Opportunity Youth

The Kosasa Foundation is excited to launch a new program initiative with a focus on increasing success for Opportunity Youth — a growing segment of young people between ages 16 – 24 who are neither in school, in job training, nor employed in the workforce.

Most young adults in this age group enter this transition into adulthood fully dependent on the individuals and systems around them for food, shelter, healthcare, guidance, and emotional support. Most exit with the expectation that they are economically self-sufficient. It is a transition of sense of self—a time when young adults ask questions about who they are and test their relationship with family, community, and society. This period is also a transition between systems: from K – 12 education to postsecondary, or full-time employment.

While this stage can be full of hope and opportunity for some, for others it can be the beginning of a lifelong struggle as support systems disappear and are not replaced by clear pathways and relevant guidance. Youth in foster care will age out of a system and struggle to support themselves, youth involved in the court system will find the judicial system much more punitive, and under-skilled young adults struggle to find a job that pays a living wage.

One in nine youth in Hawaiʻi are Opportunity Youth, an estimated population of 17,000.

Program Purpose
  1. To support programs that are effective at reconnecting Opportunity Youth to educational, workforce, career, and community that provide pathways to success.
  2. To create shared learning amongst Kosasa OY grantees around their practice and how they measure their impact.
  3. Gather and use relevant data on measures that matter most to young adults to increase our understanding of the challenges of this transition period and how communities and institutions can best support Opportunity Youth in their desire to connect and belong.

Program approaches can vary depending on an organization’s mission, the needs of young adults and the communities they come from as well as the organization’s strategies for building connections.

 Our goal is not to narrow our program but to explore diverse approaches, strengthen a continuum of support, and nurture learning amongst grantees and with the Kosasa Foundation.

While we hope to have a variety of programs that are delivering meaningful results to young adults, we intend to work with our grantees to explore success measures that are relevant for their approach and that can be shared across the network.  The kinds of measures that we are interested in could include:

  • High School connection – completing HS diploma or equivalency.
  • Postsecondary connection – completing postsecondary credential (includes industry training, apprenticeship programs)
  • Workforce connection – employed, preferably in a job with potential for advancement to living wage.
  • Equity Outcomes – we would also collect relevant socioeconomic data on the population served so we can better understand underlying equity issues.

The Opportunity Youth Initiative offers a range of grants based on project scope and funding availability. Funding requests will be considered for new and existing programs that clearly demonstrate improvements and impacts that are aligned with the Program’s Principles, Effectiveness, and Measures of Success described above.

  • Grant funds are limited to no more than 20% of operating budget.
  • Small grant requests, typically in the $10,000 to $50,000 range, should demonstrate specific measurable results and outcomes for up to an 18-month project period.
  • Grant requests greater than $50,000 can be for up to a 2-year project period. Please note that larger requests are intended for more strategic, complex projects that have value and scope commensurate with the level of funding request, significant and robust partnerships and community engagement, and dramatic impact to the communities and constituencies to be served. Higher funding requests will be reviewed with greater scrutiny to assess cost-effectiveness and to ensure that potential environmental stewardship benefits justify the level of funding.