Paving the Path to a Positive Future by Jack Levine

 Jack Levine, Founder, 4 Generations Institute

Jack Levine, Founder, 4 Generations Institute

For most of us, the recipe to achieve the American Dream has several key ingredients: a stable family life, a good education, and the prospect of economic stability are among the most important ones.  The reality for children and youth who do not have the benefit of these essential needs being met is life becomes a struggle to survive and succeed.

We know that from the youngest years, children who are abused, neglected, abandoned, homeless have high risk factors. The odds are against their enjoying a healthy, safe and successful life.

Vulnerable children and youth need quality care, provided by competent and compassionate adults. Our dependent youth are more likely to have positive outcomes if caring community members are ready, willing and able to pitch in.

Florida can boast progress about how we meet the educational needs youth in and from foster care.  At the beginning of the decade professionals and volunteers around the state became alarmed that less than less 30-percent of Florida’s foster youth obtained high school diplomas and less than five percent of Florida’s foster youth were enrolled in any form of higher education.

While the challenges are daunting, the Florida Legislature took bold steps to give vulnerable youth who aspire to succeed a path to achievement.

Florida’s well-constructed independent living and normalization statutes, along with tuition waivers and other targeted budgetary allocations, have incentivized thousands of foster youth to pursue educational opportunities during the past several years. There are currently slight more than 3,000 young adults receiving the Florida Department of Families (DCF) tuition and fee exemption to study at public colleges and universities in our state.

Key to these positive steps forward are strong partnerships among state agencies such as DCF, the State college and university systems, Guardian ad Litem, and quality services provided by Florida’s community-based care agencies. Local mentoring organizations and a wide variety of faith-based, philanthropic, business and civic partners are also valuable member partners who support transitioning young adults.

The Positive Pathways Program, made up of hundreds of campus and community-based allies, provides an important network that helps to advance this successful movement.

Funded by DCF and led by Educate Tomorrow, a Miami-based non-profit organization with statewide networking connections, Positive Pathways leverages the expertise and energy of its members to advocate quality campus coaching and community services focused on removing barriers and accelerating the prospects for success for thousands of youth and young adults.

As a member and advocacy advisor to the Positive Pathways network, I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with many dedicated policy-makers and professional and volunteer participants as we have progressed on this mission.

I am honored to have met and learned from the enthusiastic and empowered young adults whose lives have been enriched by this movement. To help open the doors of opportunity to a new generation of successful Floridians is as worthy a goal as I can envision...

The work is daunting, but the rewards impact generations to come. In the words of poet Robert Frost “For we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep

Jack Levine, Founder of 4Generations Institute, can be reached at 850.567.5252 or jack@4gen.org.

Steve Rios