|Today, I will join President Obama as he travels to Lehman College in the Bronx, NY to speak about the importance of expanding opportunity and to applaud a new private-sector entity — the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.A group of private-sector leaders and other prominent private citizens, led by Joe Echevarria (the former CEO of Deloitte LLP) have come together to form this new, independent non-profit. Joined by a diverse range of philanthropic, community, and private-sector partners, leaders of the Alliance are pledging to work to expand opportunity for youth, strengthen the American workforce, and fortify the economic stability of communities across America.
The Alliance will join other private-sector organizations all across America to focus on expanding opportunity and tearing down barriers facing our youth so that we can truly say the American Dream is available to all.
Meanwhile, at the White House, the work of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Task Force, which it is my honor to chair, will continue to move forward on the work the President has charged us with. We will continue — with great urgency — to disseminate best practices, strengthen federal policy, and implement strategies to support communities in their efforts to expand opportunity for all youth.
When President Obama first announced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative from the East Room of the White House in February 2014, he framed it as a call to action for every American to recognize that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country has given so many of us.
Over the past year, foundations, corporations, small business owners, educators, philanthropies, law enforcement, artists, athletes, and all levels of government from across the country have responded with remarkable energy and resolve, and they have announced an array of fresh initiatives to attack the challenges facing our youth in new ways.
Over the course of the Administration, we have made consistent progress on important goals, such as reducing high school dropout rates and lowering unemployment and crime.
Yet persistent gaps in employment, educational outcomes, and career skills remain, barring too many youth from realizing their full potential, and creating harmful social and economic costs to our nation.
Over the past year, we already have made progress addressing the central goals originally laid out by the President’s MBK Task Force to ensure that all young people enter school ready to learn, all young people are reading at grade level by the third grade, all youth are graduating from high school ready for college and career, all youth are completing postsecondary education or training, all young people are successfully entering the workforce, and all young people are safe from violence and provided the second chances they deserve.
Here are some examples on how we are working to achieve these goals:
Beyond the work of the President’s MBK Task Force, there are now more than 200 communities that have accepted the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, committing to launching Local Action Plans with bold goals and strategies to produce results that will bridge opportunity gaps.
And, since the President’s call to action in February 2014, nearly $500 million in grants and in-kind resources have been independently committed by the private sector to attack the challenges facing our youth in new ways and expand opportunity, including a $100 million announcement just last week from Equal Opportunity Schools and its partners to increase enrollment of low-income and minority students in advance courses.
For so many of us, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative is deeply personal. As a proud son of Baltimore, this week’s announcement comes at a time of unique and special resonance for me.
As the country reflects on our shared responsibility to ensure that opportunity reaches every young person, I urge everyone to look at their own capacity to make a difference. Whether it’s taking time to mentor, tutoring young people in your neighborhood, or creating new internship or apprenticeship opportunities for young people in your community — everyone can play a role in building a brighter future.
The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is about recognizing that our young people are not the problem, but rather the solution. And it’s about each of us seeing our neighbor’s child as our own. Their futures as individuals, and as members of a shared community and economy, are forever tied together.
As we move further into the fourth quarter of President Obama’s time in office, our entire team is following his lead and preparing to accomplish as much as we possibly can with the MBK Task Force. And as leaders like Joe Echevarria, MBK Alliance honorary chair John Legend, and their colleagues take initiative to respond to the challenges facing our youth in new ways — big and small, locally and nationally — I share the President’s confidence that we will begin to see a future come into focus that is increasingly inclusive, empowering, and rich with opportunity for all Americans.
We welcome the newly organized My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to this work, and look forward to the progress they will help build.
Broderick Johnson Chair, My Brother’s Keeper Task Force The White House
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FACT SHEET & REPORT: Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper Blueprint for Action
The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President can be found HERE.
Over the past five years, the hard work and grit of the American people pulled our economy back from the brink of collapse. We are now moving forward again. But there is more work to do, and for decades opportunity has lagged behind for some, including millions of boys and young men of color. Boys of color are too often born into poverty and live with a single parent. And while their gains contributed to the national high school graduation rate reaching an all-time high, in some school districts dropout rates remain high. Too many of these boys and young men will have negative interactions with the juvenile and criminal justice system, and the dream of a college education is within grasp for too few. Our society can and will do more to help remove barriers to all young people’s success, because America prospers not only when hard work and responsibility are rewarded but also when we all pull forward together.
Rebuilding that core American value—community—is why the President launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative designed to determine what works to help young people stay on track to reach their full potential.
The Administration is doing its part by identifying programs and policies that work, and recommending action that will help all our young people succeed. Since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions, who are already taking action. Cities and towns, businesses, foundations, faith leaders and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and life and later connect them to mentoring, support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class. As President Obama has said, “We are stronger when America fields a full team.”
Today, the President met with his Cabinet to discuss the Task Force’s initial assessments and recommendations and the President called on the American people to get engaged through mentorship opportunities nationwide.
Call to Action
The President is calling on Americans interested in getting involved in My Brother’s Keeper to sign up as long-term mentors to young people at WH.gov/mybrotherskeeper. This effort will engage Americans from all walks of life to sign up to develop sustained and direct mentoring relationships that will play vital roles in the lives of young people.
It is important that all children have caring adults who are engaged in their lives. But too many young people lack this support. For example, roughly two-thirds of Black and one-third of Hispanic children live with only one parent. Moreover, research suggests that a father’s absence increases the risk of his child dropping out of school among Blacks and Hispanics by 75 percent and 96 percent respectively. We see significant high school dropout rates—as high as 50 percent in some school districts—including among boys and young men from certain Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander populations. And some 27 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty, compared to 11.6% of White Americans.
Presidential Task Force 90-Day Report
As part of its 90-day report, the Task Force has identified a set of initial recommendations to the President, and a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith and community partners.
In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact:
- Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn;
- Reading by third grade;
- Graduating from high school ready for college and career;
- Completing post-secondary education or training;
- Entering the workforce;
- Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
By focusing on these key moments, and helping our young people avoid roadblocks that hinder progress across life stages, we can help ensure that all children and young people have the tools they need to build successful lives. Focused on areas of action that can improve outcomes at these key moments, the President’s Task Force today presented him with recommendations including:
- Launch a public-private campaign to actively recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs.
- Make the status and progress of boys and young men of color and other populations more visible by improving data collection and transparency.
A Healthy Start and Ready for School
- Eliminate suspensions and expulsions in preschool and other early learning settings.
Reading at Grade Level by the End of Third Grade
- Close the word gap by launching a public and private initiative to increase joint and independent reading time outside of school and build a reading culture in more homes.
Graduating from High School
- Increase focus on transforming the schools and districts producing the majority of the country’s dropouts.
Completing Post-Secondary Education or Training
- Increase college completion by expanding students’ access to and successful completion of rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment options in high school.
Entering the Workforce
- Increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.
Reducing Violence and Providing a Second Chance
- Institutionalize community oriented policing practices in the field and employ methods to address racial and ethnic bias within the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
The recommendations identified by the President’s Task Force mark the starting point of what must and will be a long-term effort. The Task Force and public, private and philanthropic actors will continue to develop recommendations and support community solutions well beyond this 90-day progress report.
In addition to today’s announcements, in coming weeks and months, leading foundations will independently announce specific commitments to help ensure young people can succeed. The following foundations will together seek to invest at least $200 million: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.