Skip to main content

One Year Into My Brother’s Keeper – What We’ve Done and What’s to Come

Resource type: News

The Atlantic Philanthropies |

By Kavitha Mediratta
Head of Racial Equity Programs
The Atlantic Philanthropies

As today’s reports from President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color make clear, tremendous work has been done in the past year. And much more remains to be done.

Recognizing the urgent need to address the significant disparities affecting boys and young men of color, we joined these efforts one year ago to explore what could be done to advance the success of boys and young men of color and their communities.

Atlantic’s work on racial equity stems from our core mission—to improve the opportunities and life trajectory of vulnerable, marginalized people and communities. We’ve invested roughly $350 million to dismantle systemic barriers and increase opportunities for communities of color, including efforts to reform discriminatory school discipline practices and racial disparities within the judicial system; and to expand community schools and access to health insurance for disadvantaged children.

Over the last year, we have invested close to $30 million to promote racial equity and pursue President Obama’s goal of ensuring all of America’s young people can meet their full potential.

These investments included promoting sentencing reform in California, supporting the launch of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Thurgood Marshall Policy Institute, and, more recently, two initiatives that highlight what we believe can make real, lasting changes in breaking down the barriers to success that boys and men of color continue to face.

Linked Learning in Oakland

Improving access to quality healthcare and education are key components in creating change in disadvantaged communities. Research and practice indicates that health care career pipelines—connecting schoolwork to healthcare careers—can improve academic and economic opportunities for low-income students of color and increase the capacity, quality and cultural competency of the health care workforce to better reflect and serve its community. In Oakland, California, the Linked Learning high school reform model has shown great success in improving education outcomes and connecting students to healthcare careers.

This year, Atlantic invested $21 million to scale and evaluate career pathways in Oakland to give low-income students, including boys and young men of color, the skills and experience to enter into health professions. Eleven million of these funds supported the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) expansion of their Linked Learning program, providing professional development, classroom renovation and a restructured school day, while creating public health student internships.

Atlantic’s grants build on significant investments by the Irvine Foundation, which supported Oakland to develop its Linked Learning Program in 2007 to extend and restructure the high school day to better meet the college and career needs of students. Through this initial effort, OUSD successfully enrolled 40 percent of its students in challenging academic programs connected to real world work opportunities in the field of health care. OUSD data from 2012 show that 84 percent of students in the Linked Learning program graduated — 25 percent higher than their peers.

A second $10 million grant to the Alameda Health System will create an education and training center and student internships in a variety of health fields, and creates a program targeting disconnected youth of color for intensive training and employment opportunities within the system. These grants will work to prepare students and help them find good-paying jobs and build careers in the area’s rapidly growing health care field.

To make a real impact on the lives of boys and men of color across the nation, we also need to show that these programs work. A third grant of $1.1 million to SRI International will support evaluation to inform implementation and expansion and to measure the impact of the program on students and districts.

RISE for Boys and Men of Color

Efforts to address the harsh realities that so many boys and men of color face are not new. Yet, with nearly every major indicator of economic, social and physical well-being demonstrating that boys and men of color do not have access to the structural supports and opportunities needed to thrive, the work is urgent and essential. We need to identify best practices and opportunities for new research that can harness these efforts and inform equitable policies that will create positive change in communities across the United States.

RISE (Research, Integration, Strategy and Evaluation) for Boys and Men of Color, is a new national collaborative, supported in part by Atlantic, to identify and share strategies to improve life outcomes for boys and men of color in four key areas: education, health, criminal justice, and economic opportunity and workforce development.

RISE will accelerate reform efforts by: (a) convening key stakeholders, including researchers, evaluators, practitioners and community activists to share knowledge about what works; (b) funding research and evaluation to help spur innovation and identification of solutions to challenges faced by boys and men of color; and (c) creating an easily accessible web-based portal through which government and foundations can access information on effective interventions.

RISE is co-directed by Shaun Harper of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Sharon Norris-Shelton of Equal Measure (formerly the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning). The Annie E. Casey and WK Kellogg foundations joined Atlantic in investing funds, providing a total of $8.5 million for the $10 million three-year collaborative.

While we are proud of our work and the work of our partners, the effort is far from over. The fight to ensure equal opportunity for boys and men of color will require a long-term, sustained effort. We celebrate the progress thus far and look forward to a more equitable and better future for all.

Learn More

> Atlantic’s racial equity work