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

By United Way of King County, 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.


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.

Replies to Diana Lindner
Doug Whalen
February 13, 2015

Hi Diana,

Our web developer tipped me off that you'd written a comment. So nice to read your post! Especially poignant, given all of your work with children, families and youth. Thanks so much. ~ Doug

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