$17M granted to help at-risk young adults

As of May 2011, out of Alaska’s 522,853 residents over the age of 18, 7.4 percent are unemployed. Of the unemployed, 6.7 percent live either in Anchorage or the Mat-Su.

In the last week of June, the US Department of Labor announced $17 million in grant money, which will go to two separate organizations in the hopes of giving meaningful training and job skills for 18-24 year olds who are considered “at-risk” nationally.

An “at-risk” individual would ideally be an individual who has spent time in a juvenile facility and/or dropped out of high school.

As of March 2010 the dropout rate in Alaska is 38 percent, double that of most states in the US.

McLaughlin Youth Center is currently the home for 112 juvenile delinquents, a number that in recent years has gone down significantly and matched the national average, according to McLaughlin Superintendent Dean Williams.

“Drop-outs, expelled and suspended youth and definitely a new interest to us, and a couple years ago we started a program (Step Up) that recognizes them and helps get them back into the community,” Williams said.

Helping these delinquents get back into the community is a major focus for the grants received. They will also help these young people obtain a high school diploma or industry-recognized credentials.

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Statistically, high drop-out and juvenile delinquency rates are tied together. A majority of the youth McLaughlin sees have dropped out, or been suspended or expelled from their schools, according to Williams.

Grants were awarded through what the Department of Labor said was a “competitive process” on a national.

YouthBuild USA, a program that Alaska uses, has been granted $8.5 million and will help approximately 550 individuals, in Alaska and several states.

YouthBuild started informally in 1988 in New York City. After showing success in five local neighborhoods, the program went national. Currently there are 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, assisting youths aged 16-24.

Juneau and Anchorage both have YouthBuild programs.

Another $8.5 million will go to the Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family services. They will be helping 900 individuals in five communities. Both organizations have shown success with serving former delinquents.

The awards were made possible through the 2010 Department of Labor appropriations.

“This is not only an investment in these young people, but also their families and communities,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a press release on June 30.

It is unclear at this time if Alaska will be receiving any of the grant money, but due to the high drop out numbers, several community members are hoping to receive a portion for YouthBuild in hopes of helping Alaska’s young people stay in school and out-of trouble.