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Philadelphia hosts national convening bringing thought leaders together to strategize high school re-engagement to post-secondary success


Category: PYN | Mar 19, 2018

More than 200 leaders from across the country will gather on March 19 and 20 for the Sixth National Reengagement Plus! Convening hosted by the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, Families (YEF Institute) with National Youth Employment Coalition, Philadelphia Youth Network, Project U-Turn and the School District of Philadelphia as the core planning team.

Building on the previous five national meetings, the Philadelphia convening’s theme, “From Reengagement to Postsecondary,” connects the strategies and programs mayors and city leaders have launched to help their young people attain the postsecondary credentials relevant to the local workforce. The two-day convening will also provide participants opportunities to visit various re-engagement programs across Philadelphia and will also include the release of More than a Million Reasons for Hope, a report on youth disconnection by Measure of America.

“Philadelphia is proud to host the Reengagement Plus! Convening,” said Mayor James Kenney. “While the overall the number of opportunity youth in our city has declined, we still have too many youth and young adults disconnected from school and work. Today, we bring together leaders from Philadelphia and across the country to learn and share promising practices and improve the efforts of re-engaging youth and preparing them for post-secondary success.”

“The sixth annual Reengagement Plus! convening will energize the policymakers and front-line practitioners who help re-connect youth to education every day, by providing a dynamic forum to share lessons learned and useful strategies,” said Andrew Moore, program director, National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families and author, Reengagement: Bringing Students Back to America’s Schools (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). “For the National League of Cities, the convening also highlights the importance of engaging all of the talent in every city, in keeping with the 2018 organization-wide exploration of The Future of Work.”

The convening will feature opportunities for robust discussion and interaction through a variety of workshops, and two plenary panel discussions, one highlighting practitioners in the field, and the other, local leaders. Panelists will include:

Day 1 - Practitioners:

  • Brendan Conlin, Chief Programs Officer, Congreso
  • Christina Grant, Assistant Superintendent Opportunity Network, School District of Philadelphia (facilitator)
  • David E. Thomas, Associate Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Dean, Division of Access and Community Engagement, Community College of Philadelphia
  • Pamela Thomas, Principal, OIC Career and Development Institute
  • Richette Walton, Philadelphia Learning Academy (PLA) North and the Hub at PA CareerLink West®, young adult

Day 2 – Local Leaders:

  • Donald Generals, President, Community College of Philadelphia
  • William Hite, Superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
  • Mayor James F. Kenney, City of Philadelphia
  • Cynthia Figueroa, Commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Human Services
  • Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President & CEO, Philadelphia Youth Network (facilitator)

Site visits will take place on day one of the event, giving those from outside of Philadelphia an opportunity to see promising practices in action. At each site, guests will receive a walkthrough of the program and facility, and have an opportunity for guided discussion with staff and participants. Sites include:

“The most important thing that we can do is remain focused on these strategies and continue to improve outcomes for our re-engaged students,” said Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. “We are excited to celebrate the Re-engagement Center’s 10-year anniversary. We are committed to providing opportunities for our students to ensure they are college and career ready.”

“We are proud to celebrate the success of the Re-engagement Centers,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO, Philadelphia Youth Network and Project U-Turn Steering Committee Member. “30,000 opportunities for re-engagement have been provided since Project U-Turn’s inception. This convening signifies the unified front across diverse stakeholders to ensure young people in Philadelphia have the necessary access to opportunity that will ultimately help to lift them, and our city overall, out of poverty, putting both on a path to success.”

Despite steady progress both in Philadelphia and nationwide, More than a Million Reasons for Hope by Measure of America, reported that there are 4.6 million, or one in nine, young people who remain disconnected from school and work. Data also shows that these numbers are disproportionately higher among young people of color, those who live in poverty as well as those who face barriers to employment such as involvement in the criminal justice system.

"Although the youth disconnection rate dropped for all racial and ethnic groups between 2010 and 2016, the distance between the groups with the highest and lowest disconnection rates did not narrow appreciably,” said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America, who presented the data. "Preventing disconnection and reengaging those whose ties to school have long since frayed requires proven, multipronged strategies, adequate resources, wraparound services, involving youth in planning programs that will serve them, and finally, patience, understanding, and a long-term commitment."

The national convening came together with the help of a local planning committee including City of Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, Department of Human Services and Mayor's Office of Education; Congreso; Community College of Philadelphia; District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund; JEVS Human Services; Philadelphia Youth Network; Philadelphia Works, Inc.; Opportunity Youth United; and YouthBuild Philadelphia.

“The Reengagement Plus! convening models the kind of conversation among education, youth development, and workforce development leaders that’s needed to tackle youth disconnection. The National Youth Employment Coalition is honored to help make this convening happen,” said Thomas Showalter, executive director of NYEC, which builds the capacity of youth-serving organizations and advocates on issues related to opportunity youth.

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