A Look at #OpportunityWeek 2018

December 3, 2018

All week long, organizations and young leaders will spotlight what’s happening, what’s working and what remains to be done to build pathways to opportunity for our nation’s more than 4.6 million Opportunity Youth – young people ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working.

Washington, DC, Dec. 3 - This week marks the second annual official “Opportunity Week” in Washington, DC. All week long, organizations working on intersectional issues related to Opportunity Youth and equity will hold events and convenings designed to spotlight what’s happening, what’s working in communities around the country, and what remains to be done to build pathways to opportunity for our nation’s more than 4.6 million Opportunity Youth – young people ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working.

Opportunity Week represents myriad groups coming together and aligning their annual gatherings and publication releases in order to amplify both impact and message, as well as build more bridges across sectors and intersectional issues. The week will include opportunities for young people, nonprofits, philanthropy, business and private sector leaders and policymakers to connect.

Shanice Turner, an Atlanta-based youth organizer, founding member of Opportunity Youth United and the event coordinator for Thursday’s Opportunity Youth Network Summit, says she couldn’t be more thrilled about #OpportunityWeek: “It has been an incredible experience to plan, execute and host. The feeling is exhilarating. I am deeply honored to be a part of Opportunity Youth United and The Forum for Youth Investment team. I cannot wait to see how everything turns out!"

Thaddeus Ferber, Vice President of Policy with the Forum for Youth Investment, echoes Shanice’s excitement. “This week represents diverse organizations coming together to identify opportunities to align our work, and to raise broader awareness about Opportunity Youth and the incredible untapped potential they represent for our communities, businesses and our nation, if we invest in proven pathways.”

Opportunity Week in Brief: What You Need to Know

The week kicks off today with a Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) breakfast event, where CLASP will unveil its new issue brief and fact sheet series, designed to lay the foundation for an economic justice agenda for young women of color. You can find the series online at CLASP.org: Our Ground, Our Voices: Young Women of Color, Structural Barriers, and Systems of Power.


Also today, the Service Year Alliance is holding its first-ever Service Year + Opportunity Youth Summit to explore national service as a pathway to employment for opportunity youth. The summit will include breakout sessions on criminal justice, foster care, employer engagement and ways to improve national service programs so they better serve Opportunity Youth. A theme of the day’s dialogue will be “national service as a civic apprenticeship.”

On Tuesday, December 4, the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC) will host its 2018 Annual Forum, which will bring together policymakers, researchers, practitioners and youth leaders to discuss and problem-solve the most pertinent issues within the youth-employment field. It will be primarily focused on peer learning.

Then, on Wednesday, December 5, The National Youth Employment Coalition and the Opportunity Youth Network will collaborate to host an Opportunity Youth Policy Exchange – a “world café” style session where attendees will hear policy and messaging updates from experts in areas ranging from immigration to justice reform to apprenticeships. In the afternoon, participants will meet with key Congressional staff to discuss policy goals related to Opportunity Youth, including the Reconnecting Youth Campaign.

On Thursday, December 6, the Opportunity Youth Network will hold its annual Summit, where a cross-sector set of leaders, including young leaders with Opportunity Youth United (OYUnited), will tackle challenges that are too big for any single organization or sector to solve alone. (The Forum for Youth Investment, SparkAction’s parent organization, convenes the Opportunity Youth Network.

Adam Strong of Opportunity Youth United talks about their work on youth advocacy, their 17 local chapters, including their amazing work on youth voter turnout.

Business leaders and employers will be engaged throughout the week. On Friday, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will host the first Restaurant Ready Forum to showcase the work of its Opportunity Youth-Restaurant Ready (OY-RR) program to engage and empower disengaged Opportunity Youth to pursue a path to employment and life-long success.

The week will end with a three-day OYUnited Community Action Team retreat, held Friday through Sunday. The retreat brings together members of the National Council of Young Leaders, who founded OYUnited, and local Community Action Teams to share successes and lessons from work across the country this past year, and set the strategy for 2019. (To learn more about OYUnited, including its recent voter registration successes, visit OYUnited.org.)

Aligning Efforts for Better Results

The week’s events focus on different populations of Opportunity Youth, and the web of issues that impact young lives and potential. Participants will be working together to share lessons and lay out collective agendas for economic justice and equity in education and employment– and to mobilize support for a range of related issues.

You can follow the events and insights shared during the week on social media using the hashtag #OpportunityWeek.

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EllyElly Belle is SparkAction's Content & Engagement Strategist. A communications strategist and writer with a passion for youth empowerment, advocacy, culture and media. Elly is most passionate about youth development, reproductive health, mental health, advocacy for the LGBTQIA community, immigration, and advocacy for sexual assault survivors—and she's written about all of it and more for outlets like Bust and Teen Vogue, where she's a regular contributor. More from Elly.