José Cárdenas: The Maricopa County Educational Service Agency hosted a summit focused on reconnecting disconnected youth in Phoenix. The summit explored the problem and its impact on individuals and communities. We will talk more about what was discussed at the summit, but first here's a look at what happened that day.
(Sound on tape)
>> On May 7th, McESA sponsored its first disconnected youth summit.
>> Metropolitan Phoenix has the greatest number of disconnected youth. That's a wicked problem.
>> Leaders from across the country came together to discuss the issue.
>> If my kids are disadvantaged, they have all of the disadvantages of success.
>> And begin to mobilize towards effective solutions.
>> The imagination will allow us to do something transformative that we can only do together. We can't do it alone.
>> McESA and the greater Phoenix metropolitan community: working together to connect the disconnected. For more information, visit education.maricopa.GOV/connect.
>> Get the inside scoop on what's happening at Arizona PBS. Become an eight insider. You'll receive weekly updates on the most anticipated upcoming programs and events. Get the eight insider delivered to your email in box. Visit www.azpbs.org to sign up today.
José Cárdenas: With me to talk about the Disconnected Youth Summit is Laurie King, director of learning and communication systems for the Maricopa County Education Service Agency. Laurie, welcome to "Horizonte." So we use the word "disconnected" but disconnected in what sense? What does that mean?
Laurie King: Well, disconnected is a term that has been given to youth ages 16 through 24 who aren't in school or aren't working.
José Cárdenas: And this was the first summit of its kind here in Arizona, as I understand it. Why now? What happened that made your organization and others decide to focus on this issue?
Laurie King: Well, back in September, a front page article was published in the "Arizona Republic" by a reporter named Eugene Scott that broke the story about disconnected youth in Phoenix. And it named Phoenix as the number one city in America with the highest number of disconnected youth. He was reporting on a study that came out of the Measure of America, which is an organization out of New York City that did a study of the entire country and named metro Phoenix as the number one metro area in the country with disconnected youth.
José Cárdenas: Now, some of the kids we're talking about are people that your organization has been working with, and many other organizations in the valley. Why was this such a shock?
Laurie King: Well, I think that when you think about it, it wasn't so much of a shock that it exists, but that metro Phoenix is such -- had the highest number. So that was -- that's a sobering statistic, any time you look at your own community and say, wow, we're known for this, and so we really knew that we had to get involved as the Education Service Agency for the county that we needed to quickly jump on this and try to connect these kids.
José Cárdenas: And from what I understand, the summit was very successful in bringing people together to talk about this problem. What were the results of the summit?
Laurie King: Well, the summit was fantastic. We had about 174 people from different local agencies, nonprofits. We had political leaders, community leaders coming together, and really the point of the summit was to raise awareness of this issue and to really bring to light. What came out of that was a commitment from the people that were there to come together, to do something about this. These organizations are already doing great things for kids in this demographic that we would consider disconnected. Fantastic things are going on in pockets throughout metro Phoenix, throughout the state. But what we wanted to do is bring them together and start connecting what they're doing to really cast the net over metro Phoenix to gather up as many of our youth as possible to reconnect them.
José Cárdenas: And there were a number of disturbing aspects of the original report, one we've already talked about, Phoenix is number one in this category, but also at least on a national basis, amongst Hispanic youth. It’s the one group were the number of female disconnected is greater than male disconnected, why is that?
Laurie King: Right. Well, what we've seen in the research is that young women who have children are three times likely, more likely to be disconnected. And we're also seeing that in metro Phoenix there are pockets, ZIP codes, neighborhoods that have more disconnected youth than others. And the expectations in the neighborhoods, friends influencing friends, families influencing families, we're seeing more, we're seeing the disconnection through those pockets. And so as we look into our neighborhoods that are more segregated, then that's what we're seeing. And that's a big issue that we need to tackle.
José Cárdenas: We've only got about 30 seconds left. Big job ahead of everybody, what's the next step?
Laurie King: We have a next summit is October 15th of this year. Where we are bringing these groups back together as well as anybody else who is interested and looking at creating this collective impact model where we're going to be coming together and making some steps forward of -- as different organizations and different groups, how we're connecting together to really wrap around these kids and get them reconnected into school and into work.
José Cárdenas: Laurie King, thank you for joining us on “Horizonte” to talk about this
Laurie King: Thank you.