School districts and municipalities throughout the U.S. are under intense pressure to reform schools, raise graduation rates, and better prepare American youth for a workforce that must compete globally. Improving America’s educational system so that all students have access to a quality education is important but focusing on that system alone will not ensure the educational success of our nation’s young people.
Beleaguered school leaders, city officials and parents may be overlooking powerful colleagues and resources in their reform efforts. Willing partners are operating in virtually every community in America. They are community-based, positive youth development agencies that are mentoring, training, educating, coaching, supporting, and guiding children and youth outside the schoolhouse door. These household names in youth and human services in America—Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girls Inc., Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, YWCA and YMCA, to name a few—collectively serve tens of millions of young people annually, employ hundreds of thousands of staff, and deploy millions of volunteers in the service of children and youth.