When the very definition of your job is to be a change agent, you can imagine the adrenaline rush of creating a program that has the chance to mold the futures of the next generation of workforce champions and change the fortunes of thousands of young people all at the same time. That’s why the excitement at Kinexus of Benton Harbor today is palpable. A homegrown program that started in Benton Harbor is going live across the state.
Today’s excitement for the team at Kinexus stems from their launch of Youth Solutions, Inc., a premier youth opportunity non-profit delivering promising practices to vulnerable youth across the state.
Youth Solutions, Inc. is a subsidiary organization of Kinexus with a vision that ensures every young adult in Michigan is educated, employed, and career-bound. With an influential Board of Directors including private, public, and non-profit leaders from across the state, the organization is poised to deliver on this vision in the years to come.
Youth Solutions is capitalizing on the exponential growth of its leading program- Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG)- to bring impactful services to youth populations statewide. The program started at Benton Harbor High School in 2008 serving 76 at-risk youth. Today, the program serves more than 2,300 students ages 14-26 in 57 schools and non-profit organizations across 37 Michigan cities.
Todd Gustafson is CEO at Kinexus. He says, “Our work with at risk youth over the past nine years has introduced us to youth populations across the state in need of targeted services to succeed.” As a result, he says, “Youth Solutions will continue to meet that need and drive the vision of JMG forward while bringing a variety of new solutions for young people.”
The organization is already well on its way towards tackling the evasive and persistent graduation and unemployment challenges facing Michigan. The +95-percent annual graduation rate is +28-percent higher than the annual state average for low income and minority students. Additionally, the program has nearly tripled the rate at which youth find work post high school graduation.
Kristin Harrington is the Executive Director of Youth Solutions. She says, “We’ve had tremendous success in convening stakeholders from across the state around a collective vision to educate and employ Michigan’s youth through Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates programming. This success includes nearly 2,000-percent growth in students served over an eight year period.” Harrington adds, “The addition of a strategic Board of Directors with a wealth of experiences and influences will take our vision to new heights. Together we will ensure that our students have a reason to come to school, and an even bigger reason to stay there.”
Within Southwest Michigan, JMG has six local programs at Benton Harbor High School, the Kinexus Bridge Academy, Dowagiac Union High School, Hartford High School, and Ross Beatty High School, serving a total of 357 students. The creation of Youth Solutions will drive additional services to at-risk youth in Southwest Michigan. Youth Solutions will explore opportunities to expand local partnerships with interested districts.
Kinexus Board Chair Christopher Randall says, “With the launch of Youth Solutions, we look forward to bringing innovative youth programming to even more communities that will benefit from those services. We’re excited to have a statewide organization with Southwest Michigan roots that’s a proven game-changer for our young people.”
For more information about Youth Solutions, Inc. or to become a partner, visit the new website at www.ouryouthsolutions.org. You can also follow along on Twitter at JobsforMIGrads or “like” them on Facebook at JobsforMichigansGraduates.
Kinexus is an organization that invests its time and resources into creating integrated solutions for business, workforce, and community challenges to promote economic vitality in the Southwest Michigan region. For more information, visit www.Kinexus.org, follow along on Twitter @KinexusGroup or “like” them on Facebook @KinexusGroup.