Our Vision, Mission & Impact

Opportunity Youth United is a new national movement to increase opportunity and decrease poverty in America

We are Opportunity Youth

In the United States, 4.9 million young people between 16 and 24 are neither in school nor employed. About half of us are living in poverty. 

Opportunity Youth United is a movement of young leaders who represent the real lives behind these numbers: We have suffered all manner of difficulties, including child abuse, foster care placements, homelessness, traumatic loss, incarceration, discrimination and violence. We have emerged from these experiences not defeated but empowered—empowered to drive our own lives and futures and to reach back and strengthen our communities for our peers, families, and future generations.

Those of us who have spent time out of school and out of work—formerly called at-risk or disconnected youth—appreciate the new language that has emerged: “opportunity youth.”  It accurately reflects the twin facts that we are seeking opportunity and that we offer a major opportunity to our nation if it will invest in us and our peers. Meet us.


Our vision is a society with opportunity and responsibility, love and respect, education and employment, justice and equality for all. We envision a nation where all young people can reach their highest potential and noblest aspirations in the context of safe, supportive, and healthy communities. We have developed concrete Recommendations to get us there. Explore our principles for action.


OYU is a national movement of young people and champions from all backgrounds committed to creating a society that invests adequately in the education and welfare of its children and youth, supports family and community life, ends mass incarceration and discrimination of all kinds and is structured to provide opportunity and responsibility for all. 


To make our vision a reality, and turn our mission into a movement, we: 

  • Work with diverse allies to identify solutions and advise policymakers, business leaders, and funders on issues affecting low-income youth and our communities. 
  • Craft comprehensive and cross-cutting policy solutions to transform our nation as a whole, as well as our states and communities. Explore our Policy Solutions.
  • Mobilize low-income young people to become active, informed, engaged citizens who vote, run for office and mobilize their communities to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.


In June 2012, the White House Council for Community Solutions issued a report on Opportunity Youth. The report included a recommendation to form a national council of young leaders. A special grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enabled us to do just that. The National Council of Young Leaders was formed, comprising former Opportunity Youth from urban and rural communities across the country. We came together over three days in August 2012 to learn from each other and define our vision.  The result was a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to transform our nation.

In 2014, the Council decided to turn the momentum for our work into a national grassroots movement that would have greater influence through its numbers, would provide leadership opportunities for large numbers of low-income young people, and would generate civic engagement on a large scale. We named the new movement Opportunity Youth United.

Opportunity Youth United is made possible due to the tireless work of our leadership and members, and the support from sponsoring organizations, partners and funders.

Join us to stay informed and connected and to take action to empower low-income youth and their communities!