Who qualifies as Out of School Youth?
The Out of School Youth, or OSY, refers to 14-21 year old migrant youth who have not graduated from high school, have not received a high school equivalency diploma, and/or have not passed the GED examination.
This population includes new immigrant students who fit the profile of “Here-to-Work”. Here-to-Work OSY are youth who have immigrated to the United States in order to work, usually without the intention to enroll in the U.S. educational system. Although many Here-to-Work OSY are underage, many of them are unaccompanied by a guardian and some have received very little formal education in their native country.
Why are services to Out of School Youth so important?
Services to this population are frequently unavailable in traditional K-12 systems. Additionally, the Out of School Youth are at times either unaware of existing services or unable to take advantage of them. These students need an advocate, someone who can both motivate them and help them access needed services.
These students will become adults in the near future—with or without an education. If they do not further their education, and if they do not acquire needed life skills and vocational skills, then the price will be high both for the individual and the society at large. A small investment of time and effort on the part of dedicated Migrant Education Program staff can make all the difference for these students.
What are the obstacles faced by Out of School Youth?
There are many obstacles, and the scope and nature of the obstacles varies with each individual student. Some of these students have basic needs in the areas of housing, food, clothing, and transportation. If the student is Here-to-Work, then his or her day-to-day existence may be consumed with efforts to address basic needs.
Health needs are another area of concern. Out of School Youth may be in need of medical, vision, and or dental care. There may also be a need in the area of health education including basic nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, proper dental care, drug and alcohol awareness, and information in regards to sexually transmitted diseases.
The language barrier can be a huge issue for many Out of School Youth. If the young adult is monolingual in the native language, simple access to ESL and literacy classes can make a big difference. Depending on the previous educational level of the student, literacy support can provide the mechanism that allows the student to acquire the most basic skill necessary to further their education.
Guidance and counseling may be the most crucial of all services to be provided. Students may have a short-term view of their future, and may not be used to looking at their life as a continuum, one in which daily decisions impact the long term outlook. There is frequently a need for the young adult to understand the long-term economic impact of his/her decisions. At that point, aptitude screening and vocational counseling can help the student better understand his or her own strengths and assist the student in developing a game plan for further education.
Referrals and linkages can help students locate and gain access to the right educational placement. That might be an alternative high school. It might involve an adult education program. Some students may need basic ESL support initially. There may be an appropriate ROP or vocational program. And some students may benefit from a course of study at a community college.
What does Region 1 plan to do to address the needs of Out of School Youth?
We have an identified Out of School Youth population of over 500 students. That count, however, does not reflect the true number of OSY students in our region. OSY are amongst the most challenging population of Migrant youth to identify, and Region 1 is constantly striving towards more effective outreach strategies in our effort to ensure that every OSY in our region is identified and served.
We have developed an OSY Initial Needs Assessment (INA) to be used by local staff as they begin working with this population. The purpose of the profile is to inform staff in regards to the needs and interests of each student and provide us with a starting point for providing services that meet each student's individual needs. INA completion rates and individual data elements from the INAs are tracked through the regional office in order to ensure accountability and track trends in student needs.
In order to address the needs of Here-to-Work students, who often have limited access to transportation, tend to live in isolated areas, and relocated frequently, Region 1 has developed a menu of mobile services designed to serve youth at their point of need. These include health services such as health screenings and referrals to follow up care, health workshops, and health kits, all of which are brought to the OSY at their homes. Region 1 also offers a variety of ESL services, including crash course workshops offered at ranches and labor camps over the course of a week or several weeks, ESL materials and mini-workshops on using the materials, referrals to ESL programs and assistance/advocacy in enrolling for ESL programs.
Some OSY have different needs and priorities requiring more ongoing one-on-one advocacy. Region 1 has developed a Migrant Learning Action Plan (MLAP) that is used to provide OSY who are interested in ongoing advocacy with an individualized plan for addressing their unique needs and achieving their particular goals. The MLAP is a flexible tool that can be modified as the student's situation evolves and is designed to ensure accountability on the part of the student and MEP staff while empowering the student to take the lead on their path towards their goals.
What can you do to help?
The needs of this population demand a team approach. None of us can do an adequate job of both reaching out to Out of School Youth and addressing their needs in isolation. We encourage you, whether you are a local school district providing services to migrant students, a community agency, or an alternative education provider to contact the regional office. We will be reaching out to all of our potential partners. If your mission includes services to this population, please do not hesitate to contact the Region 1 Office at the Santa Clara County Office of Education.