91 Baltimore City Students Graduate from Youth Opportunity (YO!) Baltimore Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 13, 2013

Contacts: Brice Freeman, Communications, 410-396-1910, [email protected]

Ernest Dorsey, Youth Services, 410-396-6722, [email protected] 91

Baltimore City Students Graduate from Youth Opportunity (YO!) Baltimore Programs Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Councilman Brandon Scott address graduates succeeding through alternative options

Baltimore, Maryland (June 13, 2013) – Youth Opportunity (YO!) Baltimore hosted a special graduation event last night for its 2013 class of young adults who chose to pursue alternative education after facing challenges in traditional academic settings. Mayor Stephanie RawlingsBlake spoke at the graduation, as did Baltimore City 2nd District Councilman Brandon Scott, a past participant of YO! Baltimore, who delivered the keynote address. “The Baltimore City Council and I recognize the value of investing in YO! Baltimore,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Many people had written off these young graduates who are now well on their way to becoming independent adults and productive Baltimore citizens. Here’s proof that when given the opportunity, our youth will respond and make us all proud.” The event honored 57 students who graduated from the YO! Academy, an alternative Baltimore City public high school that partners with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED). An additional 34 young people earned their general Maryland high school diplomas through the city’s two YO! Baltimore centers in East and West Baltimore. The graduation was held at Johns Hopkins University’s Shriver Hall. Administered MOED and operated in partnership with the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC), YO! Baltimore was founded in 2000 to address the many needs of youth and young adults who become disconnected from traditional learning environments. Supported by many partners with expertise in youth development and experience in community involvement, YO! has provided academic, career/job training, advocacy, mentoring, health and social support services to thousands of out-of-school, out-of-work city youth. MOED Director Karen Sitnick said, “YO! participants and YO! Academy students are an essential component of our city’s future workforce. YO! Baltimore has provided them with opportunities to positively re-engage with the education system and the labor market, thereby improving their skills that lead to employment and careers.” YO! Baltimore follows a youth development model that builds on participants’ existing strengths, connects them with caring adults, and offers needed support resources. Since 2000, the YO! program has served nearly 7,000 Baltimore residents between the ages of 16-22, linking them with more than 150 community-based educational, workforce preparation and personal development services. Not surprisingly, the demographics of the members at the time of registration indicate several barriers that needed to be addressed in order to bring them --more--

to a point to effectively further their education and employability goals: • 76 percent of participants had dropped out of school • 94 percent were unemployed • the average math level was fifth grade • the average reading level was seventh grade • 31 percent had been involved in the criminal justice system (adult or juvenile conviction, or case pending) • 26 percent were parents • 8 percent were in foster care • 6 percent were homeless or in transitional housing Key YO! partners include the Baltimore City Department of Juvenile Services, Baltimore City Public Schools, Civic Works, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Adolescent Health, Sinai Hospital, and HEBCAC – which operates the East Baltimore YO! center. ### In fiscal year 2012, the Mayor's Office of Employment Development hosted more than 145,000 visits from city residents at our one-stop career centers, provided computer literacy to more than 2,500 people at our Digital Learning Labs, and placed nearly 2,500 individuals in jobs. We connected more than 5,300 young people to summer employment and assisted more than 450 businesses through our Employ Baltimore strategy. MOED is committed to building a strong workforce for our city by developing meaningful partnerships with the local business community and connecting Baltimore citizens of all ages and backgrounds with jobs and pathway

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