Investing in Youth and Reflecting on the Legacy of Dr. King

As we celebrate the life and work Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we’ve been reflecting on his legacy for the youth development field. The clergyman was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, and he dedicated his life to empowering people who faced discrimination based on race and class. He was also deeply invested in engaging youth voices in his work. He worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to desegregate public institutions, combat race-fueled violence and empower African-Americans across the country and supported the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, a march with hundreds of school students. MLK Jr. was aware that without youth engagement, achieving Civil Rights would be impossible.

Youthprise is working to do its part to build on the legacy of Dr. King. Our recent report Investing in the Enterprise of Youth, speaks to our organization’s dedication to promoting learning, combatting racial inequality, and uplifting the voice of all youth across the state of Minnesota.

Based on the input from Minnesota youth, experts and stakeholders, the report offers recommendations for improving the field of out-of-school time, including dedicating resources to the gap in programming for Minnesota’s under-represented and under-served young people.

Statistics reflect the disparities for youth from communities of color, Native communities, and lower socio-economic circles. State data shows that, in terms of 8th grade reading, 82% of White students test as proficient compared to 67% for Asian Americans, 56% for American Indians, 54% for Hispanics and 53% for African Americans.

In Minnesota, youth from privileged backgrounds have access to educational and enrichment opportunities – sports, recreation, tutoring and mentoring. But youth of color, Native youth and those living in poverty have few such opportunities. Research shows that the level of participation in afterschool programs varies dramatically by income level, with only 66% of low-income youth participating in anything at all during the year compared to over 92% for families with higher incomes.  Youthprise is dedicated to closing this “opportunity gap.”

We are holding an online call-in presentation on the report on January 31st at 11:30am to discuss the implications for the state of Minnesota. Below are the call-in details:

Call 1-866-740-1260 and log on to access code: 3984556. To view presentation online: and log on to access code: 3984556.

In honor of Dr. King, we should reflect on the enduring legacy that MLK Jr. has left behind and the work that is still left to be done.

Click to read the full Investing in the Enterprise of Youth position paper.

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  1. I was living in Memphis TN when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. I was just in 6th grade and selling a box of World Finest Chocolates for my school when a woman said I should go home because Martin Luther king Jr. had been shot. That’s when I started to learn who this man was. I was so captivated by his passion to help others that it became my passion also. I studied his books and read his papers. Today I still live by the Non violent creed and try to instill it in my working with youth. I applaud the effort of this work and will do what I can for it to reach as many as I can.

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