As the impact of COVID-19 continues to scale, widening education, economic, and health gaps are threatening to leave millions of kids behind. 4‑H is taking a stand with its belief that opportunity should not be pre-determined by any person’s zip code, ethnicity, skin color, or income with the announcement of Opportunity4All, a new campaign to eliminate the opportunity gap and create better, brighter futures for all kids today.
Fifty-five million kids face this widening opportunity gap in America hindering them from having equal access to opportunities to reach their full potential. In addition, 12 million kids lack access to reliable broadband internet resources putting them in a position to fall even further behind as many schools move to virtual learning during the pandemic.
Despite these challenges, 4‑H believes young people can play a key role in creating a more promising and equitable future for youth, families, and communities across the country, if given the opportunity. And in a recent round of surveys to gain insight on youth perspectives, 4‑H found that young people desire to be part of the conversation.
“We believe youth perspectives are so important and a solution to eliminating the opportunity gap because young people come with new ideas and new ways of seeing the world,” says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of National 4‑H Council. “We often look at things through a narrow lens, but for them it’s all new and that newness is a gift that leads to innovation and thinking outside of the box. We have to welcome and encourage them to be engaged and be involved because these issues impact their daily lives. They need to have a seat at the table.”
Opportunity4All will mobilize 10 million young people — their diverse voices and innovative actions — to be part of the discussion to create solutions to the educational, economic, and health issues that create opportunity gaps. In addition, the Opportunity4All pledge will rally the support of parents, 4‑H alumni, influencers as well as corporate and nonprofit partners across all sectors to share their commitment to ensuring all kids have access to learning resources, experiences and social-emotional support they need to thrive.
By igniting conversation and raising awareness 4‑H kicks off Opportunity4All with a convening of youth, experts, and influencers at the Opportunity4All Virtual Forum, an important conversation on the need for creating access, equity and mobility for America’s youth. In addition, some of the nation’s leading experts on youth contributed to a white paper, Beyond the Gap – How America can Address the Widening Gap Facing Young People, providing insights on the impact of COVID-19 and outlining solutions to addressing the opportunity gap for all youth.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the organization has raised over $5 million with their partners to tackle the inequities young people face and evolve 4‑H’s delivery, strategies, and programming to meet their needs in this moment.
The organization will continue to host convenings, including a teen townhall and youth summits this fall, and build alliances and partnerships with corporate and nonprofit partners to bring thought leaders together with young people to elevate discussions and offer perspectives on how our country should move forward and create a more equitable future for all.