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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
Youth Opportunity Grants
A second, important new pool of relevant federal funding is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Youth Opportunity Grants, added in FY 2000 at a level of $250 million. This new program was funded at $375 million for FY 2001 (Lordeman, 1998). Aimed at 14- to 21-year-olds, especially those who have not finished high school, the program has some dimensions of a youth development program. Each of the three dozen grants (some urban, some rural, and some involving American Indians) involves a partnership of employment and training and other public agencies, public schools and community colleges, community-based organizations, and private employers. Based on the experience of over three decades of youth employment programs, its activities are comprehensive, including participant outreach for skills and interpersonal training, job placement, commitments from employers to hire these young adults, and continuing support for them after they are at work (Brown, 1999).
The city of Los Angeles, for example, has received a grant for $11 million, renewable for a total of up to $44 million over five years, to provide services to youth in the high-poverty areas in Watts and the Eastside of the city, where there is a disproportionate number of public housing residents. The programs are based in existing youth centers and rely on participation of diverse public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private employers focused on employment and training, education, housing, law enforcement, social services, and community development (U.S. Department of Labor, 2000).
Workforce Investment Act
As part of the repackaging of federal employment and training programs in 1998, the long-standing summer jobs program and the considerably smaller pot of funds for year-round youth job training were consolidated by the Workforce Investment Act. Funded at a total of $1 billion, the program offers the possibility of new strategies for at-risk youth to combine summer work experience with year-round activities in ways that introduce an academic component in the summer and year-round exposure to the world of work. The act was based on principles of youth development and involves mentoring, community service, leadership development, positive peer-centered activities, and long-term follow-up elements. The new local Workforce Investment Boards were created by the act to replace the previous Private Industry Councils as