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Applying Linked Learning to Out-of-School Youth

BY Kenji Treanor
Kenji Treanor
Kenji Treanor has worked at Irvine since 2004 and helps oversee Youth program gr
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| Apr 23, 2012

I am very excited about our new Opportunity Links for Youth initiative. This initiative is extending our work with Linked Learning to out-of-school youth in pursuit of the overall goal of the Youth program — to increase the number of low-income youth in California who attain a postsecondary credential by the age of 25. Three dimensions of this initiative are particularly notable:

1. Keeping young people at the center as we extend our work

In all of the Youth’s program work, students are at the center of our thinking. How can we shape their learning experiences to achieve the highest possible outcomes? One essential element of the Linked Learning approach is to make education more engaging, so that students are motivated to stay in school. This was informed by listening to youth who had dropped out, and hearing that relevancy — learning that actually reflects students’ interests and aspirations — is key to maintaining motivation and connection to school. By advancing Linked Learning across high school districts in California, we believe that the majority of low-income youth who are still in school will remain on a path to high school graduation and success in college and a career. Keeping this youth-centered lens, and using the same principles of Linked Learning, the Youth program is now exploring how to support the aspirations of out-of-school youth age 18-24 through the Opportunity Links for Youth initiative.

2. Focusing on an important sub-group within our target population

In California, a large number of low-income youth have, unfortunately, already disconnected from education – perhaps as many 1.5 million. To increase postsecondary attainment for all low-income youth, we must reconnect these out-of-school youth as a complement to our existing strategy of retention for in-school youth. We know that out-of-school youth still see themselves as motivated and interested in postsecondary education. And so the initiative seeks to develop resources and tools that are particularly applicable to re-engaging this important and significant set of young people in formal learning.

3. Partnerships with and across community-based organizations

Because of the slightly older age of out-of-school youth, and recognizing that the public high school system may not “recapture” them, the initiative funds community-based organization to serve as the point of access to reconnect youth to education. As trusted allies to out-of-school youth, the community-based organizations in this initiative are designing “on-ramps” into community college where out-of-school youth can work toward a postsecondary credential. Recognizing that the Linked Learning approach includes four different and equally important elements that may be challenging for a single organization to develop on its own, the Opportunity Links for Youth initiative also focuses on how organizations can play a “broker role” to ensure full delivery of a Linked Learning experience for out-of-school youth via resources and opportunities provided by other partners based on their specific strengths and assets.

While the Opportunity Links for Youth initiative is at an early phase, I believe that it holds great promise for supporting out-of-school youth to find their paths to postsecondary success and family-sustaining careers. By keeping youth at the center, and partnering with creative and collaborative community-based organizations, this initiative is another avenue for our Youth program to expand opportunity for all low-income youth in California to achieve their fullest aspirations.

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Kenji Treanor has worked at Irvine since 2004 and helps oversee Youth program grants to community-based organizations that are building public will for Linked Learning among parents, or are reconnecting out-of-school youth to pathways that lead to postsecondary and career success. View full bio »


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