The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) today reaffirmed their joint commitment to address the needs and aspirations of young people in Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana through a forum, entitled Building a Community of Change. Those attending the event, organized through the Youth:Work Mexico (YWM) initiative, included Héctor Murguia, Mayor of Ciudad Juarez; César Duarte Jáquez, Governor of the State of Chihuahua; Thomas Delaney, Director of USAID Mexico; Ian Brownlee, Consul General of the United States in Ciudad Juárez; and Bill Reese, President and CEO of the International Youth Foundation.

Young leaders from the government, business, and local NGO communities also participated in the discussions, which focused on the region’s youth employment challenges, advances in the field, and the ongoing need for Mexico’s young people to gain the life and employability skills necessary to stay in school or find decent employment.

An initiative of IYF, YWM was launched in 2010 to help create safe spaces for disadvantaged youth living in violent, under-served neighborhoods; strengthen and expand after-school and summer school opportunities; and prepare youth for jobs or self employment. Since its founding, YWM has gained the support of key leaders in the public, private, and civil society sectors in Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana who are working together to improve young people’s economic prospects in ways that transform them into agents of change in their communities. To date, YWM has benefited over 9,000 young people, including those who attended after school and summer school programs. Of the 1,456 youth at risk who participated in employability training, 70% are either working or have gone back to school.

"Places like Ciudad Juárez or Tijuana have faced episodes of violence that have significantly impacted these communities, especially the young people. They are the main victims of the problems caused by lack of security and the presence of organized crime. Through collaborative efforts such as these, the United States and Mexico are working together to prevent violence by creating positive alternatives for our youth," said Thomas Delaney, Director of USAID Mexico.

Speaking at the forum, Mr. Reese noted that "Too often, today’s young people are perceived as part of the problem—and a threat to society. Our Youth:Work Mexico programs promote social inclusion and the personal and economic development of young people, particularly in the private sector, so that they can become healthy, productive and committed citizens. Our message here today is: Young people are very much part of the solution.”