By Quentin Wodon, Author of the Rotarian Economist Blog, President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Lead Economist at the World Bank
In the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Capital City of the United States, more than 17,000 young adults ages 18 to 24 are considered disconnected from work and school. Quite a few of them live in or near Capitol Hill, which is where my Rotary club is located. These youths often come from low-income families, are not in school and are not working. They typically face multiple challenges, including homelessness, issues with the courts, or substance abuse.
These challenges prevent them from successfully transitioning into adulthood. They are a serious threat to long-term community development, not only because of the risks of violence and criminality that arise when youth do not have the tools to succeed, but also because of the sharp impact that their current challenges may have on their future ability to make a living. For a community to prosper, all youth need to be able to grow and contribute.
However, there is hope. Programs reaching out to these youths have been proven to work. Latin America Youth Center (LAYC) is one of the few nonprofits in Washington, DC, implementing rigorous impact evaluations of its programs. LAYC was founded in 1968 and serves 4,000 individuals per year.
The organization uses an innovative approach to address the needs of youth at especially high risk. Its flagship initiative, Promotor Pathway, is a long-term, intensive, holistic case management and mentorship program. Data from a five-year evaluation suggests that the program has led to positive changes in terms of increasing school enrollment, reducing birth rates, and reducing homelessness among participating youth.
Shayna Scholnick, the Director of the Promotor Pathway program for the District, was a guest speaker at our bi-weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in late August 2016. She shared some volunteer opportunities. There are many opportunities for our club members to get involved with this type of community-based partner.
We decided to support LAYC by sharing our professional skills. As part of our pro bono initiative, described previously on this blog, we have put together a small team of five professionals to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of LAYC’s Promotor Pathway program.
The team includes Rotarians as well as non-Rotarians. Three of us are looking at the value the program’s benefits such as school enrollment, the reduction in homelessness, and the reduction in pregnancies. The fourth member of the team is researching other similar programs and the fifth member is looking at the cost data.
Together we hope to be able to demonstrate that the program’s benefits are much larger than its costs, which would help LAYC raise more funds and expand its program nationally. In doing this work pro bono, we feel that we are in a small way contributing to community development in our area.