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:
- The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) have worked together to begin reversing troubling trends of suspensions and expulsions in preschool settings, and have announced upwards of $750 million in Preschool Development Grants.
- In December 2014, the Department of Education also helped launch the second White House College Opportunity Day of Action. And the President launched America's College Promise, a campaign to advocate for free community college for all dedicated students.
- The Department of Labor's American Apprenticeship Initiative and the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe will provide more than $100 million to create clearer pathways to success by helping youth build both work and life skills.
- The Department of Justice, agencies across government, and the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing have worked to promote community-oriented policing practices, improve trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and improve the overall life and educational outcomes for young people -- including those who encounter the law enforcement or the legal system.
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.