Connecting to Education, Employment, and Training
Re-engagement helps young adults who have left school or do not attend regularly reclaim their potential – benefiting themselves, their communities, and society. Since 2006, the PIC has focused on dropout reduction, both prevention and re-engagement, in partnership with the BPS. The results are very positive. 1,936 high school students left school without a diploma during school year 2015-16. That number fell to 791 during the pre-pandemic school year 2018-19. Now Boston faces a whole new set of challenges, both for disconnected high school students and for BPS graduates who are inadequately employed and not in college or occupational training.
As a workforce development board, under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the PIC is charged with creating and supporting programs for 16-24 year-olds who are neither in school nor work. The PIC has made a point of prioritizing this often-forgotten group and convenes both the city’s WIOA Youth Council and the Youth Transitions Task Force, which for over 15 years has been bringing public attention to dropout prevention, re-engagement, and alternative education.
In order to extend the focus of re-engagement to include high school graduates who do not go on to college or start and fall out quickly, the PIC convenes the Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) in collaboration with the Boston Opportunity Agenda. The OYC conducts research, organizes forums, and promotes collaboration. Funded by a Data for Impact grant from the Aspen Institute, the OYC is partnering with the BPS and Bunker Hill Community College on an initiative designed to provide system-level and continuous improvement data to increase high school and college graduation rates.
To support the convening work at the programmatic level, the PIC partners with BPS to operate the Re-Engagement Center (REC), in order to reach students who have dropped out of high school and students who are chronically absent. PIC Re-Engagement Specialists reach out, connect, and facilitate placements in alternative education, high school equivalency programs, or high schools that are a better fit. The work of the REC is even more important as we navigate the pandemic. We know that large numbers of students have disengaged from school.
PIC staff members at the REC are also reaching out to 18-24-year-old high school graduates who do not go to college or enroll and fall out quickly. Recognizing that very few services are available for BPS graduates who do not go directly to college, the PIC is piloting an initiative to engage and coach these young adults, supported by Boston Children’s Hospital’s Collaboration for Community Health. PIC staff also coach young adults living in state-subsidized housing through a partnership with the United Way’s Launch initiative, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. In addition to helping our young adult participants connect to postsecondary training, employment, and college, PIC coaches help meet immediate needs by connecting them to funds for necessities such as food and housing and to services ranging from mental health to child care.
Eric Bui, Re-Engagement Center and YearUp
In 2017, personal struggles led Eric Bui to drop out during his senior year at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Eric did not attend school for nearly two years before deciding to resume his education.
A counselor referred Eric to the Re-Engagement Center (REC), where he was able to complete his studies online and graduate high school under the guidance of the REC’s teacher. But he did not stop there. His teacher referred him to a PIC Career Coach and, before his graduation, Eric had already begun working to identify his next step and apply to the Year Up IT training program. Eric was accepted and spent the next six months learning IT skills as well as professional skills such as business communications and public speaking.
After completing the training, Eric was placed in a six-month internship at the Harvard University Information Technology (HUIT). He is now working as a Testing Associate for the HUIT Department of Identity & Access Management.
Thanks to the help of the PIC and Year Up, Eric is on track to a career in IT. Eric says his time at the REC was a catalyst, allowing him to create positive changes in his life.