In February, I was invited to the White House for President Barack Obama’s announcement of his plan to improve the outcomes for young minority men through his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. This is a cause to which I have dedicated my life: the empowerment of boys and men of color to ensure that they succeed.
As I sat with Miami-Dade School’s Superintendent Albert Carvalho and 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project Administrator Dr. Theron Clark, both of whom I had invited to join me at the White House, I proudly reflected on how transformative the 5000 Role Models Project has been and the potential for it successes to be emulated by “My Brother’s Keeper” — successes that had obviously gotten the President’s attention.
The president made known those successes to philanthropists, business, government and religious leaders when he acknowledged me as the founder of 5000 Role Models program started in Miami-Dade County Schools twenty-two years ago to help young boys at-risk of dropping out of school and today serves thousands of students.
The president’s comments made before a national coalition of backers of “My Brother’s Keeper” illustrated that the Role Models can be used as a working model to empower boys and young men of color, who often face disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success.
In an effort to determine which public and private efforts are working and how the Federal government can support those efforts, stakeholders of “My Brother’s Keeper” and “The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indian and Alaska Native Education will join me in Miami on May 15th, for a roundtable discussion entitled, “Mentorship: Supporting The Holistic Development of Boys and Men of Color through a 5000 Role Models of Excellence Case Study.”
The discussion will coincide with the Role Models Annual Senior High and Middle School Conference, where 1000 boys will attend workshops that include career development, college preparation and understanding law enforcement, the courts and the criminal justice system.
As a life-long educator and the founder of the 5000 Role Models, I have seen firsthand what works in children’s lives. In situations in which a child is missing an involved parent or a strong role model, there is one simple intervention that can make all the difference: A good mentor.
Mentoring is the bedrock of The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project which has an extraordinary track record of changing lives and saving minority boys from destitution, drugs and the criminal justice system. Through scholarships, the program has funded college educations for thousands of minority boys who never dreamed it possible.
Mentoring presents a bipartisan, cost-effective response to the systemic problems of poverty and crime in our nation’s core urban areas. As mentees so often go on to become mentors themselves, these programs present a way for government — working with partners in the private sector and the education system — to plant seeds of lasting positive change in struggling communities.
Through a coordinated national strategy, the Role Models program can be used as a model to boost participation in mentoring programs throughout the nation and ultimately boost high school and college graduation rates among minority boys.
The challenges facing our boys and young men of color are broad and multifaceted. Feelings of low self-worth, often the result of limited and lack of access to opportunity, give way to hopelessness, abandoned dreams and a downward spiral that can be difficult to reverse.
However, I am encouraged that we are on the road to reversing these trends.
As high school graduation approaches, I couldn’t be prouder of the students of the class of 2014 who are receiving diplomas and preparing to head off to college.
But I am also a bit sadden, when I think of the countless number of minority boys who get left behind each year and fall through the educational and economic cracks in our society.
We can fix this problem. But we must view it as “our” problem, not “their” problem. By finding and implementing solutions that significantly improve outcomes for boys and men of color, we all win. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Note: “My Brother’s Keeper” and “The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans” roundtable discussion with Congresswoman Wilson will take place May 15th, from 8:45 a.m.– 12 noon at Sun life Stadium located at 2269 NW 199th Street, Miami Gardens, Florida 33056.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project’s Annual Senior High Graduation will take place at Historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church, located at 1750 NW 3rd Avenue, Miami, Florida 33136 at3:00p.m. The Reverend Denrick E. Rolle is the Rector and Pastor.
The public is invited to attend and take part in the graduation ceremony. For more information call Congresswoman Wilson district office at 305-690-5905.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, represents Florida’s 24th District in Congress.