Letter From OBT’s CEO & Board Chair Re: NYC Budget Priorities

Dear Friends of OBT,

In this moment of social and economic reckoning, we stand with our participants, staff, and partners as one with communities impacted by systemic inequality. We condemn unjustified violence which fuels protest and anger, and support peaceful protest to effectuate justice. We also recognize the barriers that insidious racism creates, and renew our mission to combat these inequities through the creation of economic opportunity.

In these complicated times, we at OBT have an obligation to help the youth we serve and their families navigate through interconnected health, economic, and societal crises. With support and generosity from our Board of Directors, and in partnership with our partners in philanthropy, we set up an Emergency Fund to help ensure no one is left behind. The superhuman efforts by our OBT team strive to be fully responsive to our students, and rally to ensure every student is empowered, heard and successful.

As we enter into a “recovery” phase, we recognize our continued obligation to those most disconnected from economic and social opportunities, irrespective of Covid-19. We also recognize the systemic racism at the core of inequities which prevents access to equal opportunities toward wealth and prosperity.  The communities hardest hit by Covid-19 have suffered tragic loss of life, devastating unemployment, and lack of healthcare and other resources.

We are particularly concerned about young adults, who face an even steeper climb as they are constrained to compete with the vast numbers of newly unemployed New Yorkers.  In New York City, while we have seen the number of 17-24 out of school and out of work youth decrease over the past ten years, this crisis threatens to undo the progress made.

Furthermore, the move to remote working and learning has laid bare “the digital divide,” and any recovery requires increased access to technology and the skills to navigate it.  We at OBT ask our federal, state, and municipal partners to recognize the need to double down on education and skills training that create opportunities to cutting edge, living wage career paths crucial to New York City’s socioeconomic comeback. At OBT, the proposed New York City budget cuts will mean the elimination of hundreds of seats for skills training, language classes and critical internship opportunities at a time when increased capacity is crucial, and when cuts are directly contradictory to the needs of communities in recovery.

The past several months have reinforced OBT’s mission to imbue every young adult who walks through our doors with the confidence and skills to navigate toward personal growth and an uncertain future.  But we cannot deliver on this mission alone.  We invite you to come out and see our work in action, consider hosting an intern, interview and hire a graduate, mentor a student, make a financial contribution, or simply share your own story of success.  Join us in building opportunities that will extend far beyond this current moment and make economic mobility a reality for all.

In trust and partnership,

Liliana Polo-McKenna, Ed.L.D.
Chief Executive Officer

Vince Chirico, Esq.
Chair, OBT Board of Directors