Engaging Disconnected Young People in Education and Work



monitored local program operations. The national SIF initiative and local matching provided the

funding for Project Rise and the evaluation.

The evaluation focuses on the five local organizations’ experiences operating Project

Rise over a three-year period. It sheds light on the promise and challenges of this type of intervention

for disconnected young adults, in part to determine the feasibility of operating such a

program. In addition, the final chapter of the report reflects on a number of practical lessons for

policymakers, funders, and program operators who might be interested in implementing Project

Rise or a similar program.

The findings presented in the report have a particular limit. Since the study did not include

data from a reliable control group who did not have the opportunity to enroll in Project

Rise, it is not possible to determine the program’s true impact on participants’ levels of engagement

and outcomes.

In brief, the report presents the following findings. Contrary to expectations, participants

were motivated to enter Project Rise more by the educational component than by the paid

internships. As in many programs serving a disconnected or out-of-school population, Project

Rise staff found it difficult to engage participants continuously in the planned sequence of activities.

The participants did, however, receive more hours of classroom instruction than is typical

of adult high school equivalency preparation courses; about one-fourth of Project Rise participants

earned a high school equivalency credential or (much less commonly) a high school diploma

within 12 months of entering the program. Project Rise providers also delivered a large

dose of internship experiences to participants in relation to other internship programs for young

people: over two-thirds of participants began an internship, and over half of those who started

internships worked more than 120 hours in them. About one-fourth of the participants began

unsubsidized jobs within one year of entering Project Rise, and almost 8 percent of the participants

entered postsecondary education during this period. Having child care responsibilities

seemed to reduce a participant’s ability to engage continuously with the program; individuals

who reported having child care responsibilities at program entry had lower program attendance

rates, fewer internship placements, and lower rates of high school equivalency certificate attainment

than individuals who did not report such responsibilities.

The rest of this chapter presents the context for Project Rise in more detail. It describes

the challenges that disconnected young people face and the implications of these challenges for

public policy and the design of programs that serve this population, and it provides an overview

of the Project Rise program model and the five local provider organizations that implemented it.

The chapter concludes with more detail on the Project Rise evaluation and an overview of how

this report is organized.


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