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Connections and Communities: Reframing How We Talk About Opportunity Youth

March 20, 2024

Everyone wants young people to thrive and be active and engaged members of their communities as they become adults. But deeply rooted, often-negative assumptions about young people can make this goal difficult to achieve. Post-2020 narratives about young people as a “lost generation,” crisis framing around youth mental health and social media, and often-misleading media coverage about crime make it clear that changing the narrative is as urgent as ever.

These narratives have also made it clear that changing labels is not enough. Leaving behind deficit-based terms like “at risk” and “disconnected” to talk about the young people as Opportunity Youth has been a step in a more positive direction. But truly changing the narrative means using an effective, shared framing strategy that builds people’s understanding about who Opportunity Youth are, what challenges they face, and what we can do to support them.

Cementing people’s collective commitment to making sure Opportunity Youth thrive also means everyone needs to frame in concert. Advocates, researchers, practitioners, and young people who are working to improve the lives of Opportunity Youth—whether they use the term Opportunity Youth or not—should use these recommendations throughout their communications and in partnership with one another.