For Opportunity Youth
The National Institute to Unlock Potential
Unlock Potential (UP) is a partnership between Persevere and the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ), funded through Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. Our mission is to break the cycle of incarceration by providing meaningful employment opportunities to a statistically at-risk group of young people. By engaging businesses, community partners, and youth, we can make the biggest impact by creating the National Institute and the UP Hiring program to unlock the potential for our future.
WHO ARE OPPORTUNITY YOUTH?
America is currently home to more than 4 million youth aged 16-24 (which has increased after the pandemic) who aren’t in school or working. They are known as Opportunity Youth because of their potential value to our communities and economies. Young Black and Latino people are up to three-to-six times more likely to be disconnected than whites. Youth of color are far more likely to suffer adverse outcomes like poverty and incarceration, which increases for those that have experienced foster care, human trafficking, juvenile justice involvement, and parental incarceration.
By working together, we have the opportunity to build a talent pipeline that replaces the prison pipeline and meaningfully addresses inequities in access to economic mobility.
Avoiding justice system engagement for Opportunity Youth, particularly those in underserved communities of color, is a critical step in turning the tide of mass incarceration.
WHERE NEED MEETS OPPORTUNITY
The value of post-incarceration employment programs cannot be undervalued. However, to date, very few projects have focused their attention on how to prevent incarceration in the first place. Focusing on prevention measures versus corrective action allows us to disrupt cycles of incarceration before they take place.
By increasing opportunities for alternative pathways, especially for young people of color who are most at-risk, we can create a positive, long-term impact on our communities and businesses. This will build a more prosperous and inclusive economy, enhance the quality of talent for employers, and disrupt a multi-generational cycle of poverty and justice involvement.
Unlock Potential is designed to disrupt the prison pipeline by opening meaningful career opportunities early on.
THE PLAN TO UNLOCK POTENTIAL
The National Institute provides a 3-pillar approach to disrupting the prison pipeline:
Collaborating with youth, businesses, community organizations, and other stakeholders to explore the racial and systemic inequities that negatively affect Opportunity Youth, specifically in communities of color. Identifying best practice models that will foster and increase cross-collaboration between the business sector and community organizations to increase access through workforce development and improve youth outcomes.
Collaborating with youth and stakeholders to build a framework and toolkit that supports racially equitable workforce development opportunities to upskill youth, community and workforce organizations, and employers in technology and other high-demand fields.
Collaborating with community organizations to connect youth to employment opportunities and provide wraparound services. Launching several pilot programs that create workforce development opportunities that lead to career pathways and address inequities in high Opportunity Youth areas and the digital learning divide or technology gap for communities of color.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
You can get involved in two ways:
1. THE UP NATIONAL INSTITUTE
The institute is recruiting grassroots agencies, youth-led organizations, national and state agencies, workforce development providers, social impact foundations, and businesses, including minority and women-owned businesses.
2. THE UP HIRING PROGRAM
Become a Business Partner with the UP-Hiring Program
The UP-Hiring Program is looking for businesses to participate in a design process with other major employers, experts, and community organizations.
For more information