WHEREAS, our country's continued economic growth lies in the ability of America's young people to meet the current and future demands of business and industry; and

WHEREAS, the active engagement of all youth in acquiring academic competencies, work experience and marketable skills leads to increased success in their transition to the labor market and to the development of a strong and responsive national workforce; and

WHEREAS, research demonstrates a direct correlation between early participation in the work place and increased earning capacity leading to self sufficiency; and

WHEREAS, the lack of opportunities for young people to acquire the necessary work place and academic skills presents considerable threats to their economic future and to a prosperous and stable society; and

WHEREAS, in the most impoverished communities in the country there continues to be a disproportionate number of high school drop outs, 50 percent versus 10 percent for the rest of the country, and out of work minority youth between the ages of 16-24; and

WHEREAS, job losses of young adults between the ages of 16-24 account for more than half of the nation's recent total decline in employment and has affected every gender and race-ethnic group; and

WHEREAS, young African American youth have been most adversely affected by the recent deterioration in employment opportunities and the unemployment rate of young African American out-of-school males is over 25 percent below that of comparable white males; and

WHEREAS, these conditions severely hamper the prospects for regular employment and thwart the likelihood of these young people becoming productive citizens; and

WHEREAS, targeting long term youth development strategies to young people living in high poverty areas to assist them in completing high school diplomas and GEDs, acquiring and retaining employment and pursuing higher education will drastically reduce these barriers to economic and academic success; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Labor's Youth Opportunity Grants represent a major commitment to addressing these conditions and increasing the long term employability of youth living in the poorest communities in our country; and

WHEREAS, the philosophy of the Department of Labor's Youth Opportunity Grants is to promote outcome driven youth development activities pioneered by partnerships among communities, local government and businesses; and

WHEREAS, across the 36 communities selected for the first wave of Youth Opportunity Grants, over 40,000 young people are actively participating in a full complement of educational pursuits, career skills training, employment, leadership and community service projects and a significant number of previous high school drop out have already received academic credentials and are matriculating in college; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a strong commitment to the improvement of opportunities for all youth including disadvantaged and at-risk youth; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a strong commitment to promoting the economic stability of our communities and recognizes that given the full five years of funding, the Youth Opportunity Grants will have a tremendous economic impact on our poorest neighborhoods by increasing the chances for youth to get good jobs and move up career ladders; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Conference of Mayors believes that the Youth Opportunity Grants differ from the Workforce Investment Act formula-funded youth programs by concentrating significant resources in specific high poverty areas, by leveraging measurable in-kind and cash contributions from the local and corporate communities and by avoiding the stigma of "poverty" on the participants through promoting and marketing services to all youth living in the targeted areas; and

WHEREAS, the President's Fiscal Year 03 Budget does not include funding to further the intent of the Department of Labor's Youth Opportunity Grants to strategically expand this youth development initiative to all poor communities in our nation,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls upon Congress to restore full funding of the Youth Opportunity Grants to the U.S. Department of Labor FY03 Budget in order to ensure the significant investment made in the initial efforts of the 36 communities will be realized and that new grants can be made to expand this effort to serve more youth in more communities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as youth development programs have documented significant improvements in interpersonal skills, quality of peer and adult relationships, self control, commitment to education and academic achievement, The U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress to incorporate the Youth Opportunity philosophy of long term, comprehensive support into all youth workforce policies and programs.