63 Baltimore City Students Graduate from Youth Opportunity (YO) Baltimore Programs


Brice Freeman, Communications
Tel: (410) 396-1910
Ernest Dorsey, Youth Services
Tel: (410) 396-6722

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

63 Baltimore City Students Graduate from Youth Opportunity (YO) Baltimore Programs

Students previously disconnected from school and work earn diplomas and face a brighter future

Baltimore, Maryland (June 10, 2015) – Youth Opportunity (YO) Baltimore hosted a special graduation event this evening for its 2015 class of 63 teens and young adults who chose to pursue alternative education after facing challenges in traditional settings. The event honored 47 graduates from the YO Academy, an alternative high school operated in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools, and 16 young people who earned their Maryland high school diplomas through the city’s two YO centers in East and West Baltimore. The graduation was held at Johns Hopkins University’s Shriver Hall. Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields delivered the keynote address.

Youth Opportunity Baltimore Class of 2015

Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, which operates YO Baltimore, said, “In recent weeks we have heard so much about the need to address unemployment and poverty, particularly in communities in East and West Baltimore. YO Baltimore, which is funded entirely by the city, has been doing this work in these neighborhoods for the past 15 years and has helped thousands of young people reach their education and employability goals. Tonight is a victory for each of these 63 graduates; it’s also a win for Baltimore.”

YO Baltimore was founded with federal funds in 2000 to address the many needs of young people disconnected from the education system and workforce. Over the past 15 years, YO has     served approximately 8,000 people; today the YO system serves 700-800 city residents annually. The average age of YO members at the time of enrollment is 19, and members typically join the program with 5th-grade-level math skills and 7th-grade-level reading skills, along with other significant barriers including:

  • Involvement with the law, including juvenile offenses (approximately 31% of YO members)
  • Pregnant or parenting (approximately 26% of YO members)
  • In foster care (approximately 8% of YO members)
  • Homeless (approximately 6% of YO members) or living in dysfunctional home environments, including families in which one or both parents are incarcerated
  • Living in neighborhoods where few positive role models exist and where education is not highly valued

The Westside YO Center, which is also home to the YO Academy public high school, is located at W. Lafayette Avenue and Gilmor Street; the Eastside YO Center, which is operated by the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC), is located on Wolfe Street. Both centers provide academic, career/job training, advocacy, mentoring, health and social support services to out-of-school, out-of-work city youth.


Since federal funding for YO expired in 2006, the program has continued to operate thanks to the vision, commitment and strong support from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Council President Jack Young and their predecessors, as well as the current and past members of the Baltimore City Council.


Key YO partners include the Baltimore City Department of Juvenile Services, Baltimore City Public Schools, Civic Works, HEBCAC, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Adolescent Health, and Sinai Hospital.





In 2014 the Mayor's Office of Employment Development hosted close to 100,000 visits from city residents at our career centers, connected more than 1,800 people with computer literacy training at our digital learning labs, and placed more than 2,100 individuals in jobs. We offered summer employment to more than 5,600 young people through YouthWorks and assisted more than 580 businesses through our Employ Baltimore – Ready to Work for You 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 pathways to careers.



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