Barack Obama

Young African-American men listen intently as President Barack Obama speaks at a “town hall meeting” about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

President Obama on July 21 announced a number of new commitments to his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a program designed to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color that now includes 60 of the largest school districts in the country and millions in funding for mentoring programs.

According to the White House, the leaders of 60 of the nation’s largest school districts, together serving almost three million students of color, have committed to implement an 11-point plan to bridge opportunity gaps stretching from early childhood to high school graduation. Among the goals of the plan are creating high-quality preschool, reducing the number of students held back, and reducing suspensions and expulsions.

While Black students make up 16 percent of school enrollments nationally, they account for 33 percent of those who have received a single out-of-school suspension, 42 percent of those with multiple out-of-school suspensions, and 34 percent of expulsions according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, Monday, July 21, 2014. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys’ access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions.

The White House also announced $28 million dollars in new funding for mentoring and tutoring programs. AT&T committed $18 million for such efforts and Becoming A Man, a mentoring and cognitive behavioral therapy program, and Match tutoring announced $10 million in new funding.

The NBA, along with its players and retired players associations, said it will develop public service announcements designed to recruit 25,000 new mentors, as well as work with at-risk schools to create incentive programs for their students.

In an effort to change the negative perception of youths of color that drives the disparity in suspension and expulsion rates, Discovery Communications will spend $1 million in a programming event that will focus on ways to impact the future of young people of color.

Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO