Jahir Castelo and Anna Lomeli are a part of the Opportunity Youth Leadership Council for the San Diego Workforce Partnership. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Adulting can be hard.

Many kids have difficulties navigating the transition from high school to the “real world.” Lots get stuck in limbo.

There’s a snappy new term for these 16-to-24-year-olds who don’t attend school or have a job — “opportunity youth.” On April 12, the San Diego Workforce Partnership is hosting a summit to talk about why there’s an estimated 41,000 young people in San Diego County who aren’t in school or working. The hope is to come up with solutions about how to make a dent in that number.

On this week’s Good Schools for All podcast, Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn, who works for the Workforce Partnership, talk with Jahir Castelo and Anna Lomeli, two members of the Workforce Partnership’s Opportunity Youth Leadership Council.

Castelo and Lomeli discuss their personal struggles transitioning into independent adults. Both are DACA recipients, or Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, a status they said adds an extra layer of distrust and instability to their transitions.

“Walking around and going to school was a bit of a challenge because you’re so used to hearing that people got picked up from Border Patrol and taken back,” Castelo said.

Castelo wants to go to college and get a job, but he said he is still trying to find a stable place to live and he’s building his resume and interview skills. He said even when he’s offered an opportunity, sometimes he has a hard time believing it’s real, or that he deserves it.

Lomeli is working and going to school, but she said it took a lot of support from her high school teachers and others to get to where she is now. She said she, too, often had a hard time taking advantage of opportunities because she felt they either weren’t real, or weren’t meant for her.

“When you come from a place where you haven’t been given a lot, sometimes things sound way too good to be true,” Lomeli said.

Castelo and Lomeli are still working on building their own lives, but both said they want to get to a place where they can help young people like themselves.

“As I start getting enough money, I want to be able to open up my doors to … opportunity youth and open a bookstore, a tattoo parlor and a barber shop and offer that opportunity to teach them skills, Castelo said. “Give them a little bit more hope.”

What’s Working

Cuyamaca Community College: The school’s rate of student success in college-level math shot up to 68 percent after it decided to slash its placement exams. Cuyamaca now uses a student’s high school records to decide whether they’re ready for college-level math classes.

Number of the Week

41,000: That’s the number of opportunity youth in San Diego who don’t attend school or have a job. That’s 9.4 percent of all 16- to 24-year-olds in the region.

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Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Anna Lomeli.

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