Noah McQueen attended 10 different middle schools, then transferred among high schools three different times during his freshman year. He was struggling.
But then he was paired with a mentor who helped him find his path. Now 19 and a student at Morehouse College, McQueen has become one of the faces of My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s initiative to improve the lives and prospects of boys and young men of color.
Now two years old, the initiative has helped galvanize $600 million in private donations, according to a progress report the administration released Friday. More than 240 communities, including one in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Puerto Rico, have signed on, creating local teams to identify opportunity gaps for males of color and come up with plans to address them.
Federal agencies have continued their efforts to give underserved minorities a better chance at success: In July, the Justice and Education departments announced the “Second-Chance Pell” program that will allow incarcerated people to receive federal aid to take college courses. In the wake of the Obama administration’s call for schools to reduce suspensions and expulsions, 40 school districts have revamped their approach to discipline.
And in February, the White House announced an ambitious effort to pair 1 million students with mentors to reduce chronic absenteeism, including 250,000 students in grades six through nine during the next two years.
My Brother’s Keeper has helped shine a light on race and gender disparities in America, and has helped create a movement of people who are “committed to ensuring all youth know they matter and have every opportunity to achieve their dreams,” according to the initiative’s progress report.
Administration officials say they believe that the work of My Brother’s Keeper will outlive the Obama presidency.
“There’s strong bipartisan consensus around, for example, the issue of criminal justice reform,” Education Secretary John King said in an interview. “I think we’ll continue to see progress in the next administration to try to create better alternatives to the pattern of mass incarceration that we’ve seen.”
Broderick Johnson, chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, said that the initiative has resulted in changes within the government — including new cross-agency partnerships — that will endure. Local officials have created their own plans to close race and gender gaps that are not tied to who’s in the White House, he said.
And Obama has said that he will remain committed to the goals of My Brother’s Keeper long after leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“The president has made clear this is work that is lifetime work,” Johnson said.