For the few million Opportunity Youth, it can be difficult to find either education or employment. Entrepreneurship programs can offer solutions to aid their problems.
Throughout the U.S., there are about 4.6 opportunity youth, young people who are neither in work or school. Programs such as the Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) can help inspire entrepreneurship as an option. The Forum for Community Solutions (FSC) works with a network of over two dozen urban, rural, and tribal communities who all seek to provide opportunity youth with employment and education opportunities. The group launched the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund (YEF) in 2017.
The fund seeks to promote racial and economic equity by ensuring that youth who experience these economic barriers have ways to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. They also provide the tools and resources needed for successfully capturing the mindset.
Mali Linton, 22, was a participant in the Bay Area and expressed how the program allowed her to acquire knowledge she could not have learned on her own. “I learned how to be creative and innovative while building my business from the ground up,” Mali says. “I’ve also learned that entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody. I had to be comfortable being uncomfortable a lot.”
The goal of YEF is to not only teach the youth how to create a business, but how to use their entrepreneurial education as a skill that can assist them in any career.
“YEF has given my community opportunities such as job readiness, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship education, and also it finds ways to help youth be a part of the growth of their community,” she says.
Derick Thomas facilitated the program and worked very closely with Mali. “I have always been interested in the entrepreneurship path as a way to empower our communities,” Derick says. “I believe that entrepreneurship is the key to the liberation of our community, by taking charge of our own financial future we can use the money we make to put it back in our own communities.”
He mentions how the impact on the youth was immediate and lasting. “People starting their own businesses start to feel empowered, they believe in themselves and their ability to take control of their destiny,” he says. “I’ve seen entrepreneurship spark excitement in the eyes of these young people, the ability to be their own boss and make their own money goes hand and hand with the street mentality we develop in our community.”
The program is now offered in 3 communities- the Bay Area, Philadelphia, and Del Norte County and Tribal Lands in Northern California. They are entering their second year of the entrepreneurship program and are looking forward to continuing the partnership and expanding entrepreneurship pathways.
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