improvement plan across programs.  By providing data on patterns and processes of youth disconnection and reconnection across providers, the initiative gives organizations the ability to make data-driven decisions on a larger scale than would be possible as single entities.

Jennifer Roberts, BCM Vice President for Education Grants, emphasizes the importance of program quality to BCM’s youth development strategy.  “By sharing assessment data and a clear referral system, organizations can better coordinate. This shared data will help them determine the most appropriate services for each young person, while also assessing the effectiveness of these services.”

Partners in OYDSC share the excitement.  Nicole Jolly, Program Manager at The Cowen Institute at Tulane University (and OYDSC data administrator), says, “Together, OYDSC is improving each organization’s ability to use data in decision-making and to better understand the population they serve at micro and macro levels.”

More prospective partners are showing interest.  The City of New Orleans is building an ETO platform that aligns with OYDSC’s.  This platform includes the Nola For Life programs that target youth most at risk of killing or being killed, and the city’s Reentry Initiative, Total Community Action’s Gang Violence Reduction Strategy and Ceasefire New Orleans.

OYDSC is just getting started in its efforts to reconnect our community’s all-important “opportunity youth.”  Watch for more progress to come.

Praise From Our Partners

“This will completely change the way organizations work together to better serve youth across our partnership network.  This shared data collection system will give us the infrastructure and tools necessary to formalize our existing, informal partnerships and be more effective,”

— Melissa Sawyer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Youth Empowerment Project.

Partners In Reaching Out To Reconnect Youth

Leading organizations that work with opportunity youth have joined BCM in OYDSC.

  • Delgado Community College’s Accelerating Career Education (ACE) Program
  • Café Reconcile
  • Covenant House New Orleans
  • Earn and Learn Apprenticeship Program, Cowen Institute at Tulane University
  • Liberty’s Kitchen
  • Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
  • Youth Empowerment Project