FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Darien resident Alison Riith has won the 2014 What Works Community Challenge, a crowdsourcing initiative run by Fairfield County's Community Foundation.
Participants were challenged to identify strategies for helping Fairfield County’s young people achieve self-sufficiency by age 25.
Riith responded with her Tiny Homes project, which called for promoting home ownership among young people by removing regulatory and zoning barriers to allow development of micro homes and cottages built with reclaimed materials at a cost of $20,000 to $50,000 per house.
Finalists included Norwalk resident Chrissy Cacace, who recommended promoting Positive Youth Development through effective before-school and after-school programs that keep young people out of trouble.
Finalist Carol O’Connell, a Ridgefield resident, proposed the development of housing that allows young people to live in group settings and share costs.
Quentin Ball of Greenwich received the most votes. He proposed the High School and College Completion Network: 8th through Life initiative. The program would connect eighth-grade students to academic and guidance counseling that would help them transition into high school and beyond.
Today’s older teens and young adults face unemployment rates of 13.6 percent in Danbury and 49.5 percent in Bridgeport, according to the Community Foundation. About 10,600 young people in Fairfield County are not in school, nor receiving job training or working.
“If our young people have to leave the county to support themselves, our population will decline, businesses will flounder, unemployment will rise, our tax base will shrink, and the need for government and nonprofit services will increase,” said Juanita James, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation. “It’s a moral and economic imperative that our young people can remain in Fairfield County, support themselves and their future families, and energize our communities. We want to help our young people thrive by 25.”
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