Over the past year, TNOYS has been collaborating with youth partners to improve engagement with Opportunity Youth and Young Adults (OYYA) – the estimated 500,000 young Texans between 16 and 24 years old who are neither enrolled in school nor employed. Data has shown that these young people face various challenges such as trauma, unstable living situations, limited support, and systems involvement, which can create obstacles for them when taking critical steps to achieve their educational and employment goals. Together with young people and statewide and national partners, TNOYS is working to make sure OYYA have the tools necessary to fuel their personal goals and thrive into adulthood.
Centering Young Leaders with Lived Expertise
One of the key drivers of TNOYS’ work is the Texas Emerging Leaders Board (TELB), a lever of the Texas Opportunity Youth Network developed in collaboration with the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Young Invincibles. The TELB is designed to amplify the voices of young leaders in issues that affect them and represents the final stage of TNOYS’ youth engagement roadmap. Comprising 11 young people who have experienced disconnection from school or work, and have a keen interest in leadership, the TELB provides an opportunity for young leaders to inform and shape policies and practices that will affect Texas OYYA. As TELB member Liz explains:
It is important for youth and young adults who have lived experience to be listened to because they and their peers will benefit most from systems change. When it comes to opportunities in education and employment, it is difficult to attain these due to systemic barriers. Both education and employment are pathways for youth and young adults to improve their lives for the better.– Liz Medina-Madrigal, Texas Emerging Leaders Board Member
In just eight months, The TELB has made significant contributions to policy and programmatic work for Opportunity Youth in Texas and beyond. Nine TELB members joined TNOYS’ Day of Action for Youth and Young Invincibles’ “Deep in the Heart of Advocacy” events, bringing attention to the challenges that Opportunity Youth face and educating policymakers during legislative visits.
One of the highlights of the event was the rally on the Texas Capitol lawn, where TELB members Moony, Tatyana, and Pablo spoke about the obstacles they faced while pursuing their educational and career goals, and how the policies outlined in TNOYS’ Cross-Systems Youth Policy Agenda can help young people like them.
In addition to statewide advocacy efforts, members of The Texas Emerging Leaders Board (TELB) are also actively involved in on-the-ground work in their communities. Some members have participated in “Communities of Practice,” which are local groups of stakeholders working to create better pathways for academic and career success for Opportunity Youth in their respective areas.. TELB leaders will have future opportunities to elevate their voices at The Opportunity Youth Forum Cross-Site Convening in May, where they will participate in multiple panels on the Texas Opportunity Youth landscape and how to better engage OYYA in work and career opportunities.
Building Community Knowledge and Best Practices
TNOYS is the statewide leader in how to effectively and meaningfully engage young people with lived expertise and actively works to change the narrative around systems-involve youth and young adults from a set of problems to be fixed to resilient, resourceful people who can partner with adults in a joint effort to solve community problems. On April 20, TNOYS CEO Fedora Galasso joined the Advancing Socioeconomic Mobility Conference hosted by the Center for Socioeconomic Mobility through Education in Dallas to showcase TNOYS best practices to support youth aging out of foster care in achieving their education and career next steps.
In the coming months TNOYS will continue to uplift the incredible work our members, partners, and youth and young adults are doing to advance better outcomes for OYYA. Fedora and Director of Partnerships Jermaine Neblett will join the Forum for Youth Investment National Conference, coming up next month in Detroit, to present findings on TNOYS’ innovative approach to engaging OYYA for long-term success and changing systems, practices, and policies to fully support Opportunity Youth in Texas Finally, TNOYS and TELB members are hard at work on presentations for TNOYS’ 40th Annual Conference on Services to Youth and Families, coming up May 18 virtually and June 13 – 16 in Houston. Register below to learn from these dynamic YYA speakers and TNOYS on ways to effectively center, engage and support young people in achieving their educational and employment goals, hopes and dreams.
By investing in the potential of Opportunity Youth, we can begin to build more viable pathways for their future success. Learn more about the TNOYS TELB here, and follow TNOYS on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get updates on the TELB and TNOYS’ work with Opportunity Youth.