Aspirations lost: Youth focused asset-building programs are the key to maintaining hope for the future during a pandemic

Written by CEDAM’s Madeleine March-Meenagh, junior program evaluation associate and Brian Rakovitis, manager of financial empowerment initiatives

COVID-19 has robbed us of our health and economic security; now it seeks to steal our youth’s hope for the future. A recent study shows the pandemic has precipitated an aspirations crisis for youth and young adults. The survey of youth ages 16-25 indicated that 41% believe their future goals now seem “impossible to achieve,” with that number rising to 50% for individuals from low-income backgrounds. For those youth not in education, training, or employment, the future seems less bright. As we work to meet the economic needs of those low-income and new poor communities, we should consider the role that asset-building can play in brightening the outlook of low- to moderate-income (LMI) youth for the future.   

During this time of economic upheaval, youth-focused asset-building programs should be expanded to provide opportunities to build savings with support from the community.  Financial assets, even small-dollar savings, are essential to fostering hope in LMI youth. Savings for future expenses have been associated with reduction in financial shocks, positive educational outcomes and increased economic mobility for LMI households. Investing in these programs is a community wealth building strategy that strengthens the social and economic vitality of a community. Programs may include: 

Municipalities investing in their youth’s futures have already seen a preservation in aspirations. The BOLD Lansing initiative is a socio-economic mobility network that promotes asset-building and postsecondary achievement. The alignment of community resources works to normalize and support the bold aspirations of its residents. This initiative seeks to create a community of hope and their efforts have resulted in 360 students (60% of 2020 graduating high school seniors) taking advantage of the Lansing Promise, a tuition assistance scholarship for postsecondary education, an increase of 10% over 2019. Increased rates of Lansing Promise youth means that more Lansing students are staying on track to achieve their dreams.

Meeting the health and economic needs of those most affected by the virus should be the priority of Michigan communities, but we should also begin investing in our youth to forestall a loss of aspirations and safeguard their dreams.

For more information on youth asset-building programs, contact Brian Rakovitis.