We haven't heard much lately about My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), the White House initiative aimed at helping young people stay on track. President Obama launched it to target boys and young men of color, linking the administration with cities, businesses, and foundations across the country. But then what happened? Well, in some places, MBK is still moving forward, and Boston is one of them. Recently, Mayor Martin J. Walsh launched a mini grant program to help maximize MBK’s local impact.
Mayor Walsh originally launched MBK Boston in September 2014 and established the MBK Boston Advisory Committee. Felix G. Arroyo, Chief of Health and Human Services, and John Barros, Chief of Economic Development, chair the committee.
Although this is a national initiative, there are some local insights that have come to light. A group called Root Cause released a report called “Mapping Momentum,” which surveyed 142 nonprofits in the city to address how organizations are serving Black and Latino youth. Key findings established that there are roughly 40,000 Black and Latino boys in Boston and hundreds of groups aim to serve this demographic. Yet this is a steadily growing demographic, as Black and Latino boys now represent 52 percent of all Boston males age 24 and under.
There’s also an opportunity right now to coordinate these groups’ programs. The report established that the biggest local needs are high school graduation, entering the workforce, youth violence, and giving troubled youth a second chance.
More recently, Mayor Walsh’s administration partnered with the Boston Foundation to push through a separate but related $100,000 mini grant program. Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the foundation said:
The Boston Foundation is proud that the Obama administration chose our city to help expand and localize its ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative. We are also proud to contribute $25,000 to ‘My Brother’s Keeper Boston.’ And we have committed an additional $25,000 from The Boston Foundation’s Grassroots Action Fund to support good ideas and effective programs that arise from MBKB. We at the Boston Foundation appreciate the value of small-dollar contributions and believe strongly that our partnership with this local effort will see meaningful and positive change in the lives of thousands of young men of color who have been stymied by persistent opportunity gaps.
The purpose of this mini grant program is to support and engage boys of color in the city through mentorship, conversations, and activities. These awards will range from $1,000 to $7,000, and four grants will be awarded per month to 10 to 12 months. Local nonprofits can apply for a mini grant online. Past support has gone towards programs related to technology careers, mentor recruiting, youth summer jobs, and bosting school attendance in Boston Public Schools.
Nationwide, between year #1 and year #2 of the MBK initiative, over 50 new communities and seven new states joined the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge. The MBK milestones are early school readiness, grade level reading by age eight, high school graduation, postsecondary education, entering the workforce, and giving kids second chances.