June 25, 2012
The White House Council for Community Solutions recently presented its final report and recommendations during the White House summit titled “Community Solutions for Disconnected Youth.” The 25-person council – which includes presidential appointees from the private, nonprofit and government arenas – offered ideas for addressing key community challenges and creating opportunities for youth to find paths to training, support and jobs. Goodwill Industries International President and CEO Jim Gibbons sits on the council.
The council invited youth from across the country to participate in the summit and demonstrate their role as a voice in the future. Four of the honored youths that were invited to participate were individuals served by Goodwill, one being Frederick local, Joanna McVicker.
“Young people want to be – and must be a part of the discussion. Their voices must be heard,” said Gibbons. “The council’s work is rooted in a simple truth: the solutions to our most difficult national challenges live in our communities. To create opportunities for young people, we don’t need to look any further than our neighbors.”
Currently, at least one in six youth ages 16 to 24 are unemployed and not in school. While they are commonly referred to as disconnected youth, the council identified them as “opportunity youth” because of their untapped potential. Opportunity youth are isolated from the paths that can lead to economic independence.
“As a nation, we have an opportunity to close the skills gap and show our commitment to ensuring that youth have the opportunity to achieve the American dream,” Gibbons said.
Joanna McVicker of Frederick was among the youth participants. McVicker is Goodwill Industries International’s 2012 Graduate of the Year. As a child McVicker was kicked in the head by a horse, resulting in an ABI (acquired brain injury), which affects her ability to process and retain information. Through Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley’s (Frederick, MD) ABI Program, she gained self-confidence and learned skills that eventually helped her obtain a job at the local tourism council. McVicker dreams of one day finding a job that enables her to work with the elderly. To that end, she volunteers at Daybreak Adult Day Services, a local assisted living facility, and is studying gerontology at Frederick Community College.
When asked how she felt about her involvement in the summit, McVicker stated, “It’s an honor to be a voice for youth with disabilities, and to show them that hard work does pay off.”
President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley, Dan Kurtenbach, expressed his pride in McVicker as she exemplifies the type of success that Goodwill clients can achieve. “The youth are our greatest resource, and we are devoted to stimulating growth and creating opportunities for all of our clients,” said Kurtenbach. “Seeing Joanna gain national attention and become a leader for the youth of America is very rewarding for all of us.”
Findings from the council confirmed that to effectively address the needs of opportunity youth, national and community initiatives must embody three fundamental principles: (1) young people themselves are key to the solution; (2) all sectors must unite around a common goal to address the challenge at hand; and (3) policies and funding must be data-driven to ensure limited resources are invested wisely. The council’s recommendations aim to help significantly reduce the number of opportunity youth and make substantial progress toward putting all youth on a path to prosperity.