Our Stories

Forging Connection for Disconnected Youth

Since 2008, the Latin American Youth Center in Washington D.C. has reached out to address the needs of disconnected youth—16- to 24-year-olds who are out of school and out of work—through its successful Promotor Pathway program. Using the innovative Pay for Success model, LISC is helping expand on that success in order to serve even more at-risk youth in eastern D.C. neighborhoods.

According to the Measure of America, one out of eight young Americans count as “disconnected youth” – 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of school an out of work – and that number is on the rise. The phenomenon has become serious enough that that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin now include disconnected youth as a metric in their annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report.

In the D.C. region alone, it is estimated that 12 percent of youth are disconnected, most of whom are African American or Latino. Poverty, housing instability and pregnancy all play a role in young people finding themselves without a support net. The problem exacts a high cost on the community at large. Disconnected youth are more likely to need social services (nationally, this cost taxpayers $26.8 billion in 2013), and the numbers of unemployed youth mean more lost tax revenue.

Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) has been addressing youth disconnection since it was founded 1968. The center provides services and programming to improve the lives of low-income immigrant youth and youth of color and their families across the D.C. metropolitan area. In 2008, LAYC launched their Promotor Pathway program – an intensive client management program aimed at helping the most at-risk and disconnected youth overcome significant life obstacles, such as lack of education, homelessness, trauma, substance abuse and court involvement.

With funding from a Social Innovation Fund award, the Urban Institute conducted a randomized controlled trial on the Promotor Pathway program and found that youth who participate have lower rates of births and higher rates of housing stability and educational attainment and were more likely to seek the social services they need.

Expanding on success

LAYC was selected as a partner for LISC’s Pay for Success initiative which develops programs that tie public funding commitments to specific outcomes. The goal of this partnership will be to scale a placed-based Promotor Pathway program in order to serve additional at-risk youth in eastern D.C.

Currently, partners from D.C. city government, Urban Institute and Quantified Ventures have been working with LAYC and LISC to enter into a Pay for Success contract – an agreement that will tie the payment of LAYC’s service delivery to the achievement of measurable outcomes like those evidenced in the Urban Institute study. Parties will then secure upfront funding from philanthropic and private investors to scale the intervention, and investors will be repaid by the D.C. city government once clients begin showing positive outcomes.

LAYC’s Promotor Pathway program offers a long-term solution to bring stability to the lives of at-risk youth by fostering positive relationships and self-sufficiency. Through the Pay for Success transaction, LAYC hopes to bring sustainable funding to a program that has had real impact in the lives of D.C.’s disconnected youth and on the health of the District as a whole.


Anna Smukowski, Program Manager, Pay for Success
Anna manages the delivery of services for LISC’s Pay for Success initiative. Her duties include project management, financial modeling and stakeholder facilitation for the individual Pay for Success projects LISC selects through an open competition—moving transactions from feasibility to implementation.