Obama launches program to bolster minority boys


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama will launch a national initiative Thursday designed to improve the lives of minority boys who studies show are disproportionately affected by prison and poverty.

The My Brother's Keeper program will bring together foundations, businesses and governments to search for ways to support boys in the areas of early childhood development, parental engagement, literacy, school disciple and criminal justice.

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters Wednesday that the effort is important to Obama and that he plans to be personally involved in the program even after he leaves office in thee years. "This is a just start of an effort that will continue over months and years," she said.

Obama will announce Thursday that a number of foundations that already spent $150 million on these types of efforts will invest another $200 million over five years. Businesses are expected to contribute money as well but no specific estimates were provided by the White House.

Obama also will create a task force, chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, to determine what public and private efforts are already working, what government policies and programs can better support those efforts and how to involve state and local officials, private companies and the philanthropic community.

The event in the East Room of the White House Thursday comes after Obama has talked about the important of bolstering minority boys, most recently in his State of the Union address last month.

"There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement," he said Jan. 28. "And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?"

Obama will be joined Thursday by foundation and business leaders, faith leaders, state and local officials. General Colin Powell, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will attend the event. Boys will also abe present, including participants of a Chicago-based group, Becoming a Man, a youth Guidance program, which Obama has previously visited with in Chicago and at the White House.

Participating foundations include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the John and James L. Knight Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

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