Opportunities for Youth

Connecting youth with meaningful education and career opportunities.



One in Five Opportunities for Youth booklet

VISION: Harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to create a comprehensive system of opportunity that re-engages our Valley's disconnected youth.
MISSION: Youth will be successfully re-engaged and on track for success in college, career, and life.

The Challenge

The greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area was ranked number one for having the highest percentage of disconnected youth, also known as opportunity youth, out of the top 25 largest metropolitan areas in 2012. (Measure of America)

According to that study, Phoenix had an 18.8% rate of disconnection amongst youth ages 16-24.  This compares to a national youth disconnection rate of 14.7%.  Unemployment in Phoenix for this age group was 20.5%.

Only 55 percent of young people in this age group are enrolled in school, the lowest of any of the twenty-five metro areas, and the rate of teen motherhood is twice that of Boston.

Maricopa County’s Justice Services Planning and Information department studied the disconnected or opportunity youth population for all of Maricopa County and found disproportionally higher rates of disconnection in African American (28%); American Indian (28%) and Hispanic (23%) populations.

Our Approach

Vision for Systems Aligned to Achieve Better Outcomes for Opp Youth Collective Impact efforts consist of cross-sector collaboration to solve challenging problems in the community. No single problem can be addressed in isolation. For large-scale social change to occur there needs to be a concerted effort of the existing players mobilized to take action.


Collective Impact is a concerted effort of the existing players organized to action around the following five components:

1) A common agenda, which is the common understanding of the problem and a shared vision for change

2) Agreed upon shared measurements, which include collecting shared data and measuring results

3) Mutually reinforcing activities, which consist of coordination and joint planning to reduce duplication and maximize effectiveness

4) Continuous communication focused on building trust and maintaining consistent and open communication

5) A backbone entity that will coordinate and guide the collective efforts and provide support, resources and secure funding to help the initiative move forward in a collective manner.

Our Solutions

Opp Youth, by 2030 AREA OF FOCUS: Maricopa County

TARGETED POPULATION: Maricopa County Youth ages 16-24 who are neither working, nor enrolled in school.

Guided by a common and unifying framework we will create opportunities for youth to succeed through four critical and integrated pathways:

Pathways Circle • Re-Engagement Centers 

• Educational Momentum 

• Career Connections 

• Positive Youth Development.

Through these pathways, we will create opportunities for over 35,000 youth annually.

OUR GOAL: This will be filled in once adopted

OUR SHARED MEASUREMENT: This will be filled in once adopted

Our Leaders


The Opportunities for Youth Initiative is led by a Board of Directors who guides the vision and structure of the initiative. The Board is currently comprised of 38 leaders representing the state of Arizona, Maricopa County and local entities. Membership background is diverse and ranges from non-profits, government, k-12 education, higher education, behavioral health, elected officials, juvenile justice. 


Elected members of the Board bring forward questions, priorities, and decisions for Board of Directors to act upon. Offices include Chair(s), Secretary, Treasurer, and Members at Large. They monitor initiative progress through backbone support and bring forward priorities for Action Teams. 


Hundreds of empowered practitioners, representing key sectors and stakeholder groups, committed to solving our shared challenge. Action Team Members operate within one of the four pathways: Re-engagement Centers, Educational Momentum, Career Connections or Positive Youth Development.  Each pathway will have one chair, co-chair and recorder. Each working group may form sub-committees as needed.

Pathways and Stakeholders

Opportunity Youth Board of Directors

The Honorable Councilwoman, Laura Pastor, Chair (City of Phoenix)

Dr. Deb Duvall, Chair (Arizona School Administrators, Inc)

MaryEllen Sheppard, Chair (Maricopa County)

Rick Miller, Secretary (Kids at Hope International)

Kimberly Flack, Treasurer (Eight, Arizona PBS-Educational Outreach/KAET)

Dr. Althe Allen (Phoenix Union High School District)

Sharlet Barnett (ACYR, Arizona Call-A-Teen Youth Resources)

The Honorable Craig Blakey (Ret. Judge, Superior Court Maricopa County)

The Honorable Representative, Heather Carter (Arizona House of Representatives)

Jaime Casap (Google, Inc)

Dr. Don Covey (Maricopa County Education Service Agency)

Raul Daniels (Phoenix Revitalization Corporation) 
Gregory J. Donovan (Western Maricopa Education Center) 

Dr. Bob England (Maricopa County Public Health)

Dick Foreman (ABEC, Arizona Business & Education Coalition)

The Honorable Supervisor, Steve Gallardo (Maricopa County Board of Supervisor)

Graciela Garcia (Job’s for Arizona’s Graduates)

Harry Garewal (Trin and Associates / Tri Caucus)

Janice Grandy (Trinity Opportunity Alliance)

Dr. Ann Hart (Maricopa County)

Sheryl Hart (Arizona Department of Education) 

Sang Hee Kim (Governor’s Office for Children Youth & Families)

Dr. Randy Kimmens (Maricopa County Community College District) 
Dr. Jonathan Koppell (Arizona State University College of Public Service and Community Solutions) 

Brad Kuluris (Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix)

Irma Leyendecker (Public Allies AZ, ASU Lodestar Center)

Donna McHenry (Maricopa County)

Kristine Morris (Maricopa County Education Service Agency)

Dr. Shari Olson (South Mountain Community College)

Kim Owens (Year Up) 

Ernest Rose (Maricopa County Regional SD)

Beth Rosenberg (Children’s Action Alliance)

Cynthia Schuler (Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development)

Eileen Sigmund (Arizona Charter Schools Association)

Brian Spicker (Valley of the Sun United Way)

The Honorable Mayor, Greg Stanton (City of Phoenix)

Cynthia Spell Tweh (City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development) 

Tim Valencia (City of Phoenix)

Patricia Wallace (Maricopa County Workforce Connections /Human Services)

Dr. Carolyn Warner (Corporate Education Consulting, Inc. (JAG))

Heather Williams (Mercy Maricopa) 

Leila Williams (Arizona Department of Education)

Terri Wogan (Social Venture Partners)

Honorable Corey Woods (City of Tempe, Greater Phoenix Urban League) 

Board of Director Meeting Agendas and Minutes

Approved Meeting Minutes

History of the Opportunities for Youth Initiative

Disconnected Youth Summit I 

The first summit, held May 7th, 2014, brought together 160 community leaders, educators, and organizations all committing to learning more about Disconnected Youth and engaging in next steps toward reconnection and prevention. Presentations, video clips, and resources can be found here.

Disconnected Youth Summit II 

The second summit, held Wednesday, October 15, 2014, was made up of 245 people representing social service, education, business and civic agencies. We learned from re-engagement experts about what strategies have worked in other areas, both near and far, and looked at how to be successful in our own initiatives. All of the materials, videos and resources from the summit can be found here.



Read more about the history of our Opportunities for Youth Initiative here

Opportunities for Youth Map

Opportunities for Youth
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To have your organization added to this map, contact dean.kyne@mcesa.maricopa.gov 

Disconnected Youth in Zip Area

Disconnected Youth in Zip

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