Study focuses on improving lives of youth in poor neighborhoods
By: Chris Booker
Research from The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity is helping the Columbus City Council fund new programs to aid vulnerable youth.
Kirwan Institute Senior Legal Analyst Kyle Strickland presented the findings of the report Renewing Our Call to Action at a hearing in City Hall Monday night. Columbus City Councilman Shannon Hardin hosted the hearing to present the research and announce $100,000 in funding to support programs that aid the boys and young men identified in the report.
“Data is critical to us moving forward. If you don’t measure what you’re talking about, you don’t mean it,” Hardin said. “We mean this work.”
Renewing Our Call to Action is intended to help expand the work of the city’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. President Obama launched the program in 2014 to address the persistent challenges faced by boys and young men of color and find ways to help these boys reach their potential.
According to the Kirwan Institute research, 45 percent of the city’s 290,100 youth between the ages of 0 and 24 live in neighborhoods that experience high or very high vulnerability.
Strickland said that means youth in those neighborhoods were exposed to continued stressors such as poor performing schools, poverty, inadequate health care and unsafe neighborhood environments. The research found exposure to these stressors can negatively impact high school graduation, household income and life expectancy, and be linked to incidences of violent crime.
“There are youth facing conditions that should be unacceptable and we’ve got to address it. And those who are disproportionately affected by it are youth of color,” Strickland said.
Kirwan Institute researchers developed an index to understand youth vulnerability in the areas of education, economics, health and safety. They gathered demographic data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey and analyzed it to see where the most vulnerable neighborhoods were and who was living in them.
The study also looked at where to find help. Researchers cataloged and mapped the locations of area youth service providers and surveyed those providers on their programs and their ideas for future success.
“I think the city’s commitment to step up and be a part of this effort and put dollars behind it is crucial. $100,000 is just a start but it’s a call on the county, the state and the national leaders to make sure we’re spending dollars and resources to address the need,” Strickland said.
Strickland noted one of the speakers at the hearing called on city leaders to make sure they involve the young people analyzed in the report in the solutions developed through the grant program. He said it would be critical to hear from all voices in the community to help solve the problems facing at-risk youth.
“The city is committed to it and now we all need to show we’re committed to it as well.”