After two weeks of “mental toughness” training, 20 teenagers and young adults in a YouthBuild daily program in Enid, Oklahoma, were on the cusp of turning their lives around.

Out of school and out of work, they proved to organizers that they could be punctual, follow instructions and work hard. As a result, the youths were invited to the next phase of the program: working toward earning their high school diplomas and helping with local construction projects.

“They were super excited to have been chosen,” said Rachel Harris, program coordinator. Then the coronavirus hit, and the program closed its doors. “It was just a few days later that we had to break the news to them and send them home.” 

Jiliane Ford, 19, took it hard. “I really liked getting to go back to school and then it was just ripped away.”

Disconnected youth like Ford hunger for attention. Stay-at-home orders have set them adrift.

In-person contact is integral to many of the workforce training and alternative education programs available to them. And because many participants don’t have laptops or reliable broadband access, remote learning isn’t a viable option.

Read the full story from the PEW Trusts here.