In the United States, 1.6 million young people between 18 and 24 years old are out of school (lacking either a high school degree or General Educational Development certificate) and out of work. These “disconnected” young people face significant barriers to economic opportunity and distressingly high odds of becoming involved with the criminal justice system.
Project Rise, a program currently operating as part of New York City's Social Innovation Fund initiative, seeks to reconnect these young people with education, work, and social support as a pathway to a brighter future. A distinctive feature of Project Rise is that participants are offered paid internships if they maintain satisfactory attendance in the program’s education component.
This policy brief provides early lessons from Project Rise, including that:
- Enrolling participants in a series of groups (or cohorts) can promote bonding among them through a combination of peer support and peer pressure.
- Surprisingly, participants appear to value the program’s education component more than they value the offer of a part-time paid internship.
- Given the challenges of engaging disconnected young people for the full duration of the program, it is important to respond flexibly to participants’ barriers and strengths.
These lessons and others that will emerge from the Project Rise implementation research can inform federal, state, and local policies for disconnected young people.