Three Years On, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Calls "My Brother's Keeper A Success

The program stems from a challenge to cities by then-President Obama to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color.

Houston was an early adopter of a national challenge, posed three years ago by then-President Obama, to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color. Now the first results of the city’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative are in.

The city’s health department finds more than 26,000 children benefited from a component of My Brother’s Keeper Houston aimed at early childhood education. Several individual schools report improved rates of literacy and fewer suspensions.

Mayor Sylvester Turner calls the program a success. “Now we can go to other endowments and other philanthropic interests and ask for their support to continue to work, provide these programs, and to expand their reach,” Turner says.

The program also includes components aimed at reducing crime and preparing young adults to enter the workforce.

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My Brother's Keeper – Houston Movement

Noel Pinnock, Director

Houston's youth face many challenges in preparing for productive adulthood. That is is particularly true for young men of color. Many indicators show that his group lags behind others on measures such as high school graduation rates, household income, employment and neighborhood safety. This group is also more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and the justice system. The My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative aims to address these inequitable conditions faced by boys and young men of color. MBK originated from the White House in 2014. Recognizing the inequitable conditions that boys and young men of color face throughout their lifetime, a coordinated national movement was launched.

Friends and Colleagues:

It is hard to believe that three years have passed since I first came to the West Wing to serve as President Obama's Cabinet Secretary. While I told the President that it was an incredible honor to serve as one of his senior-most advisors, I felt a truly unique sense of responsibility to serve as the Chair of his My Brother's Keeper Task Force. The President made a promise that his Administration would make an unprecedented investment in the success of boys and young men of color across the country. Three years later, I can say that I am bursting with pride over the movement we have begun together.

When President Obama charged us to coordinate ways to improve the lives of these youth, we responded with a blueprint for action, which included more than 90 cross-agency recommendations-80 percent of which are either on course or completed as we come to the end of this presidency. When the President challenged communities to build on the work of community leaders to improve outcomes for youth in America, over 250 cities, counties and tribal nations answered that call. When he asked the private sector and philanthropies to show support, the private sector responded with over $1 billion in private sector and philanthropic grants, in-kind resources, and low-interest financing.

I am especially gratified that each of you continued to push MBK forward over these past few months. It was great to see so many of you at our White House MBK Summit on December 14th, to follow your social media posts during our #IamMBK Digital Day of Action (which trended #1 globally on December 14th) and to share the legacy video created by our friends at MENTOR. The Department of Education released final regulations regarding equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), held a final convening for the Success Mentors Initiative, and worked with HUD and several nonprofit partners to launch the Book-Rich Environments Initiative We have "run through the tape"!

As we leave the White House and begin personal and professional transitions, MBK too, undergoes a transition. While the President's MBK Community Challenge has ended, organizations like the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, Bloomberg Associates, and PolicyLink have pledged to provide support to the communities that remain committed to the work. In his last official action through the White House MBK initiative, last week, President Obama amended the original Presidential Memorandum that created the My Brother's Keeper Task Force. While those amendments rename the federal task force-it will now be the "Task Force on Improving the Lives of Boys and Young Men of Color and Underserved Youth"-the charge renames the same: 23 federal agencies and offices remain committed to their efforts to expand opportunity for all young people.

These amendments and this new Task Force do not mark the end of My Brother's Keeper. Rather, they reflect the next phase of the initiative and a shift in the locus of coordination. Your efforts in communities will certainly continue, and President Obama will continue to work with organizations like those I mentioned above to continue advancing the My Brother's Keeper name, brand, and focus. Through the new Task Force, you will continue to have partners in the federal government, so please reach out to the new Task Force leads, Cameron Webb and Mark Washington. Also, keep track of the Task Force's work.

For all of us, this work represents much more than a "work assignment"-it is both mission and passion. Almost on a daily basis, President Obama has reminded me that he will remain invested in this work for the rest of his life. I can assure you that both Michael Smith and I will also remain actively involved in this work-and we will announce the capacity in which we will do that in the coming weeks.

I'll end with President Obama's own words from our most recent MBK Summit:

"And this is just the beginning. We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead, and to make sure that they've got a chance to contribute...As they keep moving up in the world, then we're going to call on them to reach back and invest in the folks who are coming behind them."

It has been my privilege to serve with you and so much look ahead to MBK's FUTURE!

Sincerely and most gratefully,

Broderick D. Johnson

Judge Schneider calls of the expansion of My Brother’s Keeper Houston!

END DETENTION: Juvenile lock-ups remain the most expensive, least effective solution for troubled youth.

Nine days of missed school can lead to a student dropping out or taking other action that could have life-long negative consequences.

"It's one thing to have an emergency that makes you worry about the safety of someone - those kinds of things happen - but you need to figure out a way, at every level of the system, to get them out as quickly as possible," Judge Michael Schneider, one of three judges who preside over juvenile cases in Harris County, told the Chronicle.  

Instead of detaining them, non-violent youth should be assigned mentors who offer coaching, encouragement and support to help them avoid lapsing back into problematic behavior patterns. Schneider called for an expansion of programs such as the one he helps lead, My Brother's Keeper. These volunteers, many of whom hail from the same communities as the youth they serve, seek to form close trusting relationships with the offenders and to help them turn their lives around.  

Rules like checking in with a probation officer, not skipping a day of school and getting home by dark ought not to carry the serious consequence of a lock-up except in extreme circumstances. Rehabilitation is more cost-effective and more likely to help teens achieve their dreams than punishment. Teenagers still need help growing up, and it falls on Harris County to act smart about it.

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