Effectively Reaching Young Adult Job Seekers with Prior Justice Involvement

Mar 17, 2021

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and our partners launched a Credible Messenger Initiative (CMI) in 2017 as part of a broader strategy to improve services for justice-involved young adults in CEO's NYC workforce development program. The initiative paired young adult participants with full-time mentors who shared similar lived experiences to build trust and connection and to support them throughout their participation in CEO’s program.

From April 2018 to June 2020, CEO conducted a rigorous quasi-experimental evaluation of 251 CMI participants which found that youth who were paired with a Credible Messenger Mentor exhibited higher levels of program participation and achieved more successful outcomes as compared to youth enrolled in CEO programs who did not participate in the initiative. This evaluation has broad implications for the credible messenger, youth development, and workforce development fields.

In the full young adult sample, participating in CMI increased the likelihood of obtaining a full-time job by 75%.

CMI participants worked significantly more hours of transitional work than participants in the comparison group.

CMI participants were twice as likely to achieve Job Start Ready status, obtain a job placement, and reach the 365-day retention milestone.

On January 27th, CEO, in partnership with the NYC Department of Probation and the Pinkerton Foundation, hosted a webinar for NYC young adult practitioners and funders to present findings from our recent CMI Evaluation.

Presenters included Alexis Hill (CMI participant), Kenneth Edwards (Coordinator of the Credible Messenger Initiative), Jeremy Perry (NYC Job Coach), and other members of the CMI team, along with Ahmed Whitt, CEO’s Director of Learning & Evaluation.

Alexis Hill

CMI Graduate

Chris Watler

Chief External Affairs Officer

Kenneth Edwards

Coordinator of the Credible Messenger Initiative

Jeremy Perry

NYC Job Coach

Ahmed Whitt, PhD

Director of Learning & Evaluation

CEO Credible Messenger Evaluation Webinar

We are grateful to our partners and peers who joined this lively conversation. For more information on the evaluation or CMI program, please email Sarah Hinstorff at [email protected].


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“As CMI staff, we work hand-in-hand to assist the rest of the CEO team, to really focus on the 1:1 relationships and mentorship… Our Credible Messengers are available 24/7. Participants will call at any hour of the day and mentors will help them navigate through a moment of crisis and connect them to specific supports.”

— Kenneth

“The CMI mentors were inviting. They were the ones that made me feel secure and safe… When I came into the office, those were the people that lit up the room.”

— Alexis

“The evaluation showed that on average, CMI participants were younger and had completed fewer years of formal education than other CEO NYC young adults, alluding to even greater barriers to obtaining employment. Through CMI, we’re reaching those who are at the greatest risk to drop out of CEO or not to reach program milestones.”

— Ahmed