Atlantic Joins the White House and Leading Foundations to Expand Opportunities for Young Men of Color

Resource type: News

The Atlantic Philanthropies |


Over $200 million invested to-date to address racial disparities in life outcomes 

 Additional $70 million earmarked for school discipline, criminal justice and Elev8 grantees

February 27, 2014 – The Atlantic Philanthropies announced today that they have joined with the White House and nine other leading foundations to improve opportunities for young men of color in the United States.

Through this joint initiative, Atlantic, peer foundations and several U.S. businesses will make significant investments in targeted, evidence-based interventions with measurable results that can transform the lives of boys and young men of color.

“It is gratifying to have our grantees’ work and that of our funding partners recognized by the President of the United States,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, Atlantic’s President and CEO.  “We know what works to change the trajectory for disenfranchised young people.  What’s needed now is a concerted effort across sectors—education, health, business, philanthropy and government—to bring success to scale within and across whole communities. As a foundation that will soon be making its final grants, Atlantic shares the President’s urgency to address these challenges, improve opportunities and create better life chances for these young people now.  We cannot afford to wait.”

Research shows that young men of color in the United States face overwhelming odds that impede their ability to succeed, causing many to become disconnected from school and get caught up in the juvenile justice system.

Recognizing the urgent need to address these significant disparities, Atlantic and the other funding partners have each pledged $750,000 – a combined $7.5 million commitment – to support the initial work and infrastructure of the initiative. Atlantic has also joined with the Open Society Foundations to commission a study of the nation’s most effective place-based efforts for these vulnerable young men.

To date, Atlantic has invested over $200 million in programs that address racial disparities in life outcomes and that help set a positive trajectory for children and adolescents, including boys and young men of color in the U.S.’s most disadvantaged communities. These include investments to expand community schools and access to health care for disadvantaged children and to reform discriminatory school discipline practices and racial disparities within educational and judicial systems.

Promoting Opportunity

Atlantic has invested $119 million since 2007 in Elev8, a community schools initiative to improve opportunities in the critical middle school years for low-income, predominantly black, Latino, Native American and Asian students, and their families, in Baltimore, Chicago, New Mexico and Oakland, CA. Elev8 schools extend learning beyond the classroom and traditional school year; provide high-quality health services to kids and their families; encourage and engage parents and grandparents in their children’s education; and offer family support and resources, such as job training and advice on securing social and financial services.

Eroding Barriers to Opportunity

Atlantic has invested $40 million since 2010 to improve the climate for learning in schools by reforming zero tolerance discipline policies.

“Zero tolerance policies have been used disproportionately to discipline children of color and disabled children in low-income communities, with particularly heavy impact on black boys and youth,” said Kavitha Mediratta, Programme Executive for Children & Youth at Atlantic. “These policies are not simply discriminatory; there is a large body of convincing evidence that they don’t work to prevent violence or reduce student misbehavior and serve only to undermine children’s academic success and increase their exposure to the justice system.”

Atlantic grantees have also been at the forefront of efforts to reform discriminatory criminal justice practices, like “Stop and Frisk” policing, that target young men of color. Our grantees advocacy against Stop and Frisk policing in New York City led to a landmark court decision in 2013 that found the practices discriminatory and unconstitutional, opening the door to radical reform of the practice in New York and a sea change in the national conversation about racial bias in policing.

Atlantic’s investments have had demonstrable benefits. Thousands of children have received school-based health services; student attendance, preparation and parental engagement have increased; dramatic reforms in school disciplinary procedures have been made in several large cities; and a landmark court ruling found Stop and Frisk policing practices to be unconstitutional.  Additional funding has been leveraged from government and philanthropy to support expansion of the Elev8 community schools model and reduce zero tolerance disciplinary practices within school districts and across states.

“We still have a long way to go in helping children and young people in disadvantaged communities to succeed and thrive,” said Oechsli. “They too often face what seem to be almost impossible odds.  But as our grantees have demonstrated: the integration of learning with health care and preventive services, alignment of disciplinary practices with a school’s educational goals and elimination of racial bias in the justice system can produce real – and replicable – life-changing results for our youth.  This can have measurable economic and social benefits for our communities and nation.”  

Atlantic is a limited life foundation and will complete grantmaking by 2016.  In the time remaining, the foundation will concentrate its resources on the most pressing challenges its programs have faced.  To this end, the foundation will commit $30 million in 2014 to improving school discipline policies and criminal justice practices. An additional $40 million is earmarked to improve the pathways to opportunity for vulnerable people, including boys and men of color, through full-service community schools, greater access to high quality health care and improved income security.

> Read more: On the Joint Initiative to Expand Opportunities for Young Men of Color

For media inquiries please contact:
Katie Butterfield, (646) 289-7660

The Atlantic Philanthropies are dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Atlantic is a limited life foundation that will complete grantmaking in 2016. To learn more, please visit: