Resources for Unconnected Youth: Connected Youth Initiative Grants Hope
During an unsettling time, our communities and youth with foster care experience matter. Despite these challenges, positive changes are happening every day both here at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and in the communities in which we work.
We’ve seen examples in youth with foster care experience. In this spirit, we acknowledge the serious nature of our current time and the hopeful ways Nebraskans lift each other up.
Although each Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) participant is very different, they share one thing in common: resilience. As an organization that has witnessed communities create positive change; that envisions a Nebraska where youth like Kevin, a CYI participant, thrive; we’re heartened to hear of another young person moving closer to a happy adulthood. Before we share Kevin’s triumph, let’s discuss how CYI fits into our mission and vision.
Vision, Hope, and a Brighter Future: How CYI’s Programs Fit into the Big Picture
Connected Youth is a statewide initiative (see map below). CYI originated as a result of Project Everlast Omaha’s early positive reception and now many of the community collaboratives provide support for youth with foster care experience. CYI’s strategies include several partnered efforts in each community.
These strategies include Central Navigation, which streamlines occasionally overwhelming processes and allows youth to access an array of support while having to share their story only one time; Coaching, which provides goal-oriented, strength-based support for youth to develop skills; Youth Leadership, which provides young people the opportunity to use their voice for advocacy; and Opportunity Passport™, a Jim Casey initiative whose benefits we’ll focus on today, along with Kevin.
CYI support is offered statewide to young people who range between the ages of 14 and 26 and have experience with the foster care system, juvenile justice system, and homelessness or human trafficking.
Opportunity Passport,™ a service offered through CYI, has an intentional name. The program teaches young people financial literacy on their path to a thriving adulthood.
The benefits of the program include enrollees’ ability to use several different savings matches and the financial education to support lifelong financial well-being and economic hope. For example, if a participant may wish to pay for much-needed dental expenses and saves $2,000 of her own money, the program provides $6,000 for the procedure.
The program also offers 2:1 matches for expenses including vehicle, housing, medical/dental expenses, education, debt reduction, and investments. A 1:1 match is available for those participants who need to make stability-supporting purchases.
Finally, Opportunity Passport™ participants receive referrals and active coaching. These services may include helping enrollees open personal bank accounts and establishing or re-establishing personal credit.
How Kevin Achieved his Goals Alongside Opportunity Passport
Kevin has been a participant in Opportunity Passport™ for over three years. He speaks three languages, plans to attend college, continues to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency. Given these skills, he’s already created a solid foundation but has built on these existing talents.
Youth like Kevin and Sheri, a young, single mother who successfully completed this program, receive a 2:1 savings match of up to $1,000 per year, a personal bank account, and additional financial education opportunities.
Kevin experienced another milestone: he recently graduated from high school! He and his CYI supporters have been celebrating this and his other accomplishments.
Throughout his three years participating in Opportunity Passport™, Kevin has worked hard to support himself and attend financial education classes. These classes are intended for participants to gain financial literacy so they can enter this world as thriving adults.
Kevin has used his Opportunity Passport™ savings match to fill a variety of needs on his journey to self-sufficiency. He made car payments, rent payments, and built credit. He said the skills he learned from the courses, “Ma[d]e me confident I can move forward on my own.”
Kevin set his sight on the not-so-distant future and brighter horizon. He wants to earn a certification in construction management, attend university, then become a civil engineer.
He said, “Finding this program has made my life so much better. Because of Opportunity Passport™, I’m getting out of debt. I graduated and I’m starting my life. I feel ready to move forward to the next thing. “
Thanks to the support he’s received through Opportunity Passport™, Kevin is on his way to the next phase of his life.
Connected Youth Initiative’s Successes: One Among Many Others
Kevin is only one CYI participant whose success proves what a smart, determined young person can do with a little support.
We’ve collected other instances of CYI participants leveraging their strong will alongside the right resources including Sheri, who we mentioned earlier, who partook in Opportunity Passport™, and Your Money, Your Goals to save up for a brand-new smile.
Rosa, a smart young woman, utilized the LEAP initiative’s resources and her own resolve after almost dropping out of college to get back on track.
During a time when you may feel disconnected, subscribe to our blog to read more about how youth are being connected to helpful resources – and all because of you.