Obama’s ‘Brother’s Keeper’ Program Picking Up Schools, Gaining Steam

President Barack Obama began a five-year, $200 million initiative known as My Brother's Keeper in February, which was slated to help black and Latino youth. This week he announced that 60 school districts would be joining the effort.

The districts involved represent 40% of all African-American and Latino boys living below the poverty line. By joining the initiative, they will track data to allow educators to intervene earlier and work to increase the number of these students taking advanced classes as well as graduation rates.

No new federal spending will be involved with the initiative. Support will come from nonprofit and private sectors, as well as the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), representative of large urban districts, writes Motoko Rich for The New York Times.

"The 50-year anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act reminded us that those great battles of the past were not fought over access to mediocrity," Michael Casserly, executive director of the CGCS, said. "They were fought over access to excellence."

After the announcement, a town hall meeting session was held where the President answered questions from the DC-area youth who were in attendance.

The goal of My Brother's Keeper is to improve the educational futures of African-American and Hispanic boys. The effort begins in the preschool years and follows them through high school. The program will address existing gaps in opportunities available to ensure that all of America's youth is capable of reaching their full potential.

The initiative will give more young people access to health, nutrition, mentorship, early education and an early introduction into the workforce. It will also work with community members to reduce violence and keep children safer.

In a press release for the White House, President Obama said:

 "That's what ‘My Brother's Keeper' is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments."

Also launched was the My Brother's Keeper Task Force which will determine ways the government can better support the efforts of the public and private sectors through involvement of State and local officials.

Last May, the Task Force released its first 90-day report, where it recommended steps that society needs to take to help youth, including being able to read at grade level by the third grade, graduating from college or a training program, entering the workforce, reducing violence and the willingness to give second chances.

According to the Task Force, thousands of Americans have already spoken up, wanting to take part.

NBA Hall of Famer and businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson joined with Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria in creation of the independent private sector initiative National Convening Council (NCC). The initiative brought together community leaders and plans to travel the country over the next few months, sharing examples of the positive effects of cross-sector efforts on African-American youth.

The NBA is setting forth an effort to recruit 25,000 mentors to work with at-risk students in hopes of increasing attendance and performance.

AT&T also announced its plan to donate $18 million for mentoring and other education programs through the company's Aspire program. The company has funded the program with $350 million so far in its effort to help students in high school succeed and prepare for entrance into the workforce.

The Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the wife of the late Steve Jobs, will also be using $50 million to work with school districts to launch a competition for designing next generation high schools.

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