Why We Care

The Need

American society fails too many of its young people, especially its teens. Born with potential and filled with dreams, many of our youth do not achieve all of which they are capable because they have neither the support system to nurture those dreams nor the opportunity to pursue them. As a result, many of our young people succumb to the expectations of others; they believe that a college education is beyond their reach or worse, they drop out of school for the short-term reward of work, or fall victim to the lure of a risk-filled lifestyle.

The C5 Youth Program was created to address this critical issue. Our communities require engaged citizens and committed leaders and our businesses need qualified employees prepared with appropriate skills and character, yet 30% of our youth do not even graduate from high school, making it impossible for them to fill these needs and difficult to make a positive contribution to society.

  • Of youth in the bottom income quartile, 69% graduate from high school while 93% from the top income quartile graduate from high school.**
  • 40% of low income teens enroll in college, versus 81% of high income teens.**
  • Only 12% of low income youth will earn a four year degree by age 24 versus 73% of high income students. ** 
  • Adults who have a bachelor's degree or higher will have twice the annual median income of individuals with only a high school diploma (National Center For Education Statistics).

**The Pell Institute for the study of opportunity in Higher Education, April 2007; Morteneson, 2007. (2007). Bachelor’s Degree Attainment by Age 24 by Family Income Quartiles, 1970 to 2005. Oskaloosa, IA: Postsecondary Education Opportunity. Cited in Demography is not Destiny, Pell Institute.

Our public education system receives much of the blame for the many young people who fail to graduate and become productive citizens. Our government is trying to address this issue with the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top initiatives, and countless other organizations and foundations are investing millions of dollars in various initiatives to improve our schools. As successful as these initiatives might be — and the jury is still out — most are based on the assumption that the key to improving youth outcomes is to fix our schools. 

We believe that the issue of addressing under-achieving youth requires us to get out of the box, both figuratively and literally. The reason many young people fail is not because of what happens — or doesn’t happen — in school. We need to consider what is happening outside of the box, outside of the school and classroom, to begin to understand the issue and the opportunity. Young people are impacted by everything in their lives and affected by everything that is missing from their lives. Too many of our youth grow up in environments with limited support and few opportunities, unable to develop a positive vision for their future. 

C5 provides our young people with these supports and opportunities, helping them envision a future worth investing in. And even more importantly, C5 gives them the skills and confidence with which to pursue their vision.