What are School-Community Collaborations?
New York City is recognized nationally as having a strong and diverse network of community based organizations that is unparalleled in other parts of the country. These programs are operated by organizations that range from small to large, including neighborhood groups, religious and cultural institutions, and local chapters of citywide and national organizations. Here, community partners and schools have worked together for more than twenty-five years, developing a variety of community-school partnerships that have become national models of collaboration and innovation, resulting in improved outcomes for children and youth. As such, community partners are viewed as a critical resource in the City's efforts to develop a system of quality programs for all children and youth both in schools and in the out-of-school hours.
Overage, Under-credited, and Out-of-School Youth
As American norms dictate, every year teenagers graduate from high school and move on to college or a first job and then gradually take on the responsibilities of adulthood, including building a family of their own. Most of these young people are fortunate to have a network of family and friends who provide them with the financial and emotional support necessary to make their transition to adulthood a successful one.
Yet a large number of American youth are not making this critical transition. Often lacking support and facing difficult life circumstances, these young people, ages 16-24, are neither attending school nor participating in the labor force. They have effectively become "disconnected" from our mainstream institutions and have fallen off the traditional path to self-sufficient adulthood.
According to a study by Northeastern University, over 200,000 such youth live in New York City, more than in Chicago and Los Angeles combined. According to Mark Levitan of the Community Service Society, these youth are disproportionately African-American (29 percent) and Latino (42 percent), and fifty percent lack a high school diploma or GED. These young adults face multiple barriers to economic self-sufficiency and productive adulthood.
Disconnection among youth in New York City has long-term implications for these youth as well as for the City itself. As Mark Levitan highlights in his 2005 report "Out of Work… Out of Luck?", disconnected youth are more likely to lack a high school diploma, have very little work experience, be young parents, experience long bouts of joblessness as adults, and earn lower wages throughout their lives. Without at least a high school diploma youth are hard pressed to find employment paying a living wage. Young adults who are not working are not contributing to the City's coffers through taxes or purchases. Businesses are deprived of workers who would enable them to increase production, sales, and taxes to the City. At the same time, the City is paying for these youth in the form of public assistance, the homeless shelter and child welfare systems, and increased expenditures for emergency health care and corrections. Finally, while the number of low-skill jobs that pay a living wage has not kept up with the number of workers seeking them, jobs requiring slightly higher skills face shortages which will increase dramatically as the baby boomers retire. The jobs-skills mismatch will have critical implications for New York City's economic future if a new generation of workers is not prepared to fill openings in the workforce.
School-Community Partnerships Targeting Overage, Under-credited, and Out-of-School Youth
Youth who have fallen behind in school, or have dropped out entirely, often deal with a variety of non-academic issues in addition to learning difficulties. As a result of their experience working with these youth in their communities, community partners are uniquely positioned to help young people address these extra-academic barriers to educational and future success. Community partner-school programs serving these youth offer smaller learning environments and added supports not found in large traditional high schools; this personal attention coupled with high expectations is often what youth need to reconnect and get back on the track to a high school diploma and higher education and/or employment.