When young people are the focus of the conversation, social, cultural, and political differences become less of a barrier and more of an invitation for sharing, discovery, and community-building. Notwithstanding the unexpected snowfall and blistery temps, Friday, February 10th provided an occasion for just that. Marking its 8th time serving as host to an international group, YouthBuild Newark (YBN) had the opportunity to discuss its collective education approach with individuals from a bordering Latin American country more than 2,000 miles away – Mexico! Representatives from YouthBuild Mexico, Mexican government, research institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gathered at the Opportunity Youth Network’s (OYN’s) recently launched Reengagement Center to learn more about YBN and the work the agency is doing to make sure Newark’s opportunity youth have the resources they need to thrive.
YouthBuild International (YBIL), YouthBuild USA, the YouthBuild Charter School of California network, and a local foundation were also present. With guests being particularly interested in learning more about school design options for opportunity youth – which has been YBN’s target population since the agency opened its doors in 2003 – the discussion centered around YBN’s evolution from a small community-based organization to a convener, technical assistance provider, and visionary for OYN, a collective with the goal of disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline in Newark.
The group discussed Newark Leadership Academy and UPLIFT Academy (formerly Fast Track Success Academy), the two transfer schools YBN helped to establish and continues to support through virtual and on-site technical assistance, professional development, and staffing. Participants also learned about the OYN’s vision and framework, including LEAD Charter School, New Jersey’s first alternative education charter school that will enroll its first cohort of students this fall.
YBN is grateful to YouthBuild International for being able to engage more and more individuals and groups in discussions and innovations that help opportunity youth break the cycle of poverty. Friday’s gathering was an example of how physical boundaries become irrelevant when people share an interest in one of the world’s most vital resources – young people.