Unlocking the Potential of Our Region’s Disconnected Youth

Who are disconnected youth?

In the United States, 4.9 million teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered "disconnected youth," which means they are not in school, the military or workforce. In Hampton Roads an estimated 1 in 8 youth are considered disconnected.

    Disconnected youth lack ties to people, institutions and experiences that help them develop knowledge, skills, maturity and purpose in life. The negative effects of youth disconnection ricochet across our economy and society.

    Kristen Lewis 
    The Hampton Roads Community Foundation hosted the inaugural Understanding Hampton Roads breakfast on October 17 in Virginia Beach to explore ways to unlock the potential of our region's disconnected youth. Kristen Lewis, director of Measure of America in New York, gave the national overview on disconnected youth and shared specific data on Hampton Roads. Read more about the issue of youth disengagement and how to improve the situation in Hampton Roads here.

View Kristen's presentation. The results published here are in whole or part based upon data generated by Measure of America's 2018 report entitled "More Than a Million Reasons for Hope: Youth Disconnection in America Today."  

Watch a summary of the information presented at the breakfast in this interview with Kristen Lewis by Dr. Linda Rice, the community foundation’s vice president for grantmaking.

Here is an October 2018 article highlighting the impact disconnected youth have on the United States economy. 

Our Partner


We partnered for the October 17 breakfast forum with Together We Can Foundation - Smart Transitions. Since 2008 Together We Can Foundation - Smart Transitions has helped Hampton Roads youth who are in foster care, homeless, economically disadvantaged or emotionally challenged successfully transition to independent adult life and careers. Preparing for life and connecting with others helps disconnected youth gain a sense of optimism about their future.

How can you help disconnected youth?

  • Get to know a young person at risk of dropping out of school or not pursuing life goals.
  • Mentor or tutor a teenager or disconnected young adult.
  • Listen to young people share their hopes, dreams and challenges.
  • Involve youths in decisions that impact them.
  • Donate to or volunteer with a nonprofit helping youth.
  • Become a foster parent.
  • Hire a disconnected youth.
  • Teach a young person interview, resume writing and other employment skills.
  • Connect someone in need to available services and resources.

How has the Hampton Roads Community Foundation helped?

For many years the Hampton Roads Community Foundation has supported organizations that prevent disconnection, intervene or re-engage disconnected youth.

Here are a few of the organizations that work with disconnected youth and have received community grants over the last four years:

View our recent grants for more information on programs our grants have funded.