Community organizations key to helping local disconnected youth

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Community organizations key to helping local disconnected youth

Despite facing multiple challenges, local community-based organizations are at the frontline of helping disconnected Valley youth find work or enroll in school. These findings, from a new report from the Institute for Public Anthropology at Fresno State, follow a study last year that found that up to 17 percent of Valley youth ages 16 to 24 are economically disconnected, meaning they are neither employed or going to school.

The report, “On the Frontline: Community Based Youth Serving Organizations and the Economic Integration of Disconnected Youth in the San Joaquin Valley,” is the result of an ongoing research collaboration between Fresno State and the University of California, Davis.

”Community-based youth serving organizations provide a comprehensive range of services that are essential to supporting youth who are out of school and unemployed, particularly given that these youth are generally underserved by government programs and educational institutions in the area” said Dr. Anne Visser, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Regional Development at the University of California, Davis and the project’s lead investigator and author of the report. ”Despite facing a restrictive economic and political environment, these community institutions exhibit a high level of resiliency in complementing existing government efforts aimed at addressing the growing number of disconnected youth in the region.”

National concern has grown about disconnected youth since 2008, when research emerged showing disconnected young people are more likely to experience negative social and economic outcomes as adults including persistent poverty, long-term unemployment, poor health and substance abuse.

According to the report, local community-based organizations serving disconnected youth experience several challenges including unsteady funding, staff retention and sometimes tenuous relationships with government agencies. These organizations directly and indirectly promote the economic integration of disconnected youth in the Valley by providing a comprehensive set of strategies that promote employment, ensure social welfare and support educational attainment.

Further investment in poverty reduction strategies, increasing public resources available to these organizations, leveraging the research capacity of regional universities and encouraging policy experimentation related to serving disconnected youth were identified as important recommendations to better serve the region.

Visser, a Fresno State alumna, is working closely with faculty and students at Fresno State on the research, which will continue into the 2016-17 academic year.

“It’s has been great for our students as well as our department to be part of this study and to collaborate with colleagues at UC Davis” said Dr. James Mullooly, professor and chair in the Department of Anthropology and co-director of the Institute for Public Anthropology at Fresno State. “This project continues to be a tremendous opportunity for our students to research an issue of important policy significance to local, state and national governments in their own backyard.”

For more information, contact Visser at mavisser@ucdavis.edu or 530.752.9935, or Mullooly at jmullooly@csufresno.edu or 559.278.7574.

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