Assuaging the Youth Opportunity Gap: A Social Capitalist Approach

Last AllCorps day SCI members from across Eastern Massachusetts came together and discussed the youth opportunity gap and how a social capitalist approach might assuage it. In multiple groups, members brainstormed ideas and came up with Ten Practical Means by which any youth focused organization can instill valuable social capital systems. Enjoy.


  1. Expanding Personal Support Systems. Whether it’s a dedicated, after-school tutor or an accessible guidance counselor, expanding the personal support systems of youth will begin to create custom networks that youth can recurrently visit.


  1. Offer Low Cost Extracurriculars. When we eliminate the cost imperative, youth from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can access new networks; organized sports, music clubs, art classes, etc. Participating in these extracurriculars will bring new friends and connections to youth whom without, would have less substantial networks moving forward.


  1. Resume Work and Soft Skills Training. When preparing youth for the competitive professional world, a well organized resume, good interpersonal skills and interviewing tactics can give someone with fewer resources or less work experience a fighting chance. Classes and training in these soft skills will prepare youth to make a connection on the street or exceed expectations for entry-level interviews.      


  1. Provide Volunteering Opportunities. Not only will volunteering expose youth to resume worthy experience, but it will introduce volunteers to new people and potentially connect them to an organization looking for employees.


  1. Simply Spending Time with Youth. Parents burdened with 60 hour work weeks aren’t able to afford the same time as parents who work less. It’s important to make up for this deficit simply by being accessible and constructive in the lives of youth. Whether it’s offering friendly advice or having a conversation about school, filling this important social gap can help youth cope and define better habits for themselves.


  1. Better Transportation. Having reliable transportation to and from activities can make it or break it for some. Offering some form of public transportation option to and from events will give opportunities to youth who live too far to walk and have parents who are at work or indisposed.


  1. Multilingual Support. Educators and support staff that speak multiple languages have an important role to play in youth mentorship. Speaking in someone's native tongue will make them feel more comfortable can encourage them to participate in activities.


  1. Resources for Parents. Educating parents through information sessions and handouts can improve their understanding of social capital and how their child will benefit. In the end, it is up to the parent to send their child off into a specific program; be sure they know the immediate and long-term boons of strong networks.


  1. Pushing them Further. Sometimes it takes a push or extra encouragement to get youth to participate in rewarding activities. Actually participating with youth as they try new things is a particularly good form encouragement especially when trust and respects is already established.


  1. Encourage use of Social Networks. Social networking on the internet is a great way to stay in touch with friends abroad but also a direct means of finding employment, volunteer opportunities and group activities. Use online networks like LinkedIn, Craigslist and Volunteermatch to expose youth to hidden opportunities and be sure to encourage professional etiquette while online.