But it's an uncomfortable reality that needs to be addressed, he said.
Using previous years' reports from Opportunity Nation, Denson helped rally community organizations in his city to develop a pilot program to help students as young as 14 find summer work.
"When we got the index, it really allowed us to use it as a rallying point for all of the community-based organizations we work with to say, 'Look, this is what the world sees when they look at Iowa,'" he said.
Starting next summer, Des Moines students will be placed in paying jobs, part of a citywide collaboration to help its urban communities. It will help older adults, as well, because crime rates are expected to fall, he said.
"If they're not in school or at work," Denson said, "they're not usually doing something positive."
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