Surrounded by male high school students of color, President Barack Obama said during a speech last week that American children deserve the same chances that he had.
“I could see myself in these young men, and the only difference was that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving,” he said.
Obama’s initiative to address challenges facing young men of color, called My Brother’s Keeper, will assemble a task force to assess strategies and work with outside stakeholders to resolve issues including violence, school retention, early education, health care and nutrition.
The funding — $200 million in the next five years — will come exclusively from foundations and businesses, and those organizations will decide in the next 90 days how the investments will be spent.
But the program was taken with a grain of salt by Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a national advocate for historically black colleges and universities.
“I am optimistic because at a minimum, it will help with making sure there is a national dialogue about the challenges facing boys of color,” he said. “But this is a huge issue, one that will not be resolved at all in the next five years.”
Taylor said his major issue with the initiative is that the $200 million is not enough to cause change.
“If you have a national crisis, you should have a national response,” he said.
North Carolina Central University’s Centennial Scholars, a program that seeks to foster minority male students’ success inside and outside of the classroom, is establishing a team to comb through the available grants to find funds for their program.