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Re-engaging Opportunity Youth Will Increase America's Social Mobility

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Research, as cited by Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan, cross-sector national campaign made up of more than 250 non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, community organizations, and individuals all working together to expand economic opportunity and close the opportunity gap in America, shows that when young adults fail to connect to school or a career as a young adult (16-24 years old), their lifetime earnings diminish. And young adults who aren't connected cost society $93 billion annually in lost wages, taxes, and social services.

My fellow Opportunity Nation Leaders and Scholars -- 130 in all -- represent 43 states and the District of Columbia. We each have an unwavering commitment to expanding economic mobility and proven success as a mobilizer in our communities.<

As the sole Opportunity Nation Leader in the state of Colorado, I do my mobilizing work at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center, one of 250 Opportunity Nation partners. Eagle Rock is a fully funded nonprofit initiative of the American Honda Motor Company.

Eagle Rock is both a school for high school age students and a professional development center for adults, particularly educators. The school is a year-round, residential, and full-scholarship school that enrolls young people from around the country who found success elusive in their previous high school.

The Professional Development Center works with educators from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. Our center provides consulting services at school sites and host educators who study and learn from Eagle Rock practices.

Eagle Rock agrees with Opportunity Nation that driving community collaboration to reconnect youth, re-engaging high school dropouts and preparing them for the labor force is critical and can be accomplished. For two decades Eagle Rock has been graduating students prepared to make a difference in the world and contributing to improving the high school educational experience across the country for all young people.

2012 Opportunity Index underscores that Education continues to play a leading role in advancing opportunity. While three-quarters of nation's high school freshmen graduate in four years, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Nevada -- the bottom three states on the Index -- less than half of high school students graduate on time.

One of the key points of the Opportunity Nation shared plan is to Increase Pathways to Secondary and Postsecondary Success for All Youth. States and school districts should support multiple pathways to high school and postsecondary completion by increasing access to dropout recovery programs, accelerated learning, dual enrollment to earn college credit, and bridge programs; by encouraging flexible scheduling; and by recognizing competency-based learning.

The work we are accomplishing as highlighted in the Opportunity Index include working toward reforming the antiquated Carnegie unit system where students become disengaged towards competency-based learning. While we work on a variety of issues of reform and school improvement nationally, we have engaged in this competency work with public schools in New Mexico, Washington State, Iowa and Vermont.

Eagle Rock is a major contributor to the creation of a reform network for school innovation in Vermont. We have been pivotal in creating events to move proficiency-based graduation forward in the state uniting the Department of Education, other innovative schools, and schools that want to embark on proficiency based graduation.

Continuing our work in Vermont, on November 16 at the Expanding Partnerships conference at Vermont College in Montpellier, Eagle Rock is partnering with YATST, Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together, to help teach the models of change that have successfully been employed in innovative schools across the country.

We encourage you to engage in Eagle Rock's national reform work or connect with organizations in your local community to increase social mobility in America. The Opportunity Nation week of action is October 8 - 15th. The time is now -- join us!