YOUTHNET is a new initiative launched by the Virgin Islands Department of Labor with the full support of the Administration to help in addressing the needs of our at-risk youth. It mirrors the Federal Shared Youth Vision Collaborative Partnership which has given the charge to state agencies across the Nation to collaboratively develop and implement youth programs that will focus on serving the neediest youth.
YOUTHNET’s vision is to establish an inter-agency, virtual, one-stop continuum of services aimed at increasing levels of self-sufficiency for at risk youth ages 16-24.” Its mission is “to establish a “NETwork” of agencies that recaptures, counsels, mentors, educates, trains, rehabilitates and transitions youth into self sufficient members of society.” YOUTHNET will create a safety “Net” so to speak, if they fall from the system and dropout of school or are otherwise displaced. It will focus on our neediest youth—our high school dropouts. Research shows that in the Virgin Islands on a yearly average, 400 or eight percent (8%) of our students dropout of high school for a variety of reasons. According to the 2000 Census 40% of our workforce have no High School Diploma or GED.
Youths are hopeless and disillusioned, unaware of the resources and the job opportunities available in the territory. They vanish from our educational system only to surface in our judicial and health care system, unemployed, undereducated, under skilled and with numerous barriers to leading self sufficient lives. What we found to be quite disturbing is there is no Territorial Dropout Prevention Plan. Where do they go for help? How do they transition from school to the world of work? To address this concern, the Department of Labor has been working tirelessly to promote strategic partnerships with key government agencies such as the Departments of Education, Human Services, Health, Justice, and the V.I. Housing Authority, and businesses, unions, community organizations and the Workforce Investment Board to create the YOUTHNET system.
The system will be broken down into three separate components: PREVENTION, RECAPTURE AND REHABILITATION. In a nut shell, it will stem the tide of dropouts by creating programs and activities to encourage and prevent students from dropping out of school by providing counseling, mentoring and guidance for students identified as heading in that direction; it will provide a system to follow up on students when they fall out of the system by creating a “Net” or tracking system that will rapidly identify out of school youth in crisis and recapture them in the system; it will provide a system to rehabilitate youth that have multi-tiered problems (drugs, education, abuse, homelessness) by offering opportunities to be educated and receive a GED, post secondary vocational training, apprenticeships, high growth and other employment opportunities.
It will Incorporate the Career Success Standards and other work-ready programs into the public school system to increase the amount of work-ready graduates; and offer training that will lead to certification, gainful employment and self sufficiency. YOUTHNET will synchronize services to operate in one system that will offer youth who have become disconnected from mainstream institutions and systems another opportunity to successfully become self sufficient productive members of our community.
This is a bold and innovative initiative, but a necessary endeavor. We remain hopeful that with the commitment of all stakeholders our youth can have a brighter future.
What is Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) Virgin Islands?
The JAG-VI program teaches performance competencies which are needed in order for our students to: succeed in school, thrive in the workplace, and lead productive and fulfilling lives. Our vision is to lead every JAG-VI student to graduation, post-secondary education, a successful career, and life-long learning. JAG-VI is one of 33 state and territory affiliates of the National JAG Organization. Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) is a program that was created over 30 years ago with the aim of reducing dropout rates, increasing graduation rates, and assuring more students with “barriers to success” have solid plans and the basic skills for their future careers. JAG is successful because it provides a comprehensive school-to-career program for high school students who are struggling in the tradition education system. In their 30-year history National JAG has served nearly 600,000 youth since its inception and is currently helping over 40,000 students in 734 programs in 32 states.
How Many Students Does JAG Serve Annually In the Territory? In 2009-2010, JAG-VI will initiate programs at four high schools, two on St. Thomas and two on St. Croix. Beginning February 1, 2009, each program will server 25 freshman students that are not finding success in school and/or life. In 2010-2011 each of the four programs will serve 50 students (25 freshman and 25 sophomores). The goal is that by 2011-2012 the four new JAG-VI programs will be implemented across territory, extending the program 9-12 grade, and provide 12 months of follow-up. The programs are held to JAG National Performance Standards, requiring that 90% of the students move successfully to the next grade level and/or graduate, 80% of the students improve their attendance, 80% have a reduced number of discipline referrals, 100% have a career plan that follows them beyond high school, and 90% are successful in continued education and/or work.
How Will Students be Eligible for the Program?
JAG-VI students will be identified by their school and JAG-VI Career Resource Specialist staff, and will be among those at the highest risk of disengaging and/or dropping out of school. The more barriers to success that a young person has the more he or she is considered at-risk of graduating from high school or having a successful transition from school to an entry level job that leads to a career.
How Does JAG Benefit the Community?
JAG benefits the Virgin Islands by: increasing high school graduation rates, preparing high school students to enter the workforce, preparing youth to become productive members of our community, decreasing juvenile crime and delinquency, and by increasing the number of people working and contributing to society. JAG students develop character and improve performance needed to realize one’s potential for excellence in school, the workplace, as well as continuous self-development. Each JAG-VI student across the territory will annually contribute more than 5 hours in community service.
For more information please contact Fernando Webster Jr., JAG-VI Territorial Project Coordinator, at the Department of Labor-Sunny Isles Shopping Center or call (340) 773-1440 Ext. 285. You can also reach Mr. Webster by email: firstname.lastname@example.org