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Region’s youth in crisis, study finds

UC Davis study concludes education, civic, and job opportunities must improve
By: Kirsten Read Journal Correspondent
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Is there enough community support for local youth to succeed? A two–year study released today says there needs to be drastic improvements in the Sacramento region, including Placer County, for young people to prosper. And local students agree that it’s increasingly difficult to get the educational and job opportunities they need. The UC Davis study concludes that the region can prosper only if it drastically improves education, health, civic participation, and job opportunities for young people, who face higher high school dropout and unemployment rates than the statewide average, according to a UC Davis news release. The two-year research project, funded by the Sierra Health Foundation with additional support from The California Endowment, focused on young people ages 12 to 24 in Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties, according to UC Davis. The report documents disparities in resources and opportunities available to the region’s youth based on their geographic location, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, immigration status and other factors. Karla Marquez, board member of the Latino Leadership Council in Auburn, said that the council is using a grant supplied by the Sierra Health Foundation and the statistics and recommendations from the study to initiate a pilot project to keep youth out of prison and increase their opportunities for education. Local teens agree with the study, and hope that it will give community and state leaders a much needed push to increase opportunities for youth. Nelson Wheelehan, a 2010 Colfax High School graduate who is entering his second year at Chico State, agreed that job and educational opportunities for youth are becoming progressively limited. “Obviously, the current recession has kept some college graduates from entering their vocation immediately after school,” Wheelehan said in an email. “I feel that it is becoming increasingly difficult for middle class youth to obtain an education. Not only is tuition rising, but the demands of living have increased.” Megan Emme, New Media coordinator for a website called Youth Noise, a social activism site geared toward youth, and a 2010 graduate of Rocklin High School now attending San Francisco State, said students, herself included, have gone to extremes to get into college. “I’m still baffled by all the money people spent at my high school to get into a decent college,” Emme said in an email. “You were expected to pay for a college counselor, SAT/ACT prep classes and books, the SAT/ACT itself, not to mention the cost of all the applications. People were literally asking their parents for more applications for Christmas. All that money and you haven’t even stepped foot in a university. It should come as no surprise that youth of a lower economic class have such a hard time being successful in the work place.” Emme said she’s frustrated with how government spends its money. “I can’t tell you why we would rather spend money to bail out humongous corporations, increase an already mammoth defense program, and support an ever growing bureaucracy,” Emme said. “That’s something I will not ever understand.” Daniel Graupensperger, a 2010 Colfax High School graduate and valedictorian who will be attending UCLA in the fall, feels that the study fairly depicts teens’ struggles to find work. “It appears that, with the job market the way it is, it becomes even harder for teens to find jobs,” Graupensperger said. “Adults are scrambling to take positions traditionally held by teens. The fact that employers are able to hire adults full time or with more flexible hours makes them a more attractive choice than teens that are limited to after-school hours. Those teens that do get after-school jobs are then forced to spend much of their time working rather than focusing on their education.” Emme said work also needs to be done to change negative perceptions about teens. “I think there’s a really dangerous view out there that kids aren’t succeeding because they’re lazy or unmotivated,” Emme said. “Millennials are classified so often as technology addicted slobs. It’s much easier to assume it’s the kids fault than face the reality that maybe we’re not supporting them in the way we should.” Wheelehan and Emme agree that a large-scale change needs to happen. “When we spend more money per prisoner than per student there is a serious problem,” Emme said. “It seems like every time budget cuts come around, youth programs and education opportunities are the first to go. And if we continue to give last priority to young people, we face a very dark future.”