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Getting Communities Ready

Getting Communities Ready

The only way to change the odds for all youth is to work together differently to create an insulated pipeline of supports from “cradle to career” – wrapping coordinated, high-quality family and community supports as well as basic services around the traditional education pipeline – and to focus our attention on the whole child.

Schools play a critical role in preparing young people, but they fill only a small portion of young people’s lives. Focusing solely on school-related issues will not ensure that all young people are ready for college, work and life.

To achieve these goals, a broad range of stakeholders must assume responsibility for child and youth success. Systems and settings should be organized to ensure the all young people have ongoing access to and participate in high quality services and learning environments, throughout their waking hours and across their developmental years.

If we want to ensure that young people are truly ready when they reach the end of the education pipeline, we must do more than fix the leaks and increase the flow. We must insulate the pipeline to create a continuum of basic and enrichment supports from birth through adulthood.

Insulating the Education Pipeline

Ready by 21 uses the “insulated education pipeline” as a helpful image for what a “ready community” looks like.

Most young people make their way through the formal education pipeline, starting with early childhood and pre-school programs, through the K-12 system, and increasingly, into some form of post-secondary education.  There is much work underway nationwide to fortify and improve elements all along this education pipeline.

Ready by 21 helps communities think about how they insulate that pipeline, just like we insulate pipes at home to protect them. The first layer of insulation is the family, strengthened by a range of formal and informal supports, such as:

  • other caring adults, mentors and peers who guide young people through the years
  • community-based organizations that connect youth and families to critical supports and resources
  • employers who provide students with opportunities to apply their learning, pursue their interests and build social capital

A second layer of insulation should ensure that young people have access to high-quality basic services that will allow them to successfully make their way through the pipeline. Those services include:

  • health care
  • transportation
  • housing
  • financial supports

Finally, if all young people are to make a successful transition to adulthood, supports cannot end when students leave high school, either as graduates or dropouts. Ensuring student success requires broadening our thinking beyond school, beyond the school day, beyond academics and beyond the age of 18. Given the dramatic changes in the labor market in the United States, it also requires thinking beyond high school graduation and even beyond college readiness as ends in themselves.