The Opportunity Movement

Devoted to closing the Opportunity Divide

16% vs 84%

The numbers are shocking.  A study highlighted in the New York Times this week revealed that only 16% of recent high school graduates not enrolled in college are working full-time.  An additional 22% are working part-time (often because they can’t find full-time work) and most believed they would be unable to get good jobs without further education, inaccessible for many.

Where does that leave us?  It leaves us with an unforgivably high percentage of young adults who lack a path to economic self-sufficiency, and whose talent is going to waste.  And with such low odds for this generation of young people, the message to the next generation is clear: if you don’t plan – or can’t afford – to go to college after high school, don’t expect much for yourself.

This wasted potential seems especially frustrating when you consider how avoidable it is.  There are many jobs in this country that do not require four-year college degrees, and many that require them even though they are unnecessary.  With some additional training, through a vocational program or through an employer, many of these young adults could not only fill those jobs, but excel in them.

Take, as an example, Samantha Lewis, a graduate of Year Up Bay Area.  Before she started the program, Samantha, a 22-year-old high school graduate with no college degree, was unemployed and homeless.  Her talent and hard work during the program ultimately earned her a permanent position at Wells Fargo – a position for which her supervisor had previously been seeking a candidate with a college degree and 10 years of experience. 

Compare the 16% in the New York Times with the 84% of Year Up graduates (also high school graduates without college degrees) employed or attending college full-time within 4 months of completing the program.  The second number should show you that these young adults have the talent and motivation to succeed in the workplace and build meaningful careers.  What they lack is the opportunity to do so.  It is critical that we make these opportunities accessible to them – for these young adults, these companies, and our nation as a whole. 

2 responses to “16% vs 84%

  1. Sean Hart July 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Mr. Chertavian, first let me say I am very proud of the work you’re doing with the Year Up Program. It’s always nice to know that someone in this society passionately cares about fairness and equal opportunity. I admire the work that you’re doing. My brother, Kevin Hart, is a volunteer in the San Francisco Bay Area. His participation with the program is what sparked my interest.

    I read briefly some of the challenges students face when applying for the program. I also read about the support services that your Program offers for the students to help them overcome those challenges. Can you please point me in the right direction to get more details about the support services that your program offers to the students? I am interested in potentially volunteering to help with your program, but wanted to gain a better understanding and educate myself more before deciding.

    I understand you also have a book due to be released in mid July and I’ll be purchasing that as well to understand your mission more. Thanks for any direction you can provide and again, thank you for the very promising hope your organization provides for so many.


    Sean K. Hart

    • Gerald Chertavian July 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Sean, thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments. The Year Up website is the best place to learn more about the support and services offered by the program, and you can also fill out a volunteer form there if you decide you are interested. We’d be thrilled to have you volunteer. There is also a website for the book, A Year Up: If you are interested in sharing your thoughts after reading, reviews on will help us greatly in our efforts to raise awareness. I look forward to hearing what you think.

      Be well,

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