Two Years On, Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Succeeding

(Photo: Marc Nozell, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Marc Nozell, Creative Commons)

President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative has helped thousands of young people find their way. Noah McQueen is one of the many who have improved by being a part of the program. Noah attended ten different middle schools, and often transferred during his freshman year in high school.

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports that McQueen was struggling until he was matched with a mentor who helped him get his life on track. Now, at 19-years-old, McQueen is a student at Morehouse College and has become yet another example of how the President’s initiative is improving the lives and futures of boys and young men of color.

MBK has been in place for two years now and, according to a report released by the administration, has raised roughly $600 million in funding from private donations.

Over 240 communities, including one in each state in the US, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, are part of the plan, have officially registered, and are in the process of creating teams to find gaps in opportunity levels for males of color, along with programs to address these breaches.

Other federal agencies are continuing efforts to assist underserved minorities. The “Second-Chance Pell” program, created by the Justice and Education departments in July, will give those who are incarcerated an opportunity to receive federal aid to take college courses.

And because of the Obama administration’s challenge to schools to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, the approach to discipline has been revamped in 40 large school districts in the country.

The administration announced in February a determined new effort to recruit mentors for 1 million students who have had histories of chronic absenteeism. The project will include 250,000 students in sixth- through ninth- grades over the next two years.

MBK is a movement of people who are, per the program’s progress report:

“… committed to ensuring all youth know they matter and have every opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

Leaders of the administration believe that MBK’s work will continue after the Obama presidency.

Since MBK’s first year report, more than 50 more communities have taken up the MBK challenge, seven new states have joined the network, and grants and in-kind resources from the independent private sector have more than doubled. And of the MBK Task Force recommendations, sent to the president two years ago, over 80% have been completed or are on track.

The President has initiated three priorities. First is encouraging more states and local communities to become a part of the program. Second is increasing the number of businesses, philanthropic organizations, and nonprofits engaged in the project. The last priority is to review and continue to reform public policy, according to a White House release.

Darren Sands, writing for Buzzfeed News, says the White House has plans to co-sponsor a summit which will address violence among youth, and millions of dollars in incentives for state and local agencies.

MBK will co-sponsor a summit in late June along with the Justice Department’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention in Baltimore. The program will also announce the Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s launch of a $15 million call to state and local agencies to execute social programs that have proven to be effective.

MBK has partnered with AmeriCorps VISTA and the NBA, both of which contribute and highlight the need for mentors to young people in need.