Interview with Amanda Fioritto

By Kerry Belodoff, Staff Writer, Brief Policy Perspectives

Amanda Fioritto earned her MPP from Trachtenberg last spring and is now a data and evaluation specialist with the Urban Alliance (UA), a non-profit headquartered in DC. UA provides paid internships, formal training, mentorship, and post-high school planning to under-resourced high school seniors in DC and several other cities. Amanda’s cost-benefit analysis of the UA program will appear in Volume 23 of Policy Perspectives. I sat down with Amanda on February 9th to learn more about her work with UA and her article.

Brief Policy Perspectives: What is your article about?

Amanda Fioritto: The article is a cost-benefit analysis of the UA high school internship program, which is UA’s traditional 10-month internship model offered to students in the Washington, DC area. I look at the 2013-14 cohort and what costs are incurred by participating students, job and community partners, and UA, and then I look at at how it benefits students to be in the program relative to students not in the program. I look at the outcomes for UA participants in comparison to other DC public and public charter school students to assess benefits to the students, community, and taxpayers.

BPP: How did you get interested in the UA program?

AF: I got interested in UA specifically because I was working there part-time during school, but youth development policy and education has always been of interest to me. I was very fortunate when I was younger to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities, but I later realized that these opportunities are limited. Access to meaningful extracurricular activities and social/professional networks is unequally distributed. It was important for me to expand those opportunities for other youth.

BPP: Did you have any surprising findings?

AF: There haven’t been cost-benefits analyses of programs like UA, but there have been some on youth disconnection at large. Disconnected youth, or opportunity youth, are anyone age 16-24 who lacks the skills, education, or experience necessary to succeed in higher education or in full-time, stable employment. The goal of UA is to target students before they get disconnected. Each disconnected youth through the course of his or her lifetime costs taxpayers about $700,000.

BPP: What do you hope your readers take away from your article?

AF: I found that based on my calculations there is a pretty large positive benefit of participation in the UA program. I was really glad to see that my results indicate Urban Alliance’s program operates efficiently and, as such, should continue to provide youth internships, mentoring, and post-high school planning. It’s possible, based on my results, that this experience results in benefits for the larger community and society, as well as for participating youth.

I hope that people who read the article will find an interest in youth development policy in general, and in workforce development programs in general. I think a lot of youth development work is focused on kids who are at the ends of the spectrum: they are either in great need of graduating high school or they are in advanced or gifted programs. There’s a huge benefit to providing all youth with work experience while in high school and helping them grow a professional network. Until recently there was more focus on academics and not the extracurricular or professional piece of student development and I hope the interest continues to grow.

BPP: Where can your readers go for more information about your topic?
AF: The Urban Alliance website and social media accounts have great news and resources on youth development, including infographics. The Urban Institute is conducting a randomized control trial (RCT) on the program and the interim findings report should be released soon. The baseline report is available on [UA’s] website. Opportunity Nation is also a great resource on general youth policy. They do an opportunity index and they have an interactive graph that you can use to see what youth disconnection is like in your state.

You can read Amanda’s article,  “Connecting Under-Resourced Youth to Opportunity: A CBA of Youth Employment in Washington, DC” in Volume 23 of Policy Perspectives.  The article appears online here.


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