The Measure of America project, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council defines disconnected youth as “…teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven teens and young adults (13.8 percent).”1 I’m going to put that number out there again…5,527,000 disconnected youth in our country. 5,527,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24.
To put that number in perspective, The American Cancer Society estimates there will be approximately 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed in 2016 across all age groups and demographics.2
One of our most basic needs as humans is the need to be loved and feel valued. What that love and value looks and feels like is very different for children who are disconnected versus their connected peers.
Are you willing to take on a challenge and make a difference? It's not easy. It's not simple or clean-cut. But it will be worth it.
Let's talk about the Importance of Mentors.
When you look at that number…5,527,000 kids between the ages of 16 and 24... and you realize that number does not take into account the number of disconnected children under the age of 16, the challenge at hand is sobering.
For the record, I’m not a child psychologist. I have zero credentials outside of 20 years of experience working with kids, schools, and communities. Although I have read the research, I’ve never conducted a study of my own. So take this blog for what it is worth…one guy with an opinion based on experience rather than subject matter expertise.
However, I am confident that my perception and experience reflects this reality - there is a stark difference in life outcomes between connected youth who are accepted by society and disconnected youth seeking acceptance.
In response to the issues facing communities across the country, the battle cry sounds like this… “We must take back our streets!” The fact is, we need to take back our kids. And that, ladies and gentleman, is an entirely different conversation.
Think on this for a moment. As we grapple with gang violence, ISIL recruitment, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, runaways, teen homelessness, drop out rates, and other youth issues plaguing our country, I would like to point out this one simple truth. Our youth are not running AWAY from us, they are running TO something that will fill a void we failed to fill.
Ask yourself, "What am I doing to connect with the youth in my community??"
Looking for more? Take a look at my other blogs on this topic.
Join us for the national Bright Futures USA 2017 Community Engagement Conference or the East Coast Summit to learn what you can do to take back our kids.
Learn more about our work and these upcoming events at www.brightfuturesusa.org.