Bridge to College and Career Success for Houston's Opportunity Youth

Bridge to College and Career Success stimulated the formation of cross-sector partnerships between community colleges, community organizations and local employers in order to re-engage disconnected youth, or opportunity youth and young adults (OYYA) - individuals ages 16-24, who neither work nor attend school or college - into higher education and career programming.

The Challenge


Based on the findings of the increased need for public services and interactions with the justice systems of OYYA in Measure of America’s 2015 report, “Zeroing in on Place and Race,” the estimated cost of services for this population to the Gulf Coast region annually is $553 million, and to the state it is $1.6 billion. We cannot afford to ignore the tremendous potential of this untapped talent.

Launched in February 2017, the Bridge to College and Career Success initiative addressed the challenges identified in a Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research study that found a high percentage of Gulf Coast disconnected youth have high school diplomas but lack access to training and higher education credentials that lead to skilled employment in local, high-demand industries.

Implementation Phase

In 2018, Educate Texas awarded four of the eight planning partnerships throughout the Gulf Coast region to implement their design of community-based programs to attract, train and place skilled youth and young adults in local, high-demand industries. Grantees receive program development support from JFF, a national nonprofit that focuses on building opportunities for underserved populations. By the end of the program, partnerships developed:

  1. Increased knowledge about and capacity to serve OYYA

  2. Built strong, lasting partnerships that share and grow assets and resources

  3. Supported participating youth to achieve either a higher education credential or job placement with career growth options

These programs served as innovation laboratories for identifying the most effective approaches in reconnecting and supporting OYYA in achieving their college and career goals. Educate Texas worked with regional institutions to help translate these innovations into sustainable practice and effective policy. 

An advisory council of local and statewide experts provided strategic insight on the direction and sustainability of the initiative. A broader learning network was also developed for local participating organizations to share resources and best practices. Bridge to College and Career Success was generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Trellis Foundation.

Implementation Partnerships

Community-Based Organizations and Community College Planning Partnerships

Grant Recipient

Description of Innovation

Capital IDEA

“Career Your Way” emphasizes self-discovery, career exploration, whole-person development and academic preparation for empowered decision making for higher education or employment opportunities.

Project GRAD

“GRADcaf√© on the GO” is a mobile advising center that provides accessible, ongoing and intensive supports and expands college and career advising for Houston Community College “stop-outs”. This program reengages “stop-outs” in successful completion of relevant college credentials and career paths.

Community-Based Training Provider and Employer Planning Partnerships

Grant Recipient

Description of Innovation


Program participants use “Community-Based Training Provider” as the employer of record for paid internships and work-based learning. Employers are involved in curriculum development and ongoing mentorship.

Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinics

Clinics meet high demand for middle-skill employees at Texas Medical Center through developing training, work-based learning and job placement.

Texas Opportunity Youth Resources

Houston Opportunity Youth Resources

National Opportunity Youth Resources