As a Latina student who is pretty engaged on education issues I was generally familiar with the President’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative from a distance. Upon joining the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) as a policy and communications intern this summer, I came to fully realize and appreciate the magnitude of what this historic effort meant for me, my family, and millions of other Latinos across the country. I’ve learned many things since then—one of them being the immense value an initiative such as MBK has and what it means for future generations of Latinos, both males and females.
It was not until I learned the sobering statistics about the significant gender gap between Hispanic males and females that I understood the weight and implications of not doing anything – of being satisfied with the status quo. Indeed, this gap follows Latino males from Pre-K through to high school and beyond. In 2009, among Latinos enrolling in college, 61 percent were women and 39 percent were men. Data also shows that Latino males have a higher risk of being disciplined in preschool, suspended or expelled in grades K-12, imprisoned, or unemployed—all of which steer them away from reaching their full potential and ensuring our country’s success.
When I envision these Latino males, the faces of my father, my brother, and my nephew appear in my mind. Without statistics at hand, I couldn’t put those numbers into perspective and paint a picture of the dismal life circumstances that many young men of color, including the Latino males in my family, face. The reality is that I live in a world where the people who I love most are at risk for becoming another statistic—if they haven’t already become one. I know the hardships of my father’s past, including not finishing college and imprisonment, and I understand the struggles my nephew will face in overcoming the challenges associated with living in a low-income household. Despite this newfound understanding of their reality, my reason to hope for a better future is tremendous.
President Obama fully realizes the dire state that all young men of color, including Latinos, might face—and while the urgency for reform is at an all-time high—he is making great strides to create a better future for all families, especially those most in need. There are currently incredible efforts being made to change the systems that have made these statistics a part of our reality in the Latino community. With the launch of MBK, President Obama hopes to help close the educational and opportunity gaps that many young men of color in this country face and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The efforts of this initiative, including a call for more mentoring and skill-building, will end up changing the lives of millions of young people, including young men of color and their families.
This summer I was able to see some of the most passionate advocates for education reform, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools Mike Casserly, Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, and Deputy Director of the WHIEEH Marco Davis, come together in a boardroom one morning to discuss new private commitments in support of MBK. School districts and private sector corporations announced new private commitments to tackle the issues affecting all of our youth, including our young boys and men of color. The commitments made are powerful—companies like the NBA, AT&T, and Citi Foundation have pledged to provide the resources needed for social reform of this scale to take place. These private companies collectively have promised $100 million, and additionally 60 of the nation’s largest public school systems have committed to implement evidence-based plans to reduce dropout rates among other harrowing statistics. When these plans are put into action, we can continue to change the systems that our communities are struggling to maneuver through.
The scale of these commitments is unprecedented, and it is something to applaud. As Latinas, we should not hesitate to support efforts that will uplift not only our brothers, fathers, sons, and nephews, but all Americans. We must support each other through this journey of reforming society and continue our work in solidarity so that lasting change can reach all Americans, including people like my nephew and the generations of Latinos that will come after him.
As my internship comes to an end, I am deeply encouraged that the WHIEEH has placed a key emphasis on My Brother’s Keeper and will continue to move the needle forward ensuring the educational attainment for our Hispanic community—nuestra comunidad.
Written by Gladys Rosario, rising junior at University of California, Berkeley and summer intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics