What’s on my desk? A focus on reconnecting youth, that’s what.

By United Way of King County Posted on February 4, 2015 In Helping Students Graduate

Associate Director, Doug Whalen, is inspired to help youth get back on track for success.


My desk is covered with stuff! Stuff—file folders, reports, spreadsheets—that I wouldn’t have imagined a couple years ago, before I started working on our Reconnecting Youth work. With Reconnecting Youth, we’re providing funding to community-based providers and others to help 18-21 year-old high school dropouts complete their GEDs and move through community or technical college. The end game: marketable skills and a good paying career.

Here, from a shelf above my desk, are a couple of cool infographics that describe the problem we’re addressing and the approach we’re taking.

Why are we doing this? Easy: economics. Someone without a high school degree is likely to earn $20,000-$30,000 less a year than someone with a college certificate or degree, and is twice as likely to wind up living in poverty. This disparity will cost taxpayers an average of $292,000 in public and social services over a lifetime.

But what really energizes me about this work? The youth themselves. They are smart, capable and eager to move forward with their lives. My wife and I have two sons and know how hard adolescence can be for kids to navigate. With just a little bit of help, these youth get the boost they need and are so much more likely to succeed.

Take Mike–he grew up in a low income-household, struggled with behavior issues in high school, had little positive feedback from teachers, got discouraged, dropped out at 16, and kind of hung out for a year or two . . . until he checked out Multi-Service Center in Federal Way, enrolled in their dropout re-engagement program and started getting small group and one-on-one help from his case manager and GED instructor. Now, six months later, he’s one test away from finishing his GED, starting a paid internship this spring and is focused on enrolling next fall at Renton Technical College!

There are thousands of kids out there just like Mike—they just need a bit of support—and I’m glad to play my small role in their success. You can play your own part in getting these young people launched toward a great adulthood. Know an employer who might have an internship or job opportunity for someone in or completing the program? Drop me a line at dwhalen@uwkc.org.


Comments

Diana Lindner
February 12, 2015

Hi Doug:
It was great to read about your work with re engaging youth. Every "rescue" effort is tremendously valuable. I am glad that you are doing this. Thanks.
Diana.

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