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Blog Category: My Brother's Keeper

The Importance of Service

Assistant Secretary Jay Williams tours robotics lab with Detroit Public School Students at the Cody Academy of Public Leadership. Detroit was an early adopter of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Guest blog post by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams

We all face frustrations and challenges in our daily lives. Most of us are fortunate that our biggest complaint is often a bad day at our office job, the perils of DC traffic, or the fact that our DVR didn’t record the end of the game. It’s become a bit of a joke on social media with the advent of #FirstWorldProblems. Yet, there are many people living in the “First World” whose problems are much bigger than we realize.  

Many young men of color in this country live in poverty. In fact, minority children are 6 to 9 times more likely to be raised in areas of concentrated poverty. For most living below the poverty line, this gap in wealth creates a gap in opportunities that only grows as these children enter adulthood. I was privileged to have been afforded many opportunities growing up in a middle class household, but I know many of the other young black men of Youngstown, my hometown, were not so fortunate. That's why the President's efforts to address this issue are so personal to me. 

Last February, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. 

I was honored to be invited to participate as an Ambassador for the MBK initiative and do my part to help achieve the program’s six main goals:

  • Ensuring that all of our children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally prepared
  • Ensuring that all of our children read at grade level by third grade
  • Ensuring that all of our young people graduate from high school
  • Ensuring that all of our young people complete post-secondary education or training
  • Ensuring that all youth are employed out of school
  • Ensuring that all of our young people are safe from violent crime 

These goals are the backbone of a larger effort in which cities, towns, and Tribal Nations across America will take up the President’s call to improve outcomes for all young people in their communities, to create a society where nobody is left behind and where all children have opportunities to succeed. EDA’s work in distressed communities and Commerce’s commitment to helping promote and support workforce training supports these goals and helps to make them a reality. 

Promoting Opportunity for All Americans Through Mentoring

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a Cabinet discussion with President Obama on My Brother’s Keeper – an initiative designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also released their first progress report with initial recommendations to the President, as well as a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit and community partners. 

Since its launch in February 2014, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans who are already taking action on this front. Further, businesses, cities, organizations and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and later connect them to 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.
 
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. These recommendations included:
 
·         Getting a health start and entering school ready to learn;
·         Reading at grade level by third grade;
·         Graduating from high school ready for college and career; 
·         Completing post-secondary education or training;
·         Successfully entering the workforce; and
·         Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
 
Specific report recommendations also include launching a public-private campaign to recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs, and to increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.