Back in October of 2014, DCAYA was thrilled to support the creation of the District’s first DC Youth ReEngagement Center, an initiative of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), which provides educationally disengaged youth a one-stop location for the assessment of education status, referral to one or more school completion options, and support to re-enroll and stay enrolled. Since its opening two years ago, the REC has enrolled over 400 youth in educational placements and has supported 30 students through the attainment of a high school diploma. Now, the REC is seeking to scale the success of their brick-and-mortar center with the launch of BackOnTrackDC.org.
As an even broader approach to provide District residents who have taken a non-traditional path with reliable and up-to-date information on their educational options, BackOnTrackDC allows its users to search from programming that meets their individual needs and accounts for specific barriers. The website helps them identify best-fit programs by filtering key considerations in their decision to return to school: the type of secondary credential offered, whether a program provides English classes, and whether the program will help them with workforce readiness and career training. The website also supports filters for critical wraparound services, including the availability of night classes, support in finding postsecondary or job placement, bilingual instruction, and on-site childcare. Search results then lead users to organizational profile pages that include the specifics of their programming and contact information. Importantly, the website also gives users the opportunity to reach out directly to REC staff through a “Connect With Us” option.
While the DC Youth Re-engagement Center was established to meet the needs of youth ages 16-24, BackOnTrackDC is designed as a resource for youth and adults as they explore the range of alternative and adult-serving education programs and career pathways in the District. If your program offers secondary credentials, and you’d like to be included as a member of the BackOnTrackDC network, you can either submit a request through the “Connect With Us” button on the website and check “Partner with the ReEngagement Center”, or reach out directly to Isaac Hammond-Paul, Deputy Director of the REC.
Keep in mind that being included on the website requires management of your organizational profile by your staff. The ideal profile manager:
- Works closely with your organization’s administrators, ideally on a registrar or recruitment team;
- Keeps up-to-date on enrollment timelines and fluctuations;
- Is aware of organizational specialties and strengths; &
- Maintains current knowledge of programmatic fluctuations.
In turn, REC staff will provide a 15-minute training on how to manage and update your organizational page, will provide ongoing technical assistance should any issues arise, and they commit to visiting your program once a year to ensure the website’s users are receiving accurate information.
With over 8,000 youth 16-24 currently disengaged from school, BackOnTrackDC is an important addition to the District’s overall efforts to provide its residents with the educational and career pathway opportunities they need to thrive. It is the result of collaboration between RaiseDC’s former Youth Employment Change Network YECN) and the ongoing work of the Disconnected Youth Change Network (DYCN). An example of the great work that can be accomplished through a collective impact approach, BackOnTrackDC received generous support from Next Step PCS and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.
We hope this new resource will prove valuable to your programs and the youth you serve, and that the District will continue forging forward to stem the tide of youth disconnection and fully support those seeking to re-engage.
Amy Dudas is the disconnected youth and workforce development policy analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She’ll be advocating at the DC Council this spring to ensure that the District fully supports youth on their path to educational and lifelong success in the workforce. If you’re interested in informing our 2017 Advocacy Agenda, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.