Youth Opportunity (YO! Baltimore) Program Celebrates Five Years of Success

Youth Opportunity (YO! Baltimore) Program Celebrates 
Five Years of Success

Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis to speak at GED ceremony


For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:

June 13, 2005

Terri Bolling, Public Information Officer 

BALTIMORE - As part of a special ceremony hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) and its Youth Opportunity (YO! Baltimore) partners, 65 students will receive GEDs and hear encouraging words from keynote speaker, Baltimore Ravens’ star linebacker Ray Lewis on Thursday, June 16, 2005, at 6 p.m. at Shriver Hall at The Johns Hopkins University. The students are participants in YO! Baltimore, a federally funded, five-year program to increase high school completion rates and employment opportunities among at-risk youth living in Baltimore’s Empowerment Zone communities. Fifty students in YO! Baltimore’s in-school program will also be honored.

“We are delighted to have Ray speak to our students,” said Karen Sitnick, MOED director. “Many students look up to him and seeing how much he cares about youth and their future success really makes a difference, especially because many of our students have overcome tremendous challenges already in their short lives.”

In addition, Lewis will kick off his “Ray’s Days” fundraising drive for youth football programs in Baltimore.

“I have built my life and career here in Baltimore and wanted to create a fun, memorable and exciting program for the community that also benefits the young people in our city who need resources to help focus them in the right direction,” said Ray Lewis. “The money we raise through Ray’s Summer Days will help to provide facilities, equipment, mentoring and coaching for youth football program.”

In 2000, Baltimore was one of 36 communities selected to receive portions of the five-year, $1.375 billion Youth Opportunity grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Baltimore’s grant award was $44 million and this return on investment is still unfolding as more than 4,000 young people are being diverted from negative paths through expanded resources and a holistic approach to help them achieve their full potential.

YO! Baltimore focuses on youth development and comprehensive support services for young people ages 14 to 21 living in Baltimore’s Empowerment Zones. YO! offers education, job training, health services, leadership development and personal counseling through two full-service centers and three satellite locations across the city.

The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development will produce a YO! Baltimore impact report later this summer. Early indicators show that YO! Baltimore’s impact on the City of Baltimore is very positive, as evidenced by improved employment and earnings among participants, increased educational achievement, lowered teen pregnancy rates and reduced crime.

Employment and Earnings

  • YO! members earn 35% more and are employed at a 42% higher rate than non-participants.
  • More than 1,000 YO! members are currently employed.

  • YO! members are one third less likely to be arrested and convicted than non-participants.
  • YO! members are half as likely to be arrested for violent crimes than non-participants.
  • The crime recidivism rate for active YO! members is 14% lower than non-participants. 

  • Out-of-school YO! members achieve GEDs at twice the rate of non-participants.
  • The dropout rate for in-school YO! members is half the rate of the general population at the four targeted Empowerment Zone area schools. 

    Teen Parenting
  • Female YO! members are 25% less likely to become pregnant and give birth than non-participants.

Before YO! Baltimore, there was no comprehensive system to help the city’s out-of-school youth get back on track for success. YO! Baltimore fills the void by offering a safe haven for youth who have become disconnected from the traditional school setting. 

YO! also serves students who appear likely to dropout without additional support through the FUTURES dropout prevention program, a partnership of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the Baltimore City Public School System. FUTURES is operating at four high schools in or near the YO! service areas, including Frederick Douglass High School, Southern High School, Patterson High School and Southwestern High School.

The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development provides a direct connection to student services and education for in-school and out-of-school youth by linking them to academic support and career development opportunities. Youth services and programs available to Baltimore City teens through MOED’s many partnerships include Youth Opportunity; the YouthWorks summer jobs program; the Career Academy at Harbor City High School; and the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE), a new “innovation high school” operated by MOED and the Sar Levitan Center at The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies.

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