Adolescent Health

Reducing Youth Disconnection in Baltimore

May 26, 2023

13% of young people aged 16-24 in Baltimore are disconnected from school and work, with stark inequities by race: 21% of Black females and 24% of Black males are disconnected versus 4% of White females and 6% of White males. 

In 2019, Professor Tamar Mendelson began collaborating with organizations in Baltimore City that serve youth 16 - 24 who are not in school and unemployed. These youth are often referred to as Opportunity Youth or disconnected youth. The goal was to develop and present a plan to the incoming Mayor on how to reduce the number of disconnected youths in Baltimore.  

The collaborative tracked data on Opportunity Youth in Baltimore and shared findings with city stakeholders, including Baltimore City Public Schools, job training programs, youth-serving agencies, and young people themselves. Since then, Baltimore‚Äôs Promise annually posts Opportunity Youth data summaries on their data dashboard.  

This multi-sector collaboration developed a series of recommendations, and has implemented many of them, including:  

  • Collecting and sharing annual data on Opportunity Youth in Baltimore with the public; 
  • Disseminating these annual data to youth-serving agencies and organizations and to young people themselves so they can use it to guide programs, policies, and practices; 
  • Engaging young people in preparing, displaying, and disseminating data in youth-friendly formats for engaging and empowering other Baltimore young people;  
  • Identifying gaps in data collection and talking about how best to address these gaps; and 
  • Hosting a Baltimore Opportunity Youth Summit in 2022 to discuss data monitoring and reporting and how best to utilize the data to shape programs, policies, and practices. 

The multi-sector group shared these recommendations with the Baltimore Workforce Development Youth Committee and Mayor Brandon Scott in 2021. The multi-sector partners are eager to continue their work together to better link youth with education, employment, and other needed resources.  

Finally, these efforts were summarized into a paper, published in Public Health Reports, that offers insights and opportunities for a public health approach to reengage disconnected teenagers and young adults.

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