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Biden-Harris Administration Holds First-Ever Interagency Youth Policy Summit: Cultivating Possibilities

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The Biden-Harris Administration brought together nearly 90 young people from across the nation at the U.S. Department of Education today for the first-ever interagency Youth Policy Summit: Cultivating Possibilities.

The summit, which was designed and planned in partnership with youth, gave policymakers from federal agencies a chance to hear directly from young people and learn from one another about how to improve policies and programs to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to thrive. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has consistently engaged with, partnered alongside, and delivered for young people across the nation – from supporting mental health and lowering the cost of living, to tackling the climate crisis and cancelling student debt.

In an effort to continue hearing from and being informed by young people, within the next six months, the U.S. Department of Education will reconvene these youth participants and federal agencies virtually, sustaining the two-way dialogue that began at the summit.

“Our young people are always our most important stakeholders in education. Today’s youth policy summit is an important reminder that youth are also leaders of both today and tomorrow— and key partners in the policy discussions that effect their lives. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is working to ‘Raise the Bar’ for student outcomes and young people’s well-being by centering youth voices,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Our nation’s youth are passionate and engaged, and they are raising their voices in their schools and advocating for critical issues that matter to them in their communities, including access to quality, affordable education that expands their horizons, opportunities for mentorship and training to succeed in a 21st century economy, mental health supports, and safety from the all-too-present threat of gun violence. The Biden-Harris Administration hears our youth and is committed to ensuring that every young person in every community can thrive.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration is launching the Youth Apprentice Pathway Pilot, as a strategy for creating a no-wrong-door pathway for young people into federal service at ETA. Modeling a commitment to quality career pathways into federal service and other industries for young people is a key tenet of the ETA Youth Employment Works strategy. Through this pilot, the Labor Department helps model ways federal agencies can partner with Registered Apprenticeship Intermediaries to create high-quality career pathways to good jobs.

“Hearing from young people at today’s youth policy summit underscored for me the deep connection between a person’s wellbeing and the quality and availability of jobs that they can build their lives around,” said Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su. “The Department of Labor is committed to delivering on President Biden’s commitment to support young people and expand access to opportunity by ensuring there is no wrong door through which young people can access the training, skills and supportive services they need to get good jobs that can change their lives and the lives of their families. With our youth apprenticeship pilot and the hire youth pledge, we are encouraging our federal, state and local partners to provide the resources and supports that young people need to feel empowered to have a full voice in the workforce.”

“Young people in this country are dealing with a lot of serious challenges right now, and they deserve our full support. That’s why President Biden has put forward a comprehensive national strategy to tackle our behavioral health crisis and ensure that supports and services are available wherever and whenever young people need them,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We know that behavioral health is health and that there should be ‘no wrong door’ to accessing services and supports. At HHS, we’re engaging our entire Department to transform how behavioral health is understood, accessed, treated and integrated. We have invested historic amounts of funding in 988, the suicide and crisis hotline, counselors in schools, overdose treatments and more. These investments are not only an investment in our young people, they’re an investment in our future.”

The Summit included several panel discussions around federal policies and programs and their intersection with developmental goals in adolescence: Wellbeing, Belonging, Purpose, Identity and Meaning-making, Agency and Decision-making, and Leadership and Contribution. Youth and key systems leaders within youth-serving agencies and organizations (across education, child welfare, housing, juvenile justice, justice, employment, health and mental health) discussed how policy decisions and alignment across systems can better serve youth and young adults – especially those furthest from opportunity. Featured speakers in the discussions included Secretaries Cardona, Becerra, and Su, while additional agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Justice also participated in the summit.

“At this pivotal juncture, a rare and invaluable opportunity is encapsulated within this youth summit— a chance for those running this country to listen directly to those living with the policies they create. This gathering brings together a young, vibrant, and diverse array of voices from various backgrounds and life experiences, converging to share their perspectives and policy recommendations,” said Naomi Cruz Ortega, one of the youth policy summit participants. “Valuing the perspective of young adults creates a symbiotic relationship: young people inform decision-makers while they grow in confidence that they can make a positive impact. Young people, like myself, must remind the government that policies won’t be effective if we do not listen to the young voices being impacted. I am honored to be included as a part of the planning committee of this event, and that several brilliant young advocates from the Young Invincibles’ network will be joining to share their expertise. I hope the contributions from us and the other young people in attendance will create blueprints for new ideas to make progress.”

To help carry forward the policy ideas and partnerships from this summit, the Funders for Adolescent Science Translation announced a commitment of $600,000. A portion of this commitment will be dedicated to microgrants for the youth and organizations connected to the summit to follow up and work more deeply together on advancing federal youth policy. Funders include: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Bezos Family Foundation, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Ford Foundation, The Hemera Foundation, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Hopelab, Pivotal Ventures, The Raikes Foundation, Spring Point Partners, The Seattle Foundation and The Stuart Foundation.

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