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On September 28, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the White House screened the Spanish-language version of Discovery’s documentary “Rise: the Promise of My Brother’s Keeper,” which was released earlier this month on Discovery en Español as “El Guardián de mi Hermano” (My Brother’s Keeper). The film takes viewers on an inspiring journey into four of the thousands of programs around the country that are living the principles of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative — President Obama’s call to the nation to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.
After the screening, TV/Radio personality Enrique Santos hosted a panel discussion on the impact of MBK for Hispanic youth, and the important role this effort plays to assist young people in underserved communities. Joining Santos were Phoenix, AZ Councilwoman Kate Gallego, Reverend Gabriel Salguero, YouthBuild leader Brandon Menjares, Melanca Clark, Chief of Staff for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at DOJ, and Michael Smith, White House Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for My Brother’s Keeper.
Brandon Menjares spoke on his personal struggles as a young man of color – being adopted by a Puerto Rican family as a newborn, and tragically losing both of his adoptive parents by the time he was teenager. Hopeless and without much guidance, Brandon dropped out of school and found himself in a downward spiral – a victim of his violent surroundings and with a paralyzing feeling of abandonment. Brandon attributes YouthBuild as being “life changing,” and through their support was able to obtain his GED and complete community college. Today, Brandon is gainfully employed and serves as a motivational speaker to thousands of young people across the nation, and is a proud example that with the right resources and opportunities, any young person can overcome their circumstances and become a valuable member of society.
The panel offered a lively discussion on the challenges faced by Hispanic youth, and how the federal government can work with state and local governments, private organizations, academia and law enforcement to further MBK’s mission. Rev. Salguero emphasized the importance of engaging the faith community to create safe spaces for at-risk youth – or as Reverend Salguero described “at-promise” youth, offer them viable alternatives that lifts them from poverty and violence, and empowers them to embark in a journey of success. Councilwoman Gallego spoke about why Phoenix took on the President’s MBK community challenge and how she is working with the mayor to leverage local and federal partnerships to provide opportunities for all youth in Phoenix.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic boys and young men are the largest, youngest group of all young men of color, with an estimated 7.3 million Hispanic males between ages of 10 and 24. However, there are still significant performance gaps in key areas. The U.S. Dept. of Education found that graduation rates for Hispanic males attending college for the first time, on a full-time basis at a 4-year institution, and seeking bachelor’s degrees were substantially lower than for white males – 46% versus 69%.
Since the President launched My Brother’s Keeper in February 2014, more than 200 Communities have accepted the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge; scores of corporations and foundations have committed to invest more than $500 million to advance the goals of My Brother’s Keeper; and the MBK Task Force has announced dozens of new policy initiatives, grant programs and guidance – all working to expand opportunity for our kids and ensure they know they matter.
My Brother’s Keeper, and the thousands of evidence-based organizations working to expand opportunity for our kids, are critical to the wellbeing of millions of marginalized and disconnected young people, including boys and young men of color. Everybody deserves a second a chance, and the only thing that separates these youth from their peers is opportunity: My Brother’s Keeper and its allies are committed to bridging that gap and making sure America remains a place where you can make it if you try.
For more information on how you can be involved, please visit wh.gov/mybrotherskeeper.