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If the youth are not initiated into the village…

It should be the prime of life—a time of growth, potential and opportunity—young adulthood. In the years between ages 16 and 24, most San Diegans are finishing high school, pursuing a post-secondary degree or certificate, and working in a first or second job along the way to get launched in a career. Yet for too many young people in our community, this is not their experience. On April 12, we are building our collective knowledge and networks to give every San Diegan the power and support to launch successfully into adulthood. Join us for Opportunity Summit 2018: Initiate.

There are approximately 43,000 opportunity youth—young adults ages 16–24 who are not working and not in school—in our region. Local data reported last year shows nearly one in 10 young adults in San Diego County are “disconnected,” putting them at higher risk for long-term unemployment and poverty.

Personal choices can be a factor in youth disconnection, but deep systemic issues—from education to criminal justice and beyond—play a critical role, and these will be addressed at the Opportunity Summit. Breakout sessions will allow for deep learning and dialog about mental health, justice-involved youth, transportation and other key issues and special populations raised during the human-centered design session at last year’s summit.

Every individual has a story that deserves to be told. Last year, Opportunity Summit: Flip the Script offered a venue to hear stories from youth and learn more about this important issue. When we engage young people through jobs, school and community, we all win. When we don’t, the long-term impact is devastating on every level.

“If the youth are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.”

This African proverb, introduced at last year’s summit, sets the tone for what Opportunity Summit 2018 sets out to accomplish. This year’s theme, Initiate, is about igniting a movement that leads to long term, measurable impact on reducing youth disconnection rates across San Diego County.

To cut the rate and halve the gap by 2020—our region’s call to action—we’ll dig deep into the issues affecting opportunity youth. Young people will share their perspective as an integral part of the overall conversation and unveil exciting plans to help lower disconnection rates.

To change the narrative and lived experience from “disconnection” to “opportunity” will take collective effort. Service providers, educators, parents, elected officials, systems leaders, parents and community—we need you. Are you ready to join the movement? See you on April 12.